A Local's Guide to Brooklyn

A Local's Guide to Brooklyn

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences
My name is Talya Sohnis, I am a fashion designer, an electrical engineer, a world traveller, a personal chef (for family and friends exclusively), a self appointed chocolate critic, a wine kind-oisseur, a designated concierge and stylist (again, just for family and friends), an unpaid movie critic and a voice and character impersonator. I grew up in a family of academics, linguists, and super creatives who forced me into a lot of hobbies of which I now appreciate, mostly. I’m the oldest of 3 sisters who are way funnier, smarter, cooler and more talented than me but it just inspires me to have something to aspire towards and sometimes they give me the honor to feel like their role model.

Your work and passion? 
I work full-time as an electrical engineer at a Brooklyn-based company where I design PCBs and integrated circuit designs that have a vast application from custom power supplies to circuit boards that integrate into systems for networking and power applications, to many other electronic board designs meant for various implementations. I love being able to see the whole process through from designing a new product via CAD tools to then producing the boards in-house and testing it before sending it out as a new product to the field.

However, I also work full-time as a fashion designer, which has been engrained in the fabric of my soul since childhood, where I knew I wanted to build my own fashion house one day where I would create everything from couture evening gowns to RTW clothing, to shoes, jewelry and everything else that is entailed in having a fashion house. I officially founded my brand @talyasohnisofficial about 2 years ago and so far have come out with my first jewelry collection on my website https://talyasohnis.com. I find it very exciting and rewarding to constantly be creating something new and overcoming the different challenges while splitting my time between the engineering and the fashion.

What is your relation to this city?
I was born in Brooklyn to a Yemenite Israeli family and have been very fortunate to have experienced a deep connection with both cultures in my upbringing. My home is basically the unregistered Airbnb before Airbnb existed. Often we would have friends and family and friends of family and sometimes people I’m not even sure knew any friends or family staying at our house for weeks and sometimes months as my parents hosted them in the spirit of having an open Israeli home in Brooklyn. My sisters and I went to school in Brooklyn, went out a LOT as kids, as teenagers and on weekends and holidays when returning home from college. I’ve experienced this city as a local at every age and feel that it absolutely has something for everyone. I love having all 4 seasons in such a fun place that’s built for it and provides the best atmosphere for all of them. From winter snow day hygge to summer beach days to going out in torrential rain, New Yorkers are resilient in every weather. Brooklyn and NYC in general holds unmatched exciting life experiences and activities for every age.

Best experience?
So many good and insane experiences, I don’t think I’d even be able to quantify them all. NY is a hub for diversity, it’s such a big city that sustains all kinds of people from various backgrounds with different interests and from all walks of life. So, you’re likely to meet anyone from stereotypical ethnic Brooklyn types to hipster newbies, to fashion icons, to a diverse international community, to anything and everything. It’s unlikely for a day to go by without a weird or thrilling, funny or scary, fun, exciting or unique experience. NY is full of adventure and it’s a city where anything goes; there’s not much that’s unusual, so I recommend to come with an open mind and you’ll be sure to find your own unique experience connecting you to this city.

Your top 3 hangout spots?
Other than hanging out in different friends’ apartments and hosting dinners at our apartment, there’s many places we go out, so it’s impossible to narrow it down to 3. However, one area that is nice to hangout is:

1. Prospect Park, it is a nice park in the middle of Brooklyn. It’s a great place to explore outdoors and go for a run, have a picnic, or enjoy the summer food festival/ open market, Smorgasburg, which is usually open sometime starting late spring and ending early fall. (You should probably look it up online for exact dates and times). Prospect Park is also right across from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which is really beautiful and worth the entrance fee. While we’re on the “outdoorsy” side of things, I also recommend Dumbo and Brooklyn Bridge park which are great to explore and have so many great food and bar options.

2. Seaport area, this is in Manhattan, but, I recommend starting off on the Brooklyn side, maybe in Brooklyn Bridge Park, sit for a coffee somewhere by the port in Dumbo, then either walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (highly recommend) or take the ferry to Pier 11, Wall Street, where you can enjoy the gems of the Seaport area. From great restaurants such as Osteria del Porto (Italian), Reserve cut (top notch kosher steakhouse), Industry Kitchen (on the water) and so many others, to comfy/luxury cinemas such as IPic, the Alamo, and outdoor screenings at the Greens (Pier 17), to speakeasy bars such as Dante Seaport, the Tuck Room, Harry’s (whisky bar) and many others.
3. Coney Island is a must. Most people don’t know that NYC in fact has beaches, and though they are not as aesthetic as the ones in Europe or Israel, they are very much authentic to Brooklyn and they do the job ;) Coney Island is home of Astroland, which is our Luna park, and the famous and historical (almost 100 year old) Cyclone. Ride at your own risk, though I highly recommend the ride, it is super thrilling “will I survive or will I end up on CNN, who knows but we’ll find out at the end!” And Coney Island has the annual Mermaid Day parade, usually sometime in mid-June which is always a blast. In summery, while you’re there, the highlights to take advantage of are the amusement park, the beach and the famous Nathan’s fries and Famiglia’s pizza.

Favorite restaurants?
Ahhh so many fantastic restaurant options, wouldn’t know where to start! This is NY after all. There are just too many, and no way to possibly include them all, but here’s a list to include just some personal favorites:

- Zaya-Ramen, cozy ramen spot in Gowanus area
- Llama Inn, delicious Peruvian spot in Greenpoint
- Fandi Mata, super cool modern vibe spot in Williamsburg
- Palo Santo, amazing Latin food in Park Slope
- Terre, cute little wine bar/Italian spot in Park Slope
- Faun, super delicious Italian spot in Crown Heights, homemade pasta and constantly changing menu to accommodate a diverse palate
- Liman, Fish restaurant Mediterranean/Turkish in Sheepshead Bay
- Birds of a feather, Szechuan place in Williamsburg, very good and must get plates to share!
- Uotora, amazing Japanese place, super authentic, great sushi and Omakasi in Crown Heights
- Bricolage, super cozy and delicious French-Vietnamese type place. Sit in the outdoor patio, it’s so cozy and adorable
- Wasan, good and easy Japanese in Park Slope
- Haenyeo Restaurant, modern Korean cuisine, yummy and cute for date night
- Tacombi, Mexican chain all over Brooklyn and the city, but actually really good, pretty cheap and easy spot to go out to for some tacos and drinks
- Santo Brúklin, Brazilian spot in Carroll Gardens with amazing cocktails
- Ugly Baby, cute little authentic Thai place in Gowanus, really good especially if you enjoy spicy
- Miriam, Israeli/Mediterranean restaurant in Park Slope
- Green Province Restaurant, my go-to take-out spot for delicious and authentic Yemenite food.
- Industry City in Brooklyn has a place called Japan Village which is a hipster hub and has cool little bars and restaurants to check out (this is not so touristy, but cool if you’re into a local adventure)

Best date place?
NY is filled with so many creative and diverse spots, so it really depends what it is you’re looking for. For restaurant dates I’d refer to anything from my list of recommendations above, and continue out to the bar scene in NY, there’s always something open all night. Bembe is a particular favorite dance spot in Williamsburg with many places to continue to around.

NY has many museums, other than the Met and the Guggenheim, a popular option in Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Museum, and there’s often some cool exhibit going on there.

For something more social, there’s a bunch of Biergartens in Brooklyn such as the Brooklyn Beer Garden in Bushwick, Freehold in Williamsburg, Radegast Hall & Biergarten, Greenwood Park, and you can always take the train up to the Standard Biergarten in the city. There are also many rooftop bars to go to all over NY.

There’s really everything from everything in NY, so whatever you feel like doing, there’s usually a spot for it whether it’s ice skating, movies, rock climbing, bowling, crafts making, nude painting, wine tasting, salsa dancing (or any dancing really), food markets, whatever you can think of just look it up and it likely exists.

Best Sunday spot?
Depending on the weather and on the time of year it can be nice to go for a walk through Prospect Park and check out the Smorgusburg food market, or enjoy a walk in the Brooklyn Botanical gardens and have a bite at the in-garden cafe. Otherwise brunch in the city, some shopping in Soho and a dinner in Greenwich Village can be fun.

If you were to live in another place, where would that be and why?
Outside of Brooklyn the only other place I would live in is Israel. Considering my background I may be a little biased, but it’s the only other place I feel as international, diverse, fun, free, homey and exciting as NYC, perhaps just with more beautiful beaches and people ;)

I also feel it’s a great central spot to live for someone who enjoys traveling often, and thrives in the crazy Israeli mentality. The food is amazing, the nightlife is nonstop and you will meet both the warmest people and the people with the most “chutzpa” for the good and for the bad, but anywhere you go you feel connected to the people and to the land.

Where is your escape place from this city?
If I’m staying local, there’s many places to go hiking in the Catskills or Skiing in Vermont (highly recommend Stowe Mountain Lodge), there are great vineyards in the Finger Lakes. Although I love traveling and will often travel anywhere from different states within the US to places outside the country like Israel and different countries in Europe to South or Central America. If you’re staying within the US, there are many beautiful places to see while road-tripping. However if you’re flying, New Orleans is beautiful, Denver is scenic with great skiing, Arizona is famous for the Grand Canyon and other beautiful natural sites, California has many fantastic state parks that are great for exploring (plus Napa is really nice, though can be quite expensive for a wine tasting trip), it’s about a 4.5hr flight to Puerto Rico (which is technically not leaving the US), and so many other places. Considering that a flight within the US from NY to California is a bit over 6hrs (longer than a flight to a Mexico City), you can find many similar flights internationally to Europe or Central America.

Best 5 local advices?
1. Know what things you enjoy doing and use it to navigate, but be open to go with the flow of the city. This advice goes for activities, food/restaurants, nightlife, etc.
2. Use NYC public transit to get around, we are very proud of it here, it’s very convenient and a common way to integrate and get a feel for the city. Often there are live performers in the station or on the train that add life to the city.
3. Get a Brooklyn bagel with cream cheese and lox, it’s a classic.
4. Don’t walk slow. New Yorkers will hate you.
5. Talk to people when you go out, make new friends, NY is a very extroverted city and you’ll come across many types of people, some just funny interactions and some that you’ll actually want to hangout with, it’s fun and keep an open mindset.

What’s your favorite This Way product?
I love the organic cotton towels, not to sound like an infomercial, but they are lightweight and super convenient to carry around to the beach, a park picnic or to use as actual towels at home.

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