A Chic New Bathhouse Has Opened in Williamsburg — Complete With Cryotherapy and a Fine Dining Restaurant (Video)
This is not your grandmother's banya.
Literally entering is part of the fun. Williamsburg's newest bathhouse can be found inside a large, brick building, one that looks like so many others in this gentrifying part of Brooklyn — save for the subtle sign hanging from the corner. You enter into a neat waiting room, with a few spa products and clothing items for sale. Looks like any other spa, right?
Then, things start to get interesting. An attendant leads you through a black-lit hallway, which tunnels through a glass-enclosed chamber full of glowing tropical plants. In the locker rooms, you shower and anoint yourself with various cedar-scented tinctures. You don your swimsuit, slip on your kimono robe, and descend into the abyss.
In the basement level of this 1930s factory building, you'll find Bathhouse — one of the most interesting entries into the New York City wellness scene in recent years. "I think what we're doing is resonating with people," co-founder Jason Goodman told Travel + Leisure during a recent tour. "People are sick of the frou-frou, fake relaxation theater stuff." Instead, he hopes to offer people an experience that's equal parts restorative and convivial.
Goodman and co-founder Travis Talmadge enlisted Jennifer Carpenter of Verona Carpenter Architects to collaborate on the plan for the 6,500-square-foot space, and preserving the history of the building was a priority. A former soda production plant, previously occupied by the Brooklyn Bottling Company and Dr. Brown’s Soda, the building's vaulted ceilings and brickwork remained in excellent condition. Even the old 100-foot smokestack remains, finding new life as the centerpiece of the semi-secret ritual room in the women's locker area.
What first draws your eye upon entering the main area is a massive mural on the back wall, created by Brooklyn-based artist Amit Greenberg. Conjuring a scene from the thermae of ancient Rome, it depicts bathers presiding over three thermal pools: 104°F for a hot soak, 52°F for cold plunges, and 94°F for a thermally neutral experience (around the same temperature as your skin). Two heated hammam stones are available for a break between soaks.
Unlike other spas of a similar quality, there's no pressure to keep your voice down — this is is a place where you can have a little fun. When I visited, just a few weeks after opening, Bathhouse was comfortably busy, the buzz of conversation taking the place of windchime-and-panpipe "spa music."
Radiating off of the bath area are saunas — one "tropical," at a very humid 175°F, and a dry Finnish sauna set to 186°F — and a dimly lit steam room, the ceiling covered by a custom lighting piece mimicking stars in the night sky. Bathhouse also has nine treatment rooms, plus a marble scrub room, a cryotherapy chamber, and a sensory deprivation tank.
This isn't only a place to veg out, though. "There are no cucumber eyes here," said Goodman. Throwing out the standard spa menu of relaxation massages and mud wraps, the team hired experts in fitness and sports medicine — including a former staffer for the New York Nets — to offer treatments focused on athletic recovery, including stretching and myofascial release.
In line with its social spa ethos, Bathhouse is also home to a restaurant of the same name from NYC restaurateur Akiva Elstein. Open to bathers and outside guests alike, the airy 40-seat restaurant has marble tables, picture windows lined with tropical plants, and a soaring geometric bar stocked with natural wines. If you're coming straight from the baths, there's no need to change — you can just slip on one of the dining robes, custom designed by culinary workwear brand Tilit, and make yourself at home.
Chef Nejc Šeruga, an alum of Agern and Eleven Madison Park, has created a refined menu that nods both to his childhood in rural Slovenia and to standards of Russian and Scandinavian cuisine. Try the utterly borscht-y borscht (per Goodman, "the best borscht in the city!") and the duck paprikash, straight from Slovenia — plus the house made vodka infusions, made with botanicals like horseradish, caraway, and dill. Just remember to stay hydrated before you head back to the sauna.