Just a few blocks southeast of Bedford Avenue’s vintage record stores and vegan restaurants, a visitor to Williamsburg might catch a few stray notes of salsa music spilling out onto Grand Street. There, a little entrance marked only by Christmas lights leads back to a different era.
Opened in 1973, Toñita’s is one of the very last Puerto Rican bars remaining in Los Sures, a historically Hispanic section of Williamsburg’s South Side. Baseball trophies, Christmas tinsel, a deer head and a disco ball decorate the space. But the real atmosphere is created by the regulars, who range in age from six years old to well into their seventies. They’re bound together by food, music—and most importantly—a palpable sense of community, in a neighborhood that’s lost more than 10,000 Latino residents to gentrification over the last decade.