FOUR EDITORS TRY

Does Bathhouse Brooklyn, An Oasis-Like Spa, Live Up to the Hype?

When Bathhouse arrived in Brooklyn two years ago, the wellness destination—which offers massages, facials, scrubs, communal pools, and a full-service restaurant—became the talk of Williamsburg. Its reputation has lasted, and is still a local favorite. So four W editors ventured to the North side to test it out, and gave their honest opinions.

Tilden Bissell, Digital Designer

What had you heard, if anything, about Bathhouse prior to your visit?

I’d had a few friends mention Bathhouse to me when it first opened pre-pandemic, and had heard mostly good things about it. I definitely went in aware that it had a social aspect, but as someone who had been to other bath houses before, I felt I was well-prepared.

Did you have any reservations or anxieties going into Bathhouse, especially as it pertains to the pandemic?

I wasn’t too nervous about going—I’ve been vaccinated for some time and they seemed to have good safety protocols in place—however in our post-pandemic, touch-starved world, I have been carrying around a lot of tension and was skeptical if I would be able to relax at all (and stay unplugged from my phone for four hours).

Describe in detail your experience at Bathhouse.

I went with my coworker Maridelis after work on a Wednesday, and I would definitely recommend going with a friend. The space and amenities were clean and clearly a lot of thought went into their design—it was fairly chic and minimalist, but everything was well maintained. After going through a locker room which also had showers and bathrooms, we went down to Bathhouse’s subterranean amenities. It definitely felt private and removed from Williamsburg upstairs, aside from the rumble of what I assume was an extra loud L train during my massage.

We tried most of the saunas and steam rooms, and some I liked more than others. I have asthma, so I loved the tropical steam room, whereas the dry sauna was a little uncomfortable for me so I skipped it. I was definitely glad I did a weeknight—it was fairly quiet and nobody was too rowdy in the pool areas or saunas since it mostly seemed like couples and young professionals unwinding after work—but I could see it getting busy on the weekends. The staff was personable and informative, plus the massage therapist for Maridelis was also named Tilden, which is a surprise since it’s a fairly uncommon name (and was super exciting to both Tildens once we realized). I scheduled a 90-minute massage with the massage therapist Marileidy, and once I got past how tight my muscles were it was just a really, really good massage. I would be interested to try their other offerings in addition to a shorter massage if I went back because of how good the service was. The only thing that was slightly distracting was the music—it moved from ambient spa music to techno to acoustic and it made it a little hard to relax during the service.

The food was another highlight—the kitchen was very accommodating to my numerous dietary restrictions and it felt light without feeling like stereotypical “spa food.” We tried a little bit of everything with the tasting menu, which was a great deal almost to the point of being too much food. They’d also taken a lot of care to find interesting wines from less well-known varietals and often overlooked regions, so if you’re interested in retoxing after your detox, that’s an option, too. The restaurant staff was so lovely and provided tons of information about what we were drinking and eating, plus answered all of my questions and let me take a picture of a label with a really cool design.

Did you leave Bathhouse feeling relaxed? Would you go again?

After I got home from Bathhouse (around 11, way past my usual weeknight bedtime), I fell into eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, which is rare for me. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience, but I think I would have had a harder time unwinding if I had gone alone. It’s definitely nice to have a buddy to wander from steam room to sauna with, especially since you’re committing to a large portion of your day. I would go again based on the services, staff and restaurant, especially with a friend who was in need of some serious pampering.

Maridelis Morales Rosado, Assistant Visuals Editor

Did you have any reservations or anxieties going into Bathhouse?

My anxieties going into it were social-related—not being sure what to expect upon arrival and how I was supposed to behave within the space. I was fully vaccinated by the time I had my appointment, and felt comfortable spending time indoors (with just a bit of hesitation), and thankfully went after work with a coworker friend (see above for Tilden) so I had someone to talk to. I think my social skills that were lost due to the pandemic are slowly healing, but at the time of my visit, I was still not used to meeting new people.

Describe in detail your experience at Bathhouse.

The working from home aspect of life has made it difficult for me to separate time for relaxation, and this day was an exercise in working against that. To be frank, I have not had a lot of experiences in spa or luxury environments, so again, I was trying to understand how I should behave. Thankfully it was a more casual energy than I expected, and everyone was pretty laid back and talkative. I remember delicately stepping into the body temp pool and floating in it, attempting to remove stressful thoughts—but I found myself needing to talk through them. I went back and forth between pools for a few minutes (except the cold one which was too cold, colder than the water at Rockaway Beach in May). It was my first time entering a sauna, and I tried out all three (tropical, dry, and a steam room). My favorite was the tropical one since I still felt the most comfortable there.

My back has been killing me, so I tried the 90-minute massage, which was fantastic. I requested my masseuse focus on my lower back, and he was attentive to my needs. Time flew by, and by the end of the session, I got up from the table and felt like I was floating. I had achieved relaxation and was able to enjoy myself in the pools and saunas once again.

The tasting menu dinner was the highlight of my experience at Bathhouse. The service was excellent and the staff was accommodating, with great attention to detail (which I appreciate as someone with a severe seafood allergy). Every plate stood out on its own, and felt comforting while at times challenging to my palate, which I appreciated. The wine pairings came with in-depth explanations about the vineyards and their owners, which provided a new layer of enjoyment to the experience.

Did you leave Bathhouse feeling relaxed? Would you go again?

Even though I’m a mere 25 years old, I definitely felt like a rejuvenated 23-year-old when I left. Since it was one of my first experiences of the sort, I was nervous going into it, but the staff was welcoming and the space felt inviting—not too intimidating. I would love to return someday and treat myself to another massage, and to be able to spend more time in that tropi-sauna.

Brooke Marine, Culture Editor

Did you have any reservations or anxieties about going to Bathhouse?

I immediately consulted Doctor Google to see what other people were saying about going to a potentially crowded indoor space like a sauna during the pandemic, because I had yet to receive my vaccine when the idea was proposed. I decided on waiting until I was fully vaccinated to attend, and I’m glad I did because while masks are readily available in the public bathhouse area, only one or two people were wearing them in those spaces when I finally arrived.

Describe in detail your experience at Bathhouse.

I received a 15-minute stretch, 60-minute massage, and scrub. The staff and the treatments they provided were incredible—I really needed to work out the muscles that have become stiff from sitting at my makeshift desk while working from home for over a year, and everyone who worked at Bathhouse was so friendly and kind. The stretch and massage therapist tailored the experience to my needs and the specific areas of my body that were feeling inflamed. The scrub was fun, too. Lying down on a hammam and having warm water thrown on me was not something I imagined myself doing during the pandemic, but I am so glad I did. Afterward, my skin was so soft from the scrub (I think there must have been natural oils in the material).

I had some time to kill before and in between treatments so I sat in the dry sauna for 15 minutes, then entered the tropical steam room for somewhere between five and 10 minutes, then did a quick (less than 10 seconds) dip in the cold pool (which, according to some friendly bathgoers, is not exactly long enough to abide by the Wim Hof method of taking a cold plunge, but my body could not handle it).

Everything was clean, and constantly being cleaned by the staff, so my Covid anxieties were quickly minimized. Every single staff member with whom I had an interaction was so lovely, but the rest of the clientele (besides the two ladies who chatted with me about Wim Hof) was largely pretty obnoxious. I knew it was a social space, unlike the typical solo spa experience. But people in the pools were so rowdy during my massage that you could hear them screaming and splashing (at one point, a staff member could be overheard repeatedly telling them to quiet down), and plenty of guests had their phones out and were taking calls in the baths even though there were signs reminding patrons to leave them in the locker rooms. Also, on more than one occasion during my stay I noticed some white guests in the locker rooms assuming that the Black guests were staff and demanded their help with things in the locker room (without even asking first if the Black guests did, in fact, work there).

After my time in the baths, I had the chef’s tasting menu at the restaurant and everyone was lovely. The food and wine were divine, too. It was a lot of meat, but they do ask if you have any dietary restrictions, and honestly, the vegan dish was the best thing I tried.

How was your visit overall? Would you go again?

I would definitely recommend the restaurant, and would eat there again! I wish I had gotten a facial, so maybe I’ll return for that treatment, but I don’t know that I would recommend visiting the baths to just anyone. The experience with and observing some of the other guests left a bad taste in my mouth. But everyone working there was so lovely and kind, and the treatments were worth it.

Oona Wally, Senior Visuals Editor

Had you heard of Bathhouse before?

I had heard of Bathhouse before—a friend wanted me to go with them when it was still a bit too COVID-y in the world, so I declined, but was thrilled when this came up, because I had FOMO after not going and hearing about their experience.

How was your Bathhouse experience?

I received the Hammam Scrub and express facial, which included a full body scrub, buckets of water thrown on my body to rinse (a novel and minor shocking experience for me), hair scrub, wash and massage, and 30 minute facial (which was more of a toning/massage treatment, less so a skin texture/extraction facial). Ariel, my aesthetician, was amazing; she was so kind and friendly, and her massage and scrub pressures were on point. She was super thorough and would gently check in to make sure I was comfortable. I will be going back to her exclusively and I attribute a lot of my positive experience at Bathhouse to her. My treatment was done on a cool marble slab, which is traditionally Moroccan. I never knew something that firm could feel so comfortable. I left feeling baby smooth and gliding on a cloud. I remember thinking to myself I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed.

I tried all of the saunas and pools—both the tropical and dry saunas, and the three thermal pools. I followed the advice of another bathgoer I briefly chatted with and alternated between extreme hot and cold temperatures (15 minutes in the steam sauna and as long as I could stand—two whole minutes—in the cold pool). The extremes felt refreshing and challenging (especially the time that seemed to stretch on forever in the cold thermal pool).

Bathhouse is a very social scene. I would not recommend going to Bathhouse looking for quiet, bliss, and the typical spa-sounds playlist. World music is pumping, people are laughing and speaking loudly, and all amenities are in a shared space (besides your treatment). I would recommend going with a friend or partner as it can get a bit awkward when you’re silently sitting in a pool trying not to make eye contact with the stranger in a bathing suit next to you—I finally let my guard down and chatted with a couple people. (It’s hard not to, as the space is compact.) Cleanliness is one thing that I am usually paranoid about when I go to spas or shared bathing spaces. Bathhouse felt, looked, and smelled very clean—staff are constantly replenishing the water dispenser, clearing abandoned towels, and wiping down surfaces. Seeing that was really comforting for someone like myself—who gets the ick easily if these types of spaces aren’t sparkling clean.

Dinner at Bathhouse was wonderful. Service was top-notch and the dishes were well-developed without feeling pretentious. The food was delicious, seasonal, and healthy with no refined sugars or grains on the menu. My favorite dishes from the chef’s tasting menu were the citrus salad, fluke crudo, and lamb sausage. This delicious meal was the perfect cap to my afternoon at Bathhouse.

How did you feel after your visit? Would you go to Bathhouse again?

I left Bathhouse feeling more relaxed than I knew I could be. I went home and promptly slept soundly that night and woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and invigorated. My skin was also as smooth, which was an added plus to my intended experience. My visit overall was great thanks to the kind staff.