NFT New York East Village

East Village

It's no longer the city's Bohemia--we hear that's somewhere in Philly. But if you're dead-set on staying in Manhattan, the East Village is downtown's most livable neighborhood. Blame that on all the well-worn tenements and their (relatively) affordable small studios and "junior" one-bedrooms, some of them rent stabilized. In these apartments dwell old timers, NYU kids, and everyone in between, making for awesome people watching, day or night. A stroll through Tompkins Square Park on any warm weekend pretty much sums it up. Cute pooches and their oh-so-hip owners convene at the dog run while bongo drums echo over near Avenue B. Little kids shriek at the playground while crusty punks and gritty old men occupy the benches on the Southwestern side. Just a typical slice of life in the East Village, and a sweet life it is if you can swing the rent.

Before the crowds young professionals lived here, and before the artists, musicians, and squatters that preceded them, this area was home to waves of German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Ukrainian, and Polish immigrants. A few historical sites remain from those times. One of our favorites is See more.

>Saint Brigid's Church (1848), which was built by Irish immigrants. The church was saved by the developer's cudgel in just the nick of time, and restored thanks to a generous anonymous donor, the whole episode a miracle befitting the Roman Catholic church's namesake. Another holdout, Russian and Turkish Baths (1892) still offers old-world platza treatments. One more significant marker from the neighborhood's past is the General Slocum Monument, which commemorates the tragic sinking of the General Slocum steamship in the East River in 1904. The deadliest single disaster in the city's history until 9/11, over 1,000 lives were lost, mainly German women and children from a neighborhood church that chartered the boat for a day trip to Long Island.

In the 1960s, Puerto Rican immigrants flooded into Alphabet City, another name for the blocks between Avenue A and Avenue D. Avenue C, also known as Loisaida Avenue, retains some of this character today, even while bars and restaurants catering to more recent arrivals open shop. The loveliest aspects of this area are the many community gardens, planted on once-blighted lots and maintained by volunteers. We particularly like the always-tranquil 6BC Botanical Garden on 6th Street between Avenue B and Avenue C. The best times to visit are Saturday and Sunday afternoons from May through October.

The term "East Village" came into use in the 1960s, when artists, musicians, writers, performers, intellectuals, and political radicals flocked to the neighborhood. A hugely influential art scene sprang up from the 1960s through the 1980s, but unfortunately, many of those galleries and performance spaces fell victim to skyrocketing rents in the 1990s and early 2000s. A few institutions have survived, though--you can still catch a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poet's Café, or dance the night away like it's still 1984 at The Pyramid Club. One of our favorite summer events, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, takes place in Tompkins Square Park, right across the street from the Charlie Parker House. When you visit the park be sure to pass by the Joe Strummer Mural, a neighborhood landmark honoring one of the icons of punk rock. For live rock n' roll (or any kind of music scene), you're better off heading to the Lower East Side. But if you've come for the awesome bars, restaurants, and shopping that make this the neighborhood you'll never want to leave, read on.

Dive bars are an East Village specialty, and some of the finest specimens in the city are right here: try Manitoba's, Lucy's, 7B, International Bar, and Coal Yard. This hood rules for cocktails too: check out Summit Bar, Elsa, or Louis 649 if you can't bear the wait at Death and Company. Drop Off Service has our favorite happy hour this side of the East River. Cheers!

Residents here are spoiled rotten when it comes to food. Just head to 7th Street between First and A: sandwiches at Porchetta, lobster rolls at Luke's Lobster, arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar, and delicious Greek fare at Pylos. 7A's always open, Banjara holds it down in Little India, and if you still have room, check out Puddin' for--take a wild guess.

We can't decide if we like Abraço or Ninth Street Espresso better--we'll take both! Browse vintage oddities at Obscura Antiques, used tomes at Mast Books, and jewelry at The Shape of Lies. Cute boutiques? 9th Street between First and Second. Late-night bodega taco fix? Zaragoza.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
How to Blow Off Some M?&F@#$%! Steam in NYC

By Sarah Enelow
Recession or no recession, life in the city can be stressful. But Sarah Enelow argues that while New York's size can make it infuriating, it also allows for many creative outlets for stress relief.
Five NY Franks to Relish

By Molly Fergus
When it comes to hot dogs in New York, it's easy to fall into a Gray's Papaya-dirty water dog routine. Still, that doesn't mean noshers want for frank options. For anyone who can, ahem,  mustard up the energy, Molly Fergus hunts down five hot dogs in five boroughs.
On the Hunt for NY's Avant-Garde

By Sarah Enelow
New York is a world-class performing arts mecca, especially when it comes to experimental work, but where exactly does one find it? NFT Editor Sarah Enelow takes us on a tour of avant-garde performance venues in the city, cutting through the Broadway fluff to find the best, most affordable offbeat events.
Breaking into Non-Profit Arts

By Liz Pink
Young, talented, poor and striving. Artists are a mysterious lot. Will they make it, or will we wipe our hands of them, devilishly and unforgivingly. J/K. Liz Pink offers truckloads of making-it-in-the-big-city advice that only a very rich or successful artist could pass up. Join her.

Walk Like You Mean It

By Sarah Enelow
"Ugh, if we don’t get there soon, I’m gonna die." Judging by the number of times you hear this on the street, you'd think many people feel that New York is not a "walking city." However, Sarah Enelow explains how New York's very unruly nature is what lends itself to walking, wandering, and discovering your role in this monolith.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

The East Village, particularly what was once known as Alphabet City, has quietly amassed a pretty solid collection of Latin American restaurants in recent years, with old standbys like Yerba Buena, Yuca Bar, Casa Adela, Caracas and Esperanto joined by newcomers like Fonda, Cafe Cortadito, and now Secara. They serve up Venezuelan food in a appealing decorated space that sits open to the street in warm weather (it used to be the site of The Cardinal, which had the same setup). The menu is pretty straightforward, but it tastes great and is, refreshingly, not expensive. Best of all, it has yet to become overrun like some of the others I mentioned, and the staff is sweetly attentive to the smaller crowd. Worth a try.

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union
Some things in NYC are so rare and so potentially useful, that when you run across them, you just have to make a note. Case in point: an ATM that lets you take out money in denominations smaller than $20. The Lower East Side People's Credit Union opened on Avenue B in the 1980s, back when few banks dared tread past Third Avenue (never mind Avenue A). They're still around years later, and still serve a community that mostly gets overlooked by the MegaBanks of the world. Their ATM lets you take out as little as $5 at a time, and if you don't know why that might be useful, you must have just moved here last week.

Posted By:  Krikor Daglian
Photo:  Krikor Daglian

Black Market
Black Market's front window advertises three food items in big letters – cocktails, oysters and burgers – but right on the glass of their front door they throw in an extra superlative: “best burger in town.” There's no shortage of places in town that claim (sometimes quite dubiously) to be the best at something or other, but Black Market has some legitimate claim to the title. They're not doing anything outside the borders of a traditional burger, just doing it well. Their Pat LaFrieda sourced meat is apparently a custom mix. It's well seasoned and finely cooked (to order, of course), with an excellent bun and side of addicting fries to complete the meal. Sure, there are too many great burgers in this town to give the crown definitively to one spot, but it is damn good, and my favorite in the East Village. Beer is the natural compliment to a burger, but if you're feeling a little fancy, they mix a fine cocktail as well.

Posted By:  Leigh Raynor
Photo:  Leigh Raynor

Hey New Yorker, feeling overlooked? Just another face in the crowd, cog in the wheel, body on the 6 train? If you are in need of some attention, head over to First Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets. Stacked one on top of the other and side-by-side, you'll find the most festive quartet of Indian restaurants in the city. Each is strung with an epilepsy-inducing amount of party lights, and each is super eager to win your service. At this spot you'll feel anything but overlooked; instead, you'll be sweet-talked, coerced, or even, personally escorted into any of the four restaurants. In fact, my friend who was meeting a group of us for dinner was tricked into the wrong restaurant and promptly shown to another table of girls where the waiter tried to convince her that these girls were in fact the friends she’d been waiting to find. In other words, your entrance will be overwhelming, but a dinner out at Milon NY is entirely worth the experience. Brimming with color, you’ll have a unique dining experience without spending a fortune (entrees range between $10-$15), and it’s BYOB. Be sure to get there early as this small spot fills up quickly.

Posted By:  Kate McCormick
Photo:  Kate McCormick

Blarney Cove
The first thing you should know is that Blarney Cove is not about options. Here are your draft beer choices: Yeungling, Budweiser, Rolling Rock. If you want anything else, it's possible -- but unlikely -- they have it in a bottle or a can. A friend tried to order a scotch and soda, but in the shuffle of the crowd the bartender heard "Stella." She politely disabused us of the notion that Blarney Cove would stock such a beer. Nestled in a strip of 14th Street where retail gates all come down at precisely 6 p.m., the Cove's small door is barely recognizable as an active entrance. But once you get inside and navigate the long, narrow bar, the real potential of the Cove emerges. We took our seats at the far end, a particularly tricky spot to set up camp, since it is exactly opposite the basement stairway. This meant the bartender had to slide us our drinks Tapper-style. It was a harrowing yet strangely pleasant experience -- an apt metaphor for a night at this East Village dive.

Posted By:  Holly Alderman
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Tucked amidst the flashing lights and persuasive calls to dine at one of East 6th Street's many Indian restaurants is Sigiri. It is not adorned with Christmas lights and no one pulls you off the street boasting a deal, but Sigiri provides an unparalleled dining experience that is not to be missed. Like its neighbors in the East Village, Sigiri serves South Asian cuisine, but rather than hailing from India, Sigiri's food is from the island nation of Sri Lanka. In a mecca of international eats, it is hard to be totally unique in New York City, but Sigiri pulls it off as a reasonably priced, conveniently located, authentic Sri Lankan eatery on a continent where such places are few and far between. Sri Lankan cuisine as it is served up at Sigiri is not for the faint of the heart (or tastebuds!) It is spicy, spicy, spicy. Not to fear though--Sigiri is BYOB, so make sure to bring a spice fighting alcohol to accompany your meal. If you're looking for a cozy atmosphere with eclectic decor, delicious food, and a unique feel, head on over to Sigiri. You won't be sorry, even if your salivary glands will!

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Nuyorican Poets Café
Sometimes, even for avid readers, there's something about an experimental poetry slam that says "you're not avant-garde enough for this scene." On the other hand, there's something called a StorySLAM, which just about anyone can get into. It's not stand-up comedy, and it's not a reading; it's just real people getting up to tell entertaining five-minute stories on a given theme. The participants generally take it seriously, so they prepare a solid yarn instead of downing a few beers and rambling about nothing. Whether you go to listen, tell a story, or volunteer as a judge, there'll be a high-energy vibe and it's generally supportive, even though judges do assign scores to determine a winner. These StorySLAMs are put on by The Moth, a nonprofit that supplies a darn funny MC.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Tompkins Square Park
For me, the Tompkins Square dog run stirs up mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's a giant dog run in a city where pets live in cramped apartments without backyards. It's a community where canines can mingle, exercise, breathe fresh air, and enjoy one of the city's most verdant parks. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that this sandy area is even remotely sanitary. At best, it smells vaguely of wet buffalo; at worst, the nauseating stench of animal waste permeates everything within a 500-yard radius. When it rains, gallons of vile matter overflow from the dog run into the park, and when it's windy, I've seen tornadoes of excrement-dust overtake innocent passersby. I also wonder if dogs were even meant to live in huge cities, where many have a lower quality of life, except those whose owners have backyards or gargantuan loft apartments. However, since dogs are adorable and here to stay, the Tompkins Square dog run ends up being a vital resource for the community, and a historic one, because in 1992 it became the city's very first dog run, part of Alphabet City's community renewal. Given the bleak state of many New York City neighborhoods, a dog living near beautiful Tompkins Square Park is a lucky one indeed.

Posted By:  Andrew Savage
Photo:  Andrew Savage

Sigmund Pretzel Shop
A pretzel that doesn't come from a Sabrett stand. Imagine that! Unlike their distant cousins of the street cart, Sigmund Pretzels are not frozen and reheated a dozen times. So be prepared, Sigmund is serving up old-world style pretzels that are baked fresh daily. Get their signature salted pretzel with a side of stone-ground mustard and wash it down with a cold Boylan's. Pretzel sandwiches, pretzel chips, coffee, and tea are also served. Did I mention that you can order by the dozen? Next time you are ballpark bound, make a pit stop at Sigmund Pretzel and eschew the cardboard-like cart pretzels.

Posted By:  Georgia Lawson
Photo:  Georgia Lawson

Cabin Down Below
The Cabin Down Below is not easily found, but well worth it once there. This cool little bar with a thousand stories to tell has secured itself as one of my favorite haunts in the city. Located just off Avenue A, this place used to be accessed through the pizza shop above--hence the name Cabin Down Below. I had been brought by a friend who called it her go-to hidden gem. This low key bar springs to life well past midnight and is often packed to the rafters with an eclectic mix of people, from musicians and models to students and East Villagers to local celebrities like Macaulay Culkin. As a Londoner, spotting Mr. Culkin was very exciting. Let's recap: New York...Home Alone...Macaulay Culkin. Anyway, the drinks are cheap, the bar staff friendly, and the atmosphere relaxed. Just remember if you are planning on heading down, be sure to be ready for a late one!

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Big Arc Chicken
To some New York dining is all about the fancified four star spots that fight for PR and a three star review from the NY Times. To others it's the hole-in-the-wall spots that garner little attention but serve their clientele exactly what they want--home cooked food for cheap. Case in point is Big Arc Chicken in the East Village. Just a few blocks away from where you can wait in line for a $17 bowl of ramen, you can chow down for $7 on a perfectly grilled half chicken and tasty sides like spinach or eggplant.  Throw in some salad, rice, homemade hot sauce, and grilled pita and you have a hearty and healthy meal. Or try a whole grilled fish with sides for ten bucks. Of course atmosphere doesn't exist, unless, like me, you enjoy old black and white Egyptian movies and English Premier Football on the telly. Usually I'm 100% against having TVs in bars or restaurants, but at Big Arc it makes a great companion to a solo 2 am feast. And with all the cabbies from the Middle East and Africa that stop here on their break, you know this is real New York dining at its finest.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

This unassuming East Village spot has some of the best thin-crust pizza and perhaps the best salads I've tasted in years. Of all the mediocre Italian joints this city has to offer, the modestly-sized Gruppo knows how to give you fresh upscale ingredients, anything from marinated tomatoes to jalapeños, caramelized onions, grilled zucchini, artichoke hearts, andouille sausage, and the list goes on. The salads are generous and the dressings are divine, the lemon and white balsamic vinaigrettes in particular, and as with the pizzas, they are mindful of overall texture (i.e. no unsightly hunks of unripe tomato or hideous blocks of cheese). With a few lovely wines by the glass, it's just the Italian place we've all been looking for: one with simple, affordable, excellent food, and a jukebox.

Posted By:  Matilda Boland
Photo:  Matilda Boland

The Summit Bar
Take a walk down Ave C and refuel at Summit, a classic cocktail lounge that takes Alphabet city to a new level. Clean classic cocktails, charcuterie and cheese indulgences are served in a romantic swanky setting with a raw industrial edge. The exposed brick walls juxtapose the shiny black granite bar top and glass shelving behind the bar. A neighbourhood hangout that I expect will build a following even in an avenue already overrun with bars. The "bar" has been raised for the future of drinking in Loisaida, NYC and I'll cheers to that!

Posted By:  Matilda Boland
Photo:  Matilda Boland

Tuesday night girl's dinner...We were promised drag queen bingo but instead we got all you can drink sangria. No complaints here! Poco is a bustling spot on the corner of Avenue B and 3rd Street that I have somehow managed to bypass until now. A vast menu of Spanish inspired tapas, carafes of sangria and high communal tables encourage you to mix and mingle. Rich, tasty morsels like lobster mac n' cheese, seafood paella, mushroom truffle croquettes, and jalapeno martini shots are worth returning for. Bring on the hot NY nights now that I've found a breezy, ambient corner in my village.

Posted By:  Molly Riordan
Photo:  Molly Riordan

The Car with the Dashboard
Sunday mornings. Some go to church. Some go to museums. Some go to the park. Decidedly against the first and too poor for the second, I was rockin' the third when I serendipitously happened upon all three. I've seen it before, and if you're lucky you may see it to. Covered in stickers and a little bit of rust, with evidence of at least two stops at Wall Drug, is a car, a shrine, a mobile museum of tiny plastic effigies. With a dashboard displaying superheros, kitties, and at least a dozen Virgins Mary, this transport-temple probes the universe's unanswered questions. Why? Who? How, in the bedlam of Alphabet City, does it go on, thrive, inspiring dozens of passers-by? Is it a beacon of hope? A pack-rat's outpost? A stray sequin on the grey and fraying burlap of our corporal existence? Seek it if you dare, but if you do not see it, just trust me; it's there.

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Ninth Street Espresso
When you require a refined sort of fuel, the baristas at Ninth Street Espresso have you covered. A perfect cappuccino--dark, rich espresso topped with a just-right ratio of dense steamed milk and leafy foam art--will set you back $4 and put you off Starbucks forever. In fact, all the espresso drinks here are top-notch, and no wonder. Ninth Street is serious about its beans and its strictly-followed recipes. This shop definitely has a "we serve it our way and you'll like it" ambience, and even posts a warning lest you dare ask for a customized half-decaf extra-foam whatever. East Villagers don't seem to mind, since the place is regularly jammed. If you're hoping for a seat during the late-morning rush, you might have better luck grabbing a stool at their new annex on nearby 10th street.

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Butter Lane
If you've been resisting the rest of Manhattan's addiction to fancy cupcakes, never underestimate the power of a free sample. At Butter Lane, several icings are available to taste-test, including two kinds of buttercream. Their French buttercream airier and more mousse-like then the traditional American version, and will appeal to those who usually find icing tooth-achingly sweet. Fruit-flavored icings--that actually taste like fruit--are also available, including blueberry, raspberry, and key lime. Throw in a few different cake varieties to pick from (vanilla, chocolate, and banana), and you can basically build your own custom cupcake. This little shop distinguishes itself by using high-quality ingredients, and does a brisk takeout business. For anyone who's been looking for a cupcake that's a little more refined than the usual, start here.

Posted By:  Sara Bogush
Photo:  Sara Bogush

Crif Dogs
Every now and then there comes a boozy late-night hour when a smoked, deep-fried hotdog spiraled in bacon sounds like your ticket to heaven. And this St. Mark's Place dugout will probably be aglow and waiting for you and everyone else with gluttony on the brain. Fans of Gray's Papaya recession special may grumble about the $2.75-$5 per dog prices, but the bacon wrapping alone adds a salty kick that's worth lightening your wallet a little. Then there are the toppings--avocado and sour cream, fried egg and cheese, chili and jalapenos, and virtually any other combination you can dream up. Note the secret door through the telephone booth against the wall. This is the entrance to PDT, a swanky lounge that serves up serious cocktails, where you can order in hot dogs and tater tots from next door.

Posted By:  Sarah Moroz
Photo:  Sarah Moroz

Cafe Pick Me Up
As I trudged down Ave A, Cafe Pick Me Up lured me in with its name. I could use some picking up, I thought. Naive, I know. Anyways, this place would probably be better named Cafe Settled Down since it is cozy and poorly lit, which, as an environment, is less of a pick-me-up than a can-I-take-a-catnap-back-here-without-being-judged-by-that-person-reading-the-New-York-Times? The cafe is laid back, always populated, and has that random amalgam of furniture that looks like all the indiscriminate worn shit you stored in your parents' basement after college, if those items were exclusively tables and chairs. Twinkle lights and random art contribute to that college-y feel. The cafe's best asset is its view on Tompkins Square Park, which you can observe unimpeded if you sit by window.

Posted By:  Matilda Boland
Photo:  Matilda Boland

If Starbucks is a Grande Frappuccino with whip then Abraco is a single espresso. Low on space, but high on substance with no Wi-Fi, free biscotti, or iced coffee milk blends used to attract those who don't really like coffee anyway. A coffee bar per-se with just enough room to hover around the barista, worship the coffee guru, and have a chat. As a soy drinker I was a little sad with the choice of full cream or almond milk. But without much convincing, I was quickly converted. Perhaps the friendly vibe the regulars bring to what is a hub of neighbourhood conversation sets Abraco apart from the counterparts. Or maybe it's the tasty morsels freshly baked each morning--olive oil cake, French toast with lemon ricotta, and Spanish style frittata.

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