DT 500 MAG IS RAMBLING DOWN THE GROUNDS IN ALPHABET CITY, WITHOUT OUR LUGGAGE, HEAVILY HUNGOVER, WITHOUT A FRIEND WHO GOT SICK AND WHOM WE LOST BY TRANSFERS SOMEWHERE BACK IN EUROPE. FILLED WITH EXHAUST WE CHECK IN AT 6TH STREET, AVENUE B, NYC. IT WILL KEEP US SAFE FOR THE SUMMER. WE ARE MEETING THE OWNER OF THE “AIRBNB” APARTMENT WHO HAS OUR KEYS. HE WORKS AS A REPORTER AT “NY TIMES” AND THE WAY HE’S LOOKING AT US TELLS US HE’S FEELING RATHER SCEPTICAL… TWO GUYS COMING ALL THE WAY FROM EUROPE TO STAY FOR A SUMMER IN NYC – WITH ONLY A SMALL HANDBAG, BOTH WEIRD AND SWEATY …
WE COULDN’T CARE LESS! AFTER ALL, WE ARE FINALLY IN THE EAST VILLAGE, NYC, WE’RE FEELING TOO CURIOUS AND THIRSTY TO CARE ABOUT SOMEONE’S DOWNER.
LET’S ROCK AND ROLL THE VILLAGE IS BUZZING IN OUR HEADS!
Explore any corner of the EAST VILLAGE and you will find yourself surprised. It is obvious how Freddie Mercury could write his lyrics in Bohemian Rhapsody (“..is this the real life, is this just fantasy?..”) – after all, there are in fact places in this world which give off this surreal atmosphere – the East Village is definitely one of them. The East Village, The Alphabet City, St. Marks NYC – are without a doubt places that will make you choose the former option.
The neighborhood around Tompkins Square Park has seen its share of immigrants, artists, musicians, drug dealers, beatniks, hippies, anarchists, punks – and now – US…
With people buzzing in and out of crossing streets, the whole Village is veritably breathing, sweating and moaning all at once. You can end up chatting with a random lady walking her dog and she will never end to tell you stories about the time she used to date Jimi Hendrix, the bum lying on the ground will ask you for a cigarette and tell you she once ended up in a catfight with Patti Smith. A drag artist can ask you for a blowout. A community!
The streets are filled with epic New York style, fire escapes and the sidewalks are all dirty historic grounds which, when you walk them, feel like endlessly filthy red carpets with stains of old piss or puke. Among the rippling traffic lights and the rooftops just barely touching the skies graceful presence, there are crowded bars, lively restaurants, and closing salesmen, but still, the streets are charmingly cozy with peaceful community gardens, filled with fresh vegetables and fruits, just a stone’s throw away from the skyscrapers of Downtown NYC. Every single meter of the village adds its own touch of bohemian spirit to the city’s ID. It can seem gentrified o lot but still, the spirit is burning. You are now on Manhattan’s promised land. Where most creative dreams were made. For some it ends before it’s even started, still, a great number of creative people have sprung out of the East Village and up into the sky.
It borders 14th Street and Gramercy to the North, 4th Avenue and Greenwich Village to the West, East Houston Street and the Lower East Side to the South, and the East River to the East.
Formerly home to many immigrants the East Village developed a new identity after the beatniks moved into the neighborhood in the 1950’s. The area was trashed because of the local economic disgrace and urban decay. Landlords had to lower their prices, so a lot of artists, musicians and creatives saw the golden possibility, moved in and marked their territory.
Take a walk definitely to Claytons Gallery and Outlaw Museum at Essex Street, only he who owns the only archive about L.E.S. history. He has unique pieces there- A legend alive!
Anyway, the East Village continued to grow as the rear of underground movements. A lot of bars ideas was popping up on the streets. Famous bands found their scene right in Village. The “Ramones” performed their first gig at the legendary club “CBGB”, on the Bowery. Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger among many others were buzzing out here! Artists such as J. M. Basquiat and Andy Warhol made art installations in the neighborhood. A photographer Nan Golding also resided in the area.
DOWNTOWN 500 NYC
WAS MADE JUST HERE
The area was a trash hype. Back then, run down buildings, prostitutes, drug dealers, punks, bums, streets full of shit and piss were the norm rather than the exception. You could be robbed or raped on your way home… The crime was part of the soul of the East Village back then…
Check out ”Blank City” or “Rent” musical if you feel like learning more about the whole vibe – a movie inspired by The East Villagers – where you can taste the dark character of the area and look into the dirty experience of local creatives who lived and died there.
Today, the Village has quite a consumerized infrastructure, money is polishing this neighborhood to death, there are offers of conceptual restaurants, uncontemplated cafés, and weird boutiques. The East Village is a sought after area to live, and showcases many hidden treasures such as cute community gardens, vintage stores and bars such as the “Coyote Ugly Saloon” from the film with the same title or Katz Deli from «When Harry met Sally», famous for the scene where Meg Ryan faked her orgasm.
The cause of its central location between Lower and Midtown Manhattan it’s a great place to stay during your stay in ”Nu Yawk”. Taxis are quite cheap, but biking is cheaper and also lets you see the city on a more picturesque level. Manhattan is just an island and not as geographically big as everyone makes it out to be. There are 3 subway lines that run along the borders of the East Village which help you get around the city with almost no effort at all. The buses can be a great option as well.
If you it is itching like Art Talking, there is a lot of local “Art Basel” for pop-ups, loose around mate; galleries, New Museum of Contemporary Art is just around the corner on Bowery, Kraine Theatre or Theatre 80 St Marks, a lot of design stores and other concepts. Check the scene on the web, street papers or it always works to talk to the local people who occasionally can lead the projects themselves. New Yorkers are easy going folk!
The East Village also is known for its conceptual small shops and vintage clothing stores. Amen! There is a plenty of them everywhere. For vintage knock–out designer clothes, go to “Tokio 7” on 7th Street & 1st Avenue – fun! “Buffalo Exchange” on 11th & 1st is another hyped vintage store which won’t immediately empty your wallet (unless you go crazy in there – as you just might). Fans of punk rock should definitely check out “Trash and Vaudeville” at St Mark’s Place, talk to the owner – he can show you “tails and horns”, after all, he does own the most famous rock n’ roll clothing store in the world which also happens to be a true “rock n’ roll heaven”.
The main girl at Bowery is Patricia Field at Bowery 306. She, with her two rock star poodles, is often in the store herself. If you’ve seen “Sex and the City” more than twice – you will know Field as the show’s costume designer. If you have a good mentality to share- she is a right one to do it with like she easily did with us, Patricia can invite you to her VIP area and tell you about her making it all.
There are legends all over the place, find a local guide, there are even more treasures on this ground!
Hungry? There are three amazing food markets in the area which you can use if you feel like cooking yourself a nice meal one evening. We did it once, we burned it lol, so we did a restaurant again. But in these markets, you can buy organic food and products. The most famous are, of course, the Union Square Greenmarket, but the Tompkins Square Greenmarket and St Mark’s Church Greenmarket are also great! There are grocery- and liquor stories at almost every Avenue as well as Deli´s to serve you around the clock.
The East Village is basically heaven for coffee addicts like we are. Head to “Everyman Espresso” on 13th Street for delicious espresso and to “Ninth Street Espresso” on 9th & Avenue C or try “Abraço” on 7th & 1st just for a delicious cup of any kind.
For something different, try a delicious bubble tea at the take-out café “TKettle” on St Mark’s Place. Start at “MUD” at 307 E 9th St., for a great NYC brunch. A hippie kind of bonanza place with flirting people on the sides. Go to “Schiller’s Liquor Bar” at 131 Rivington St., which is a really charming and casual neighborhood restaurant with a continental menu, even its bathroom became a local attraction thanks to its edgy design. A nice one. This bar is owned by a pretty old school guy named McNally who also started up famous “Pravda” bar and “Balthazar Restaurant” This man knows how to do it good talk to him if you have a chance!
If you want to test local Japanese rock and roll dining which is quite reasonable in the area- try “Kenka” on 25 St. Marks Place. Delicious food, Japanese draft, hot sake, punk interior and kitschy people running around ! Go to “Lucien” for dining and wining with a more classy style, it’s a french bistro cuisine with traditional gems like escargots de Bourgogne, moules mariniére traditionally and Marseille-style bouillabaisse. They also have a full wine list and you just might end up sitting on a table next to some A-list actor or model. If you manage to stick out and be seen in this place, the owner of this place might notice you and you might get to know him and his A-list friends a lot better like we did, cheers Lucien J.
You can walk to the jungle of Tompkins Square Park by day. There are often local live music performances in old tradition. The park has a heavy history of well-known names using the area with both beauty and beasty purposes. If you get tired of the music, definitely stop by “Miss Lily´s”, a very notable Jamaican restaurant and bar in the hood, with a fun choice of the draft ( try a “Blue Moon” beer draft, it’s a mead ! ). If you want to meet real Alpha citizens this is the place to chat – “Miss Lily’s” took over a legendary café called ”7A” which was a gen spot in the block in the 90s. Today, you can eat a delicious plate of native Jamaican food here, sit next to decent celebs like Edward Enninful or Lady Gaga– at 132 W. Houston Street. A real local place!
If desserts are on your green lust-list, head to “Spot Dessert Bar” on St Mark’s Place or “Chikalicious Dessert Bar” on 10th Street. “Paradis To-Go” on 11th & 4th has the best tiramisu in the area. Really delicious before a wet night out…
”Drugs, Sex and Rock’N ’Roll” is the theme? Explore happy-hours and let out your spirit. Every street here is filled with bars and restaurants – one better than the other. Still, all of them are pretty good.
“The Blind Barber” – at 339 E 10th St. If you’ve arrived at this address looking for a drink and think you’ve mistakenly walked into a barbershop, easy mate; you’re in the right place. Walk in and past the salon to find one of New York’s coolest speak-easies, with seasonal drinks and a crowd always ready to party. Remember to check out the dates to find your fave party plan.
Once you’ve progressed beyond the streets modest awning, you’ll find yourself en route to the underground lair of “Jimmy’s No. 43”. Here, the warm atmosphere will engulf you as your eyes gaze from wall to wall admiring (or questioning) the eccentric decor and antlers dangling throughout.
“The Pyramide club” at 101 Av. A, can be a fun place to take a drink as well or here could emerge a good bash too. It is an E. V. oldie and truly a place where anything can happen. Nude artistic performances – even RuPaul on the floor. Shantay – You stay!
“Niagara” bar is a legend as well, 112 Av. A. Good vibe, excellent music, on weekdays the crowd is laid-back and quiet, but on weekends it tends to be a bit crowded and loud. Cool if you’re in the right mood. If you’re not, though, “Miss Lily’s”, as mentioned earlier, is just on the other side of the road.
HOWEVER – there are plenty of bars around. With just a small dose of patience and wanderlust, you’ll find the perfect one for you in no time! East Villagers are relaxed, conceptual and very social people – pick up a talk with basically anyone friendly and there is a good possibility they will invite you with them and show you other great places. Just find your flow and explore, the city is right on your doorstep, it’s always the right time to rock the night away!
” I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening.”
Text: DT 500 MAG
Photo: Andreas Roed
Photo: Aron Suveg
COPYRIGHT BY DT 500 MAG