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September 22, 2015 |  774 Views
Neighborhood Roundup: SoHo
The SoHo neighborhood of New York is, as the name suggests, ‘South of Houston Street
By Evan Kanarakis
Neighborhood Roundup: Harlem
Neighborhood Roundup: Greenwich Village and the West Village
Neighborhood Roundup: Midtown

The SoHo neighborhood of New York is, as the name suggests, ‘South of Houston Street’ and therefore spans from Houston in the north, Canal Street to the south, and east from Lafayette Street to the Hudson River in the west (though some argue that the true western boundary for SoHo should be at West Broadway given that anything beyond this comprises ‘West SoHo’ or Hudson Square). Historically the area has gone through many transformations, from a bustling manufacturing and industrial neighborhood through to one that was declining and increasingly bleak during the 1940’s and 1950’s, a development that in turn paved the way for so many artists to move in, taking advantage of countless unoccupied manufacturing lofts. Small galleries came to flourish here in SoHo up until the 1990’s, when gentrification that had begun in the 1980’s truly gained pace and forced many out.

Today the neighborhood has been transformed again into what is very much a shopping, dining and residential district (and an expensive one at that). On weekends, crowds flock to pricey boutiques and bistros, and the cobblestoned streets and sidewalks overflow with vendors, several of whom are still selling art, even as fewer and fewer of those artists reside here. Throughout the decades, SoHo remained largely distinguished from the rest of Manhattan for the impressive and ornate cast-iron architecture and facades that masterfully revitalized the region during the mid to late 1800’s. In 1973 the area was designated as the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, and the buildings themselves are what maintain the neighborhood’s charm for many visitors.




The dining scene in SoHo has boomed in recent years and options abound, though many will test your wallet, and a few of the well-known neighborhood staples of old have become complacent, wherein name recognition alone keeps diners coming and keeps menu prices high. But two restaurants in particular that have been around for a while still merit a visit. The first is Keith McNally’s noted bistro Balthazar (80 Spring St.), which opened in 1997. Yes it’s crowded, noisy, and the waits can be long (particularly around brunch) but this is our favorite of New York’s Parisian-style brasseries. Classic fare like onion soup, steak frites are duck confit aren’t cheap, but the food is consistently good. A second worthy neighborhood institution is Aquagrill (210 Spring St. at Sixth Ave.), opened in 1996 by Jennifer and Jeremy Marshall. Here, as the name suggests, seafood is the focus, and fresh ingredients (including a daily oyster selection) utilized skillfully make for memorable meals. Two highlights include their Dungeness crab cake and falafel-crusted Atlantic salmon.




Seafood enthusiasts would do well to also consider a visit to the excellent (and original) SoHo outpost of Blue Ribbon Sushi (97 Sullivan St.) as well as Lure Fishbar (142 Mercer St.) for both sushi and ‘Western’ preparations of fish. Other worthy destinations include Michael White’s Italian masterstroke, Osteria Morini (218 Lafayette St.), Antique Garage (41 Mercer St.) for Mediterranean/Turkish fare, and The Dutch (131 Sullivan St.) where a menu showcasing a great many influences adds up to a wholly satisfying comfort food experience (the cocktail menu here is equally top-notch). Comfort food devotees should also consider Jack’s Wife Freda (224 Lafayette St.), where to ignore ‘Peri-Peri Sweetbreads’ and ‘Freda’s Fried Fish Balls’ is to miss out.




Sure enough, comfort food is all the rage these days, and Mooncake Foods have popular outposts in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea as well in SoHo (28 Watts St.), serving up delicious and affordable takes on ‘Asian comfort food’ (we love their sandwiches). Other generously priced dining destinations in an otherwise expensive dining scene include the Ba’al Café (71 Sullivan St.) for expertly made falafel, La Esquina (114 Kenmare St.) for Mexican fare, and Hampton Chutney Co. (68 Prince St.) for delicious Indian dosas, uttapas and sandwiches.


When it comes to nightlife, it’s increasingly hard to find old school bars in SoHo that have managed to survive the influx of ritzy, trend-driven cocktail and wine venues or nightclubs. Touted as ‘the oldest working bar in NYC’, The Ear Inn (326 Spring St.) is just one such watering hole. Here, you’ll find affordable drinks, unpretentious service from great bar staff and a hearty food menu. Fanelli’s Café (94 Prince St.) is another neighborhood stalwart, where the low-key atmosphere is a welcome respite from bustling SoHo sidewalks- and they make a great a burger. A few blocks to the south, Toad Hall (57 Grand St.) is a well-worn, much loved bar where you can easily lose a few hours over a game of pool with friends (they don’t serve food but will happily let you order in from nearby eateries).




Cocktail enthusiasts tout the drinks at Pegu Club (77 West Houston St., 2nd floor) while many flock for drinks and views to Jimmy, the rooftop bar atop the James Hotel (15 Thompson St.). Elsewhere, Keith McNally returns with his bar-bistro hybrid Lucky Strike (59 Grand St.), a cozy, after-hours affair popular with locals. No surprises here that the grub is also excellent. Finally, if keen to light up a ‘Lucky Strike’ of your own, pay a visit to Circa Tabac (32 Watts St.) a sedate neighborhood bar with art deco trimmings that is exempt from the city’s smoking ban. Cigars are listed for sale on the menu.






Evan Kanarakis is an Australian writer whose fiction and non-fiction work has been published around the world. He is also founder of the skateboard design company Devil Street Decks.


Evan Kanarakis

evan kanarakis

evan kanarakis



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