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September 22, 2015 |  164 Views
Neighborhood Roundup: Greenwich Village and the West Village
By Evan Kanarakis
Photo: David Leventi Photography

Traditionally the artistic and bohemian heart of New York City, ‘the Village’ as it is otherwise known, spans roughly from Houston Street in the south to 14th Street in the north, and is bounded between the Hudson River in the west and Broadway in the east. In decades past the neighborhood played host to luminaries like Edgar Allan Poe, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan, to name a few, and became a progressive epicenter for the Beat Generation movement with all manner of emerging arts and culture and the gay liberation movement.


Today the Village is still primarily a residential neighborhood of many quiet, leafy streets overflowing with an eclectic variety of retail, restaurant and nightlife options. At the same time many of the artists, musicians and writers that once resided here have been displaced in recent years by professionals, affluent young families and celebrities. The hike in demand for the popular area has been reflected not just in property values, but in the many high-priced retail and other establishments that dot the neighborhood.

 

But the Village remains far from inaccessible. A strong student population attending institutions like New York University and the New School maintain a young presence in the area, and this feeds into keeping many diversions affordable. Several iconic arts venues like the Bitter End (147 Bleecker St.) and jazz outposts Blue Note (131 W. 3rd St. nr. MacDougal St.) and the Village Vanguard (178 Seventh Ave. South nr. 11th St.) remain, though are perhaps best left to the tourists when you can get more bang for your buck nearby at (Le) Poisson Rouge (168 Bleecker St. nr. Thompson St.). Here you’ll find a self-described ‘multimedia art cabaret’ featuring a consistently high quality, high-rotation program of artists and events. When dollars are short, a visit to Washington Square Park (Fifth Ave. at Waverly Pl.) or a stroll along the Village segment of the picturesque High Line heading north through Chelsea and up into the southern end of Hell’s Kitchen are worthwhile, wholly affordable (i.e. free) diversions well worth inclusion into any visitor’s itinerary.

 

When it comes to dining and nightlife options Greenwich Village is, frankly, impossible to adequately survey in this small space. Countless options catering to every taste, interest and even lifestyle choice abound, spanning from affordable options through to high end, and many are worth discovering on your own amid the twists and turns of so many non-grid streets. With that in mind and well aware that opinions will vary widely on what’s best in this particular neighborhood, what follows are but a few humble recommendations to consider.

 

Wisconsin native Gabriel Stulman has made his mark on the Village dining scene with several restaurants. Though tiny and no reservations accepted, the bistro menu at Joseph Leonard (170 Waverly Pl. at Grove St.) merits a visit, as does the fusion of New American and French cuisine created in the kitchen at Fedora (239 W. 4th St. nr. Charles St.). Their cocktail list is worth a sampling too. Few could discount a visit for Italian fare to another Stulman outpost, Perla (24 Minetta Lane nr. Sixth Ave.), but many instead tout Mario Batali’s Babbo (110 Waverly Pl. nr. Sixth Ave.) or, for a slightly leaner hit on the wallet, (31 Cornelia St. nr. Bleecker St.). Pó is also linked to Batali in that he was a founding partner when the restaurant opened in 1993, and on a recent visit a fellow diner enthusiastically declared their spaghetti carbonara the best she ever had. One personal favorite is the modern Greek fare at Snack Taverna (63 Bedford St. nr. Morton St.) where the bourekis make any meal memorable, while over at Left Bank (117 Perry St.) they play around with American and Mediterranean culinary influences to great effect in a refreshingly casual, comfortable space that is a welcome break from other stuffy, often tightly-packed Village dining rooms.

 

For more casual cuisine we like the fish-and-chips at A Salt & Battery (112 Greenwich Ave. nr. 13th St.) provided by the folks from another notable English comfort food destination, Tea & Sympathy (108 Greenwich Ave. nr. 13th St.). A visit to Murray’s Cheese (254 Bleecker St. nr. Seventh Ave.), finally, may well involve bumping into countless tourists, but their collection of cheese and other bites to take home really is worth braving the bustle rushing in and out of their doors, as are the delicious grilled cheese sandwiches prepared at a counter by the front window.

 

When it comes to drinks, many Village residents may still be weeping over the demise of Chumley’s, but Little Branch (20 Seventh Ave. South at Leroy St.) has made a welcome entry into the speakeasy market courtesy of expert mixologists who’ll prepare you a perfect drink just by asking a few choice questions about your favorite flavor and booze preferences. Beer lovers (and students) love the many brews on the menu at Peculier Pub (145 Bleecker St. nr. LaGuardia Pl.) and Blind Tiger Ale House (281 Bleecker St. at Jones St.) while those seeking out nostalgia from another era drink at White Horse Tavern (567 Hudson St. at 11th St.) or the classier confines of Hudson Bar and Books (636 Hudson St. nr. Horatio St.).

 

If inclined for a more low-key watering hole we like the drink specials (and the jukebox) at Johnny’s Bar (90 Greenwich Ave. nr. 12th St.) as well as the relaxed back room at Art Bar (52 Eighth Ave. nr. Horatio St.) and the unexpectedly unique experiences to be had at Fat Cat (75 Christopher St. nr. Seventh Ave.) and Tortilla Flats (767 Washington St. at 12th. St). At the former you’ll be treated to a surprisingly fun night out fusion of a pool hall-meets-basement game room-meets jazz club, while the latter is a lively, colorful cantina serving up solid Mexican fare, great margaritas and, on Wednesday’s a hula night. That’s right, hula hoops. Trust us, just get there.

 

At the end of the day (or perhaps the next day if a hangover is paying you a visit), cap off your Village experience with a coffee and take sides in a neighborhood rivalry fierce enough that I’ve witnessed heated arguments between devoted partners over which destination serves up the best cup. I’ve enjoyed many an espresso from the West Village outpost of Joe (141 Waverly Pl. at Gay St.) but the Aussies at Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe (55 Greenwich Ave. nr. Perry St.) also make an equally wonderful cup of coffee. After partaking in a cup from either place you’ll be hard pressed to want to revisit a bland coffee chain again.

 

 

 

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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

 

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