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  • Writer's pictureCadiz & Lluis

EXPLORING THE EAST VILLAGE



It was the unlikely epicenter of 60s counterculture, even before San Francisco

blossomed in the Summer of Love. In the early 19 th century, New York’s East Village situated in

lower Manhattan was simply called “above Bleecker.” By 1835, Eighth Street between Astor

Place and Tompkins Square were dubbed St. Marks Place, and a generation later these streets became the home of The Electric Circus and an eclectic, eccentric, bohemian sprawl of

coffeehouses, cafes, experimental theatres, head shops, flower-child boutiques, galleries, and

general bohemian grooviness. The air thick with the perfume of cheap incense and weed,

rhythms of stairwell bongo players and the lilting chant of Hare Krishnas lured straight-arrow

kids from the suburbs out for a weekend walk on the wild side. Beat gurus Allen Ginsberg, Jack

Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, followed by Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin,

Lenny Bruce and the Grateful Dead were residents. By the mid-1960s, Greyhound buses packed

with gawking tourists slowed at St. Mark’s Place to snap photos of the freaks for the

disbelieving folks back home.


Now heralded as the birthplace of punk, and glamorized by the smash musical RENT, the

East Village now is home to Chipotle and Pinkberry, and trendy gyms have replaced the old-

school Russian bathhouses of the past generation. Yet this unique area of Gotham retains its

original avant-garde, gritty outlaw appeal.


DOWNTOWN HIGHLIGHTS

Boundaries:

East to West, The East River to Third Avenue


North to South, 14 th Street to East Houston Street


What’s nearby:

Gramercy, Greenwich Village, NoHo, NoLita, Lower East Side.


Easily accessible by subway (approximately 25–30-minute ride) from Columbus Circle, Grand

Central Station, Union Square and Wall Street via 6, L and F trains


NIGHTLIFE RATING: Lit

A century ago, poet W.H.Auden used to live (and drink) way down low in this funky pocket of

the city. What you won’t find: anything bougie. The vibe is delightfully hardcore, down and

dirty, and good times are had by all. The streets are chill by day, but the traffic is bumper-to-

bumper from dusk until dawn, so nightspots get crowded. Prepare to wait. Going early to avoid

the rush (?) is so uncool. If you’re driving, book your parking in advance via www.parkwhiz.com

to reserve -- otherwise, fuhgettaboutit.

Our favorite bars, where the ethos is “Overthrow Hospitality: EAT - DRINK- START A


REVOLUTION:


MOTHER OF PEARL, 95 Avenue A, Insta @motherofpearlny, Twitter @thepearlnyc Tacky,

tropical Tiki fun


SAKE BAR DECIBEL, 220 E. 9 TH Street. Impress your friends by even knowing this insider spot

exists, much less how to find it. The entrance is marked only by a flashing “On Air” sign, even

though it’s the city’s first sake bar and pours about 100 varieties of sake and shochu.


NIAGARA, 112 Avenue A. (212) 420-9517. Try The Hunter S. Thompson, a “Fear and Loathing”-

worthy mashup of bourbon, sugar, walnut and orange bitters. Open until 4 AM, seven days a

week. Throwback punk bands sometimes jam in the back.


DEATH & CO, 433 East 6 th Street, Instagram @deathandcompany, 212-388-0882. Throw back a

few rounds of Cave of Wonder, a trippy swirl of port, Batavia Attack, carrot, eau de vie,

pineapple, Moroccan bitters and a refreshing spritz of seltzer.


PROLETARIAT, 21 East 7 th Street, Instagram @proletariatny, closed Monday for hangovers. Not

elitist, just special, and a long way from Coors. The place for rare, new and unusual craft brews

with current hip-hop vibes and a new location offering a British dining experience. Note that

reservations open up 21 days in advance, in case you’re winging in from the hinterlands.


Just want to soak up local color?


New York soul, with poppy seeds and a schmear : Tompkins Square Bagels, two locations (165

Avenue A., 184 2 nd Avenue)


Hipster central: Astor Place -- Two blocks between Broadway and Third Avenue, across

Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue and Cooper Square. Souvenir city, from classic psychedelic

poster art to one-off tee shirts.


Reading matter: Book Club, Strand (18 MILES of out-of-print and rare titles!) and East Village

Books are packed with softbound and hardbacks, new and used, on every topic under the neon

sun.


Feeling witchy? Check out grimoires, spell books and magic candles, powders, amulets, and

paraphernalia at Enchantments, Inc, NYC’s oldest occult store, 165 Avenue B, (212) 228-4394,

closed Tuesdays and Saturdays. www.enchantments.nyc


Tea-time? Tea Drunk, 123 E. 7th Street, instagram @teadrunk, www.teadrunk.com , is the spot

for exquisite, prized, heritage Chinese teas curated and served with an obsessive passion.


Streetwise snacks, serving deep-fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twinkies,Twix Bars and

Oreos, chocolate-dipped bananas, beignets, fish and chips, chicken fingers, chili cheese dogs,

Nutella milkshakes, Oreo milkshakes, soft serve ice-cream 24/7, offering takeout and delivery,

Ray’s Candy Store, 113 Avenue A (7 th Street and St. Marks Place), (212) 505-7609.


Even if a Chocolate Chip Cookie and Nutella Sandwich (two chocolate chip cookies with

Nutella spread in between, a late-night specialty at Ray’s Candy Store) isn’t quite your style,

there is no denying the enduring, and rising, curb-appeal of the East Village. The area’s raunchy,

yet literary past lends added value to new residential development as well as the enclave’s

more wistful, century-old homes updated for modern tastes. Go for a midnight ramble through

the beers and bitters tasting rooms, cruise for vintage vinyl before dawn, and you just might be

in love (and in escrow) by morning.#

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