A Day in East Village

In the 1950, the East Village was the haven for Beatniks like William H. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. In the 1960s, this quintessential NYC neighborhood witnessed the birth of the Nuyorican Literary Movement. In the 1970s, the area was riddled with crime and drugs but remained at the center of the punk rock movement. Then in the 2000s, the neighborhood became one of the country’s most sought-after neighborhoods in the country. And you are now right in the middle of it.

Tompkins Square Park

Your first impressions of the East Village will have to begin at Tompkins Square Park. The legendary greenery separates the East Village from neighboring Alphabet City, and has become the staple of the neighborhood. After years of decay in the 1980 and 90s, the historic park has been refurbished to become yet again a popular destination for locals and families.


Strand Bookstore

There’s an array of fashionable and trendy stores in East Village, but there’s one mainstay that hasn’t changed since 1927: Strand Bookstore. You need to visit, shop and walk around this incredible establishment on a weekly or even daily basis. While many corporate bookstores went under, Strand continued to flourish. They carry discounted books, hard-to-find books as well as a rare book collection for the serious reader. The slogan “18 Miles of Books” is no joke: Strand is more like a library than a bookstore. Even more, Strand has been a pop culture icon, referenced on shows like "Gilmore Girls," and featured in movies like “Six Degrees of Separation," "Julie & Julia” and "Remember Me" (actor Robert Pattinson played a Strand employee).


Nuyorican Poets Cafe

You may have noticed the Bohemian atmosphere in the East Village. No wonder, the neighborhood has been a hippy haven and an art mecca for many years. One of the most important artistic locales in the East Village is the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The location became the center piece of the Nuyorican art movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, the cafe, which opened in 1973, has become a forum for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre. You may even want to just step inside and take in the environment that has so strongly influenced the culture in the city. There’s also two specific film centric locations that you will need to visit here: the Anthology Film Archives and the Village East Cinemas (the latter features midnight showings of cult movies).


Obscura Antiques & Oddities

Besides all the art and music in the East Village, the area also has an odd side to it, which we have all had a chance to recently observe on TV. A few years back the show “Oddities” was a Discovery Channel hit, highlighting the area’s long-time storefront Obscura Antiques & Oddities. The popularity of the store precedes the airing of the show, having found a strong following for its museum-like displays of weird – from animal skulls to taxidermy. Here, you’ll find unusual keepsakes like hairless rabbit foot keychains and giant-sized safety pins. You could even uncover some strange finds – like bone dice and Russian flight goggles.

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After the morning stroll through the park, the next best stop is at C&B. The breakfast spot is sure to become your to-go in the mornings. Yes, it’s small, but their coffee and eggs are heavenly… straightforward, but done entirely well. The biggest seller is the beef merguez (Middle Eastern sausage), eggs and cheese sandwich. They also carry interesting other sandwich choices like pork belly and eggs as well chorizo and eggs. If the bread is too much for you this very morning, C&B offers up breakfast bowls such as the bean bowl with grilled chicken, beans and eggs.



Lunch choices in East Village are a true New York City dilemma, given their sheer numbers. You will find yourself tempted to taste the creative hot dogs at Crif Dogs or the South American sandwiches in corn bread at Caracas Arepa Bar. There’s also specialty spots neighboring each other at Magnolia Bakery and Luke’s Lobster. But a hearty lunch today is at S’MAC. The gourmet mac and cheese joint features tasty concepts such as Cajun (cheddar, paper jack, andouille sausage), Masala (cheddar, American, cumin, Indian spices) and Parisienne (brie, figs, shiitake mushrooms). You’ll be faced with three sizes to choose from, with some 14 types of flavors, making S’MAC sure to become a regular spot for you.


Museum of the American Gangster

There are many excellent museums in the neighborhood, including the New Museum of Contemporary Art. But there’s one that’s small and too interesting to miss. The Museum of the American Gangster at 80 St. Mark’s Place is two rooms carved out of a former speakeasy. The history of the city is shaped by its original links to the Mafia. The East Village, in fact, was a former hangout of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and John Gotti. The museum features a collection of memorabilia like John Dillinger’s death masks, and bullets from the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre. There’s also a large display of newspapers, photographs and other documents from the Prohibition Era. The museum has gotten so popular that the 20th Anniversary of the movie Goodfellas hosted a private screening with Henry Hill in attendance.

A Night in East Village


La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club

Though the bright lights of Broadway are about 30 blocks north, there’s a fairly decent performing arts hub right here in East Village. The most successful shows are at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. The off-off Broadway theater has been at the center of the arts movement in the East Village for more than 50 years. The list of actors that started their careers at La MaMa will blow your mind: Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, Whoopi Goldberg, and Danny DeVito. The theater’s still going strong, with more than 100 productions each season and with more than 400 performances.


Please Don’t Tell

The bars are everywhere in the East Village. There’s practically four to five per block. You will soon pick up on the good spots. There’s the extravagant Beauty Bar, or the historical McSorley’s Old Ale House. A number of cocktail bars also call this area home like Amor Y Amargo, and Death & Co. But you can’t resist a chance to visit PDT – also known as Please Don’t Tell. The bar, which is connected to Crif Dogs, was one of first successful speakeasy-style bars in the city. You need a reservation since there are only 20 seats at the PDT. But the M.O. here is to enter the phone in Crif Dogs and pick up the phone to confirm your reservation. The door opens on the other side. Et voila! You are in. There’s a small menu, but some very tasty cocktails to be had. It’s a perfect date place to boot.

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As if you haven’t already noticed, there’s plenty of food to try, daily, in East Village. For dinner, the choices get even tougher, with an endless, endless list of excellent spots, from David Chang’s Momofuku Ko, to Brindle Room, Yerba Buena, and The Mermaid Inn. But you will be taking a seat at Desnuda tonight. The Peruvian eatery with a twist was featured on the Food Network on a number of occasions. The major selling point at this casual atmosphere are their Gravity Bong smoked oysters. The unique preparation, served with Szechuan peppercorns, has become a local favorite. The spot also offers Tiradito, a traditional Peruvian dish of raw fish that is served like sashimi. Tiradito is prepared like a ceviche, except sliced instead of cubed



The concert halls and live music clubs have been the calling card of the East Village for decades. The original punk mecca CBGB was technically located in this neighborhood on Bowery at Houston. The now-defunct Webster Hall once called this neighborhood home. The Stone, which features jazz and blues, will be closing next year. That leaves Nublu, the best surviving musical venue to squeeze yourself in. The small bar that comes off like a living room with couches scattered in the performing area, has been famous for supporting local jazz acts and it even houses its own label.

Words by Arte Vincent

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Erik Serras
Erik Serras
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Residential Division
Office: 718.840.2757
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