I love the East Village. I mean, I love the Upper East Side as a home, but the East Village is the perfect place to get away for an afternoon or evening. Firstly, it is super-easy for us to get to via the 4/5/6 lines, but more importantly, the East Village is just a cool place.
With the days of junkies in the streets and the Tompkins Square Park riots long gone, the East Village isn’t quite the bohemian hell depicted in the likes of Rent anymore. But it’s still quirky and charming as ever.
Sean and I recently realized we end up in the East Village every single weekend at some point or another, and I’m beginning to feel as familiar with certain areas of the neighborhood as much as the UES.
Here’s a quick list of our favorite East Village haunts, some newer discoveries and others more familiar:
Mark: Easily the best burger and fries hole-in-the-wall place we’ve come across. It blows Shake Shack out of the water, and it will make you wonder why people line up out the door for the aforementioned chain. And they have different kinds of ketchup, like jalapeno and chipotle (our favorites), which is fun. Great happy hour specials on drinks AND food too, and a good laid-back atmosphere for meeting up with friends or for taking Texas visitors.
Pommes Frites: Speaking of fries, this teeny-tiny take-out place that only serves Belgian fries is divine. We try not to go there too often because, uh, our health, but their fries are amazing. The best part is they have a bunch of different dipping sauces you can choose from (as well as poutine, for our Northern friends!) Our go-to is sundried tomato mayo, but I think the rosemary garlic mayo and curry ketchup are enjoyable as well.
Malai Marke: This fairly recently opened Indian restaurant is worth the cost of a nicer dinner date. All of the food is wonderful; and there are always a lot of Indian people eating there, so I think that’s a good sign. Only con is that naan costs extra, and what is an Indian dinner without piping hot, fluffy naan? We get lamb madras and saag paneer and share everything, which is my favorite way to eat out. Who wants to get stuck with one dish? There’s a classier ambiance to this place — the empty spice racks on the walls and dim lighting — that you don’t get at a standard Indian take-out joint. I like it.
Sigiri: While we’re on the subject of spicy ethnic cuisine, let’s talk about Sigiri. Sigiri is a Sri Lankan restaurant. I’m not really sure how to describe Sri Lankan food as a whole. I just know I like kotthu roti, and I’m not even sure what that is. It’s meat and vegetables and egg and breading all mashed up together into a Thanksgiving dressing-like substance, mysteriously infused with sinus-clearing spice levels. Totally makes up for the lack of decent Tex-Mex in this city.
Mono + Mono: This Korean fried chicken restaurant doesn’t have the best reviews, but I’m not exactly an expert on Korean fried chicken, so whatever. I do know that Korean fried chicken is crispy, juicy and far surpasses American buffalo wings. I also love the concept/decor of this place. The walls are glass displays of shelves and shelves of vinyl records, and this guy walks around and picks one out to play on the jukebox/turntable.
Awash: A simple, no-nonsense Ethiopian restaurant. You can eat with your hands. Everything tastes so good, I want to travel to Africa myself for the real deal. They have honey wine. Go there.
Caracas Arepa Bar: Oh. My. Goodness. This place is the answer to our prayers! A nook of a restaurant dishing out Venezuelan street food. I didn’t know what an arepa was before coming here — it’s like a cross between a sandwich made of cornbread and a taco — but now I want to eat one every day of my life. Plus, they use some of my favorite ingredients: black beans (!!!), avocado, and plantains. Yes, please.
Drinks & Dessert:
Amor y Amargo: Probably my favorite cocktail bar in the city. Not that I go to a lot of cocktail bars because $$$, but I love this place. It’s classy, but not pretentious. Intimate, but not crowded. The tiny bar itself has a lot of character. They are always playing good music, and the same easy-going bartender always seems to be there. Their boast-worthy drink that has gotten a lot of press is their gin and tonic, which worthy of its praise. I know I’ll come back here again and again.
Death & Co.: OK, so this speakeasy is a little pretentious. And pricey. So it’s definitely a special occasion thing. They only let as many people in as they can physically seat at the time, and you can’t take flash photos with your camera or be wearing ratty jeans or anything. So it’s a nice little escape from the chaos of the city. The cocktails are their specialty. Last time I was there, a girl next to me ordered a beer. You can get a beer at almost every restaurant, bar, and convenience store in this city. You do not go to Death & Company for a beer, OK? You go for a Fitzgerald or a Legend or a Gypsy Wedding or some other fancy-pants drink. I mean, there are black walls and floors. You have to get a cocktail when black is involved.
Veniero’s Pastry: A long-standing Italian bakery and pastry shop/cafe, with plenty of seating and a daunting list of cakes by the slice. I want to try them all, but I think my waistline would hate me. (Well-known for their cannoli. I’m not a cannoli person, so…)
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop: This ice creamery has a giant unicorn painted on their wall and a rainbow ice cream cone on the window. Basically, it is soft-serve for grown-ups (think salty-sweet combos), but there are always a million kids in here. Because we all scream for ice cream.
Academy Records: I really don’t know much about this new & used vinyl shop, but Sean is obsessed with it and always wants to go here, so it’s on the list. It doesn’t have a resident cat like Bleeker Street Records in the West Village, so it’s not THE coolest record store in my book. I do get good vibes when I’m in there though. And people do bring in their dogs, so there’s that.
No Relation Vintage: I love this thrift store. I mean, I love all thrift stores, but unlike all the other thrift stores I’ve seen here that are totally banking off the thrifting trend and charging more than I would spend on brand-new clothes, this place is very reasonable. I bought a pair of Levi cut-offs for $8. A good mix of vintage dresses, funky tees, worn-in shorts and boots, and way out there pieces like a military flight suit and floor-length fur coats. I’ll definitely be coming back to get my thrifting fix — and a few giggles!
The Strand Bookstore: I guess this mecca for bookworms isn’t really in the East East Village, but I’ve walked from there to a number of the other places I’ve mentioned, so I’m counting it. It’s amazing. I would walk miles to get to The Strand. And I’m pretty sure I have.
The East Village is perfect for wandering around aimlessly and getting lost in, so you never know when you’ll next stumble upon something wonderful!