An East Village Local ~ New York City

New York City’s beauty lies within its myriad neighbourhoods, each so distinct in character and feel.

East Village is one of Manhattan’s most diverse and real communities. As I described in a previous post, it’s a neighbourhood of juxtapositions: there’s grit, there’s glam; it’s where the homeless live alongside the middle class; it’s edgy, it’s traditional; it’s where Sunday brunch happens across the road  from Tompkins Square Park.

As I’ve been a Brooklyn resident for much of my time in NY, I sought the advice of an East Village local, Josh M.

Josh is the publisher of travel, music and food blog, Eating in the East Village | 3rd and B., whose coordinates speak to his Alphabet City base. Josh has been living in the East Village area for two years (he’s originally from Jacksonville, FL) and loves his neighbourhood. When Josh told me, “I do plan to live here for a long time. I don’t see myself wanting to move anywhere else during my time in New York,” I knew he was the man to tell the Village story.

Enjoy what Josh has to say in this Q&A.

NB: All photos are my own.

Marina: What do you love about this neighbourhood?

Josh: The East Village is essentially 40 square blocks of restaurants and bars. I run into my neighbors and friends on the streets and when I’m out on a regular basis. It makes it feel like I live in a small neighborhood instead of a big city.

How would you compare it to other parts of New York City in terms of look, feel, and energy?

The East Village still has some of the grit that I picture when I romanticize old New York. The short buildings and distinctive architecture make the neighborhood visually stand out when compared to the rest of Manhattan. Even though the East Village looks a little gritty a first glance, the high rents and active bar scene ensure that young professionals occupy the majority of the neighborhood.

Tell me a little about the community.

The East Village is made up of primarily young professionals, NYU students, and the young-at-heart middle age residents. I’d say that most people in the East Village are in the stage of their life between college and having kids.

At times you wouldn’t guess that the East Village is such an affluent neighborhood because the housing projects around 1st Avenue and 3rd St and along Avenue D — this gives the neighborhood an interesting mix of characters. You see homeless people from time to time in the neighborhood, but I haven’t found it to be much of a problem. Overall, the East Village is an extremely safe neighborhood. There are lots of people on the streets at virtually every hour of the day and night. My girlfriend and plenty of other women I know feel very safe walking alone at night in the neighborhood.

Are there any stand out characters?

My favorite East Village character is Nicholas VanderBorgh. Nicholas was the apartment broker who helped me find my apartment in the East Village. Anyone who has met Nicholas certainly remembers him. His outgoing personality and inappropriate sense of humor are thoroughly entertaining. He takes off and travels the world three months out of the year, but when he is home in the East Village, I run into him about once a week. If you are ever looking for an apartment in the East Village, you can reach him at nicholasvanderborgh@hotmail.com

Local entertainment. Meet Kaos…

… and his friend, Jesse James.

Hell’s Angels Clubhouse

Describe Tompkins Square Park.

Tompkins Square Park: it’s a nice little green space in the middle of the East Village. It certainly isn’t Central Park; however, it is nice to have a park just a few blocks away. One of my favorite parts about the park is the dog run – it’s nice to have it divided into a small dog side and a large dog side.

What are the must sees in East Village?

The biggest attractions in the East Village are the restaurants and bars. There aren’t many major tourist attractions, other than Clinton Street Baking Co., that I’m aware of, which is nice in many ways because we don’t have packs tourists roaming the streets like other parts of the city.

Favourite community garden?

The people that take care of the Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden put a lot of time and energy into making it a nice place. This garden isn’t open all of the time, but when it is, it is definitely worth checking out. They even have small music performances in this park from time to time.

Will you live here forever?

No, I don’t think I’ll live in the East Village forever, but I do plan to live here for a long time. I don’t see myself wanting to move anywhere else during my time in New York.

In the community’s Hope Garden

If you had an afternoon to spend in East Village, what would you do?

When I introduce people to the East Village for the first time, I like to start with a walking tour. The East Village is an easy neighborhood to navigate because it is on a perfect grid.

Tip: The only tricky thing that you need to be aware of is that 8th St is called St Marks Place.

LUNCH

Take the F train to the East Village, and get off at the 2nd Ave stop (you’ll get out at the corner of 2 Ave, and Houston St). Walk N on 2nd Ave up to St. Marks Place. The block of St Mark’s Place between 2nd and 3rd Aves has a lot going on, and is the closest thing to a tourist strip that we have in the East Village. You will find Mamoun’s Falafel on this block. I would recommend that you stop and have a falafel because Mamoun’s makes one of the best falafel sandwiches of all time for only $2.50.

SNACK

For something sweet, walk back to 2nd Ave; then N up to 13th St. Turn left and walk along the N side of 13th St. You’ll quickly find Momofuku Milk Bar. Ideally, you will have ordered one of their cakes at least 48 hours in advance using their website. You can buy a snack of their popular “compost cookies” and other treats, but the smart move is to order a cake because this cake will likely be the best cake you have ever tried. If you don’t have any free hands to carry the cake to your hotel/home, you may prefer their soft serve ice cream – while rich, it’s not for everyone. People tend to love it or hate it, so try a free sample and decide for yourself. They will give you a sample as a mix of the two flavors if you ask them.

STROLL ALPHABET CITY

When you leave Milk Bar, head E on 13th St, toward 1st Avenue. You will notice that this block has fewer retail shops than most of the other blocks in the East Village. In general, 11th St, 12th St, and 13th St don’t have as much going on as the streets further south in the East Village. Apartments are a little cheaper on those streets as well.

DRINKS

Once you get to 1st Ave, head S until you reach 7th St. Head E on 7th St until you reach Ave A. At the corner of 7th and A, you will find Yuca Bar. This is the also the southwest corner of Tompkins Square Park so it makes Yuca Bar’s outside seating a great place for people watching. Eat some tapas and get a pitcher of sangria. After you finish at Yuca Bar, you can walk through Tompkins Square Park towards Ave B.

DESSERT

Ave A and B are both great streets to walk down. Take some time to explore the blocks between them as you walk south towards Houston St. Your goal is to end up at Il Laboratorio del Gelato at the corner of Ludlow and Houston. This place has a wide selection of classic and unique gelato flavors. It is definitely a must try if you are in the area. Their espresso gelato is easily my favorite espresso gelato of all time.

From here, you’re close to the F train stop at Houston and 1st Ave. If you decided on buying Momofuku Milk Bar’s cake, enjoy it as congratulations for a solid day of sightseeing. Make sure that you have some friends to help you eat the cake because you get a solid 12 slices out of it. We have been known to throw parties just so we would have an excuse to order a cake.

To read an excellent write up of the restaurants and bars in the area, see Josh’s post: Eating in the East Village | 3rd and B.

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74 thoughts on “An East Village Local ~ New York City

  1. Oh Marina (& Josh!) – I want to come back to New York and explore the East Village in more detail… John Derian and WD50 were great advocates for life on the lower East side. Cheers!

  2. I love the east village and you have captured it so well in your interview!!! Fantastic photos! I miss NYC!!!

    • Hi Gabriele! Thanks for your comment – so happy you enjoyed this post as I know you’re a fan of East Village 🙂 Yuca Bar makes the best yuca fries and I seek them out ever since then!

    • Hi Jenny! I am so glad you liked it – there are so many foodie spots in the East Village and I can’t wait to order that Momofuku Cake. need to return to WD50 for their tasting menu. We ordered a la carte and didn’t get that molecular gastronomy feeling… and the portions were quite large. I look forward to round #2! I hope you return soon 🙂 Thank you!

  3. Hi Marina, Smashing pictures. I wonder if all that leafy shade actually gives you any relief when the temperatures are so high. I like the picture of the chap on the parkbench, I’m guessing shorts are not the norm for him. 😉

    • Thanks Adrian – yes, that was a candid moment caught on a bench. These shots were taken the same day as I took those in the Community Garden – rest assured, the temps were cooler and it was such a dream to walk in the shade and amongst flora. I’ll never forget the feeling!

  4. Its great to read such detail. We are planning a family trip to NY next year & I will be searching out some these site to visit. Love the pictures. Cant wait to visit.

  5. Very nice photos; I enjoyed the visual tour of the East Village too. NYC is so unique and such a fun place to live in and visit. I still miss it (Brooklyn’s E. Flatbush)

    • Thanks Marcia – I am so happy you enjoyed the photos as reminders 🙂 NYC is such a wonderful place, and luckily it offers so much of everything. It’s always here for your next visit!

  6. What a great post Marina – and way to go on the collaboration! It is super cool to get some insider tips from a local, especially on my favorite little neighbourhood 🙂 I’d be curious if Josh ever hung out at the Lakeside Lounge before it closed? Owned by a friend of ours, it just closed its doors last month I think. An East Village institution! Anyway, I think this is awesome, keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Shira! It is fun to hear someone’s insights into their neighbourhood, especially when they love it so much. I am not sure about Lakeside Lounge. You can always visit Josh on his blog and ask him 🙂 He’d love to hear from you about this post – I know it. So happy you enjoyed!!

  7. loved loved loved this post Marina, thanks!! Especially the skyward photo of the fire escapes and the parks and gardens *sigh*. Would LOVE to see some photos of Union Square if you have any coming up? That’s my most favourite part of Manhattan…what’s yours? 🙂

    • Hi Sally! I love your comment – so happy you liked this all the way in Oz! Fire escapes are so quintessential NY 🙂 My fave part of Manhattan – so hard to say – I love Williamsbrug in Brooklyn, and I do love West Village. But then I like Times Square on occasion and Central Park is always fun to walk through as I discover something new. I am hopeless – I love alot of NY 🙂 Thank you!! PS Union Square hmmmm? I’ll see what i can do. 🙂

  8. Great insights into a beautiful community. Images and words.
    I think any place that’s called a “village” brings community to mind. There is something about that word that makes a place sound friendly!
    Your pictures are beautiful, Marina!

    • I so agree Karen – village just makes you want to visit a spot. It has a familiarity even though it may be the unknown. I’m so happy you liked the photos Karen – it was 100F and the height of the day. Thank you!

  9. Loved this post, and the interview format, Marina. Let me know if you ever want to do this in Park Slope – I have a good contact for you 🙂
    You have a terrific sense of color in your photos, and NYC is a great color palette to work with!

    • Thank you Lois. I do love colour so am grateful you commented on that, and you are so right, NYC has a great palette to work with. I haven’t been to Park Slop in a while so I’ll let you know if I need some insider info – thank you for the offer!

    • Wow, cool! Which camera are you thinking of getting? I haven’t ever had an iphone so don’t want to compare as i have seen them take some great shots. DSLR is a learning curve though 🙂 Thank you for saying that about my blog being a guide – it’s so kind of you!

      • I am still taking recommendations 🙂
        A friend of mine here is a big fan of Nikon but she also suggested that Canon might be sufficient for my needs. Then again, each brand has so many different models. What do you think?

      • I think Canon and Nikon are as good as each other, based on what I have read. I have the Nikon D5000 and love it – but it does have many features I don’t use. However, they could come in handy in future? See what feels good in your hands – my friend told me my Nikon weighs alot more than their Canon. Weight becomes a factor on those long days. I’d suggest going to a camera store and going with a gut feeling 🙂 let me know what you buy!

      • So, I decided to go with the Canon 650D. It sure looks a bit too much for me right now but I do hope that with some courses and practice I’ll be able to use most of the features at some point… thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  10. Superb post! Such great information and photos, and it was wonderful to get the tips and perspectives from a local. I’d like to have a large variety of restaurants and bars nearby.

  11. Great Post – used to live on 12th between A and B – you brought me back a little.
    Things have changed a bit, sort of miss eating .59 tacos from San Loco, and splurging at Yaffa.

      • Great memories, was still in gentrification process in the early 00’s, but yeah, great spot to live.
        Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

        -mike

    • Thanks so much Andy. That’s a perfect response to the post – To want to visit NYC! It’s ready and waiting, and always changing so you can always expect to be wowed!

  12. Pingback: Caps Bar in NYC: The Standings | GETREALHAMMERED.COM

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