More than perhaps any other part of the city, the East Village typifies New York’s ever-changing energy. In the 80’s it was the center of the grunge and punk scenes, its streets vibrant but sometimes dangerous. In the 90’s came gentrification, though the youthful energy of the village was preserved even as drugs and crime were mostly eradicated. Now, the East Village is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, bars and shops, as well as highly desirable real estate.
The revitalization of the neighborhood has progressed west to east, with ‘Alphabet City’ – consisting of Avenues A, B, C, and D, leading towards the East River – last to get ‘cleaned up,’ as it were. These days, as far east as Avenue C is refined and lovely, with far more cocktail bars than bodegas.
The character of the crowded blocks is, as ever, fun and boisterous; fashionable professionals, students of nearby NYU, and colorful longtime residents make up the infectious and distinctly quirky vibe of the East Village. Not for homebodies, this distinctly downtown neighborhood is ideal for experiencing New York CIty’s around-the-clock lifestyle.
The density of bars in the East Village rivals that of any neighborhood in the city, with everything from grungy dives held over from the neighborhood’s punk days to some of the most cutting-edge cocktail dens in the world. Few establishments, though, have the authenticity and laid-back charm of this Avenue A staple - and no one else has Lucy herself. The charming Polish emigre has been the proprietress for over forty years and can still be found behind the bar most nights. Cheap drink, two pool tables, and a colorful crowd make Lucy’s the quintessential East Village local.
What in the 1980’s became a focal point of social decline and unease in the neighborhood has, with the advent of gentrification, transformed into a family friendly neighborhood center. Today’s Tompkins Square Park is full of playgrounds, sunbathers, weekend farmer’s markets - and its famous dog run, the oldest in the city, hosts an annual Halloween Dog Parade that’s not to be missed.Tompkins Square Park
It’s on neither St Mark’s Place nor the Bowery, but this Episcopal church - the second-oldest church building in Manhattan - is one of the East Village’s landmarks. Not only a place of worship, it’s also a center for poetry and the arts, site of a farmer’s market, and a popular meeting spot.St. Mark's Church-on-the-Bowery
Celebrity chef David Chang’s mini-empire of Momofuku restaurants now runs the gamut from ramen to BBQ, but the crown jewel is this notoriously difficult to reserve tasting-menu experience, in which the food is well worth the wait.Momofuku Ko
A perpetually authentic old-school Irish dive bar, McSorley’s has been serving up cheap ale - and lager, both house brands - and plentiful ambience since an oft-debated date in the mid-nineteenth century. Whether it opened in 1854 or 1861, McSorley’s is one of the oldest bars in the city, with sawdust still on its floors and attitude to boot. The bar famously did not allow female patrons until 1970, even though the owner at the time was, in fact, a woman - who abided by the rule and would only set foot in the establishment after business hours. Other notable patrons include Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
Since the 1970’s, this cultural hub has been a home for poetry slams, documentary screenings, live comedy, theatre, gallery exhibitions, and many other forms of artistic expression. An crucial fixture of the Nuyorican arts movement - the term ‘Nuyorican’ referring to artists of Puerto Rican heritage - the cafe is one of the many important historic and cultural centers of downtown Manhattan.Nuyorican Poets Cafe