The East Village may conjure visions of beat poets reading from tattered notebooks, punks in Tompkins Square Park, worn-down tenements, and...well, yeah, that’s part of it. The neighborhood south of 14th street and north of Houston has a storied history and a wild legacy, and it’s these things that make it one of New York’s most enduringly important (and culturally rich) neighborhoods.
As the city has changed around it, the East Village hasn’t stayed the same either, but it’s always maintained a certain artistic spirit and eccentricity that make it special, in both the enduring old school spots hidden on its side streets and in the new class of restaurants, cafes, vintage stores, clubs, and bars constantly popping up throughout the neighborhood.
In short, there’s an inordinate amount of stuff to experience—the strange, the old, the new, the weird, the chic, and on and on and on. In keeping with this anarchic spirit, we went ahead and did away with check-in and check-out times at our East Village hideout, The Standard, East Village. That’s right—now you can check in and out whenever you want (for a nominal fee), which will free you up to scratch things of your East Village To-Do List (or just check-in early and catch a nap before you head out). All you have to do is select Standard Time at booking.
We went ahead and rounded up some of the coolest, weirdest, most East Village spots you can wander into.
Coffee Project NY
The East Village’s coffee game is strong, but Coffee Project is taking things to a whole new level. You might think you’ve had coffee, but you haven’t had coffee like this. From a deconstructed latte (in three parts) to international coffee alternatives like a Korean grain-based drink called misugaru, the Coffee Project NY is taking your brew to a whole new level. This isn’t the kind of place where you drink and run, so prepare to sit down and savor the magic that’s put in front of you.
Sake bars are a big thing in the East Village, but they can sometimes border on a frat house vibe because of the large college student population in the ’hood. Not so at Decibel. This tiny little bar boasts one of the most impressive sake lists outside of Japan, and feels like you’re being transported to a whole other continent. If you’ve been lusting over photos of Tokyo’s Golden Gai but aren’t ready to leave Manhattan, this is your spot.
While ramen gets a whole lot of shine these days, anyone who’s been to Japan will tell you that there’s a lot more to the sport of slurping than just the late-night classic. Udon, with its thick noodles and rich editions, is hardier than its thin-noodled counterpart, and Raku has the udon game down pat. And it’s not just for the cold weather—it’s actually good for your body to eat hot soup in the summer, so this is a year-round must hit.
The Stone is a music venue without any of the usual music venue accoutrement—no stage, no booze, no nothing, just music. While you’re not going to see the next Billboard Hot 100 artist here, you’re definitely going to see something unique—the club’s artistic director is none other than John Zorn, a staple of New York’s downtown avant-garde scene for decades.
Talk to any California transplant in New York, and they’ll tell you there’s no good Mexican food here. They’re dead wrong, and Miscelanea is why. This chic little grocery has all the Mexican food staples you could want, with lovely new-Village touches like dairy-free vegan horchata.
Whether you regularly get behind the decks or not, legendary record store and DJ depot Turntable Lab is a must-stop in the East Village. Not only do they stock vinyl from around the world, but they also have everything a budding audiophile needs to get their home system up to snuff. There aren’t many music stores left in the city since the dawn of the digital age, but this one is still going strong after all these years.
Salvation Army this is not—Tokio 7 is much more than your average consignment shop, with designer duds and lots of treasures just waiting to be found. It can get a little crowded with well-heeled bargain hunters, so try and get there early and prepare to spend some serious time combing the racks.
Soak in a hot bath, plunge into a cold pool, and let a giant Russian man beat you with palm leaves. No, this isn’t a sex thing, it’s just an afternoon well-spent at one of the East Village’s foremost self-care institutions. While bathhouses have gotten kind of a skeevy rap over the years, the Russian Baths is a classic, and you have nothing to fear but fear itself (and seriously, don’t skip the palm leaf beating).
Brooks Headley is a monster. The former Del Posto pastry chef turned slinger of veggie burgers used to play in a metal band, but that’s not what makes him a beast. He’s a beast for turning his veggie burger pop-up into one of the most talked-about brick-and-mortar burger shops in the city. It’s totally worth the hype (and the line). The signature burger is meatless perfection, but don’t stop there—the sides are super inventive, and the labneh soft serve is a swirly cup of heaven.
Berlin is a scene. If you’re looking to see some of the coolest bands around and do some epic New York people watching, this is where to go on weekend nights. Started by musician Jessie Malin, it’s been around for less than a year, but the music venue harkens back to the classic East Village ’70s—dark, grungy, and nothing but wild fun.
If you’re looking to add a classic East Village touch to your bod, NY Adorned is by far the best (and cleanest) place to do so. Their tattoo artists are unrivaled, their jewelry selection is unmatched, and you’re going to leave with body art of world-class quality. Full disclosure, this author got her nose pierced there on her 18th birthday, so it’s kind of a New York City rite of passage.
The worst thing to do would be to come to Mast Books with a plan. If you have some time for a mission of discovery, you’ll really get the most out of your trip. From special editions to hard-to-find gems, Mast is a booklover's paradise. There’s nowhere to really hunker down and read, but that’s actually a good thing. If you get too absorbed in one book, you might miss all the other magic that’s hiding amongst the shelves.
Dashwood Art Books
Make sure not to miss this little basement book shop, which has one of the best selections of photography books in the city, and maybe even the world. Don’t be afraid to browse, and the incredibly educated staff are more than happy to guide you in the direction of photographers you may not have heard of before.
Whether it’s a casual brunch or a late night snack that gets you through Veselka’s hallowed doors, you’re in for one of the most quintessentially East Village dining experiences around. Get an assortment of pierogi, or if your appetite is up for it, the mixed plate, and people watch while you eat. Veselka is a mix of old timers, NYU students, and hipsters, and the opportunities for eavesdropping are endless.
Part barbershop, part lounge, the Blind Barber is an institution in the new East Village, and is packed with all kinds of hip, slick, and cool kids every night of the week. While it’s often host to launch parties and openings, it’s also just a great place to stay out way past your bedtime.
Anthology Film Archives
If you’re film buff or an aspiring cinephile, the Anthology Film Archives needs to be on your list. Specializing in American independent and avant-garde film, Anthology is one of the places that most represents the artistic spirit of the neighborhood. Keep an eye on the lineup and you’ll be able to see movies you could never find anywhere else and are especially unavailable to stream on your laptop.
If it’s day drinking you’re after, there’s no better place to spend a boozy afternoon than this classic German beer hall. With big, juicy brats and all kinds of brews, start early and stay late.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, Mr. Throwback is one of the most unique vintage stores you’ll ever visit. Specializing in old school sports gear, they have hats, starter jackets, T-shirts and more, in classic styles from pretty much every baseball, basketball, and football team. The store has been around for many years, and the proprietors are more than happy to talk to you about the neighborhood. Don’t be shy—they certainly have a story to tell.
Death & Co.