At the intersection of several downtown Manhattan neighborhoods, Bleecker Street is one of New York’s coolest walkable thoroughfares. The street has a rich, intriguing history, but today it’s a first-class destination for shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
From designer outposts to avant-garde boutiques, Bleecker Street is a shopper’s dream. The city’s best slice, a chic cupcake bakery, eclectic cuisine and legendary nightlife make the thoroughfare a must-visit for both tourists and locals. But was Bleecker Street always so cool?
Named after Anthony Bleecker, a writer from a prominent New York family, Bleecker Street has a historical legacy that dates back to the early 19th century when Bleecker deeded his 20-acre (eight hectares) farm to the city. The farm employed hundreds of people and encouraged the growth of local businesses.
By the time the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, Bleecker Street became popular for its boarding houses, with wealthier New Yorkers taking up residence in townhouses north of Bleecker, notes historian James Nevius in his book Footprints in New York (2014). Nevius refers to the 1872 guidebook Light and Shadows of New York Life, which compares Bleecker Street to the bohemian Latin Quarter of Paris for its “third-rate boarding houses and restaurants,” popular among the factory workers in downtown Manhattan.
Joni Mitchell and Simon & Garfunkel mentioned Bleecker Street on their records in the 1960s, while the thoroughfare was also the subject of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, The Saint of Bleecker Street, in the 1950s. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, James Baldwin and Lenny Bruce regularly frequented Bleecker Street in the ’70s, making it a hub for countercultural music, poetry and comedy, most notably at The Bitter End bar.
Today’s Bleecker Street draws from its past to offer a walkable mash-up of culture. Here’s a rundown of the most exciting experiences the street has to offer.
This British label has shopping destinations in over 70 countries. The Bleecker Street location offers menswear, womenswear, accessories and shoes that boast a minimalist aesthetic accented by pops of vibrant colors. Tailoring and repairs are offered in store.
Internationally recognized as a leading label for designer denim and casual wear, this brand offers a range of jeans in various styles, washes and sizes. At the Bleecker Street store, salespeople will help find the fit that works for you.
This French label is renowned for luxury ready-to-wear clothing, shoes, accessories and outerwear. Especially known for leatherwear and bohemian knits, Zadig and Voltaire captures a sophisticated rock’n’roll vibe. At the Bleecker Street store, find womenswear, menswear, shoes and accessories.
Marc Jacobs opened Bookmarc in 2010 because so many independent bookstores were disappearing from New York’s landscape. Featuring art, fashion, photography and music books as well as rare titles, Bookmarc is also a destination for signings, launches and other special events. Bric-a-brac and select Marc Jacobs accessories are also available for those who want to own something affordable from this famed New York label.
A destination for quality, handcrafted European shoes and boots, Noma is family-run, an authentic mom-and-pop boutique. Expect to pay luxury prices for unique, imported shoes in this West Village shoe store.
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The Bleecker Street location is the flagship American store for this Brazilian ready-to-wear label that boasts a contemporary minimalist esthetic. Womenswear features a muted color palette and avant-garde tailoring. The Bleecker Street shop offers clothing, shoes, accessories and select decor.
Not only is Village Apothecary a full-service pharmacy; it is an international beauty emporium. Carrying skincare, cologne and make-up from around the world, as well as homeopathic remedies, bric-a-brac and home decor, Village Apothecary is the West Village’s chicest drugstore.
This brick-oven pizzeria dates back to 1929 and offers an inviting sit-down experience for the pizza aficionado. The crust, while not cracker-thin, is thinner than that of most New York slices. Serving up one of the best pizza pies in the city, John’s of Bleecker Street offers casual fast dining in an authentic New York institution.
Magnolia Bakery is one of those classic New York City staples that you should visit at least once. With six locations across NYC and many more globally, the word has spread: this is the place to go for a great cupcake. Pay a visit to the original Bleecker Street location, which has a cozy, vintage vibe. In addition to its classic cupcakes like vanilla, chocolate and red velvet, Magnolia also features a cupcake calendar with special flavors such as coconut, banana and caramel each day of the week. If cupcakes aren’t your thing, the bakery also has displays stacked with cakes, muffins and pies. For a sticky and sweet surprise, try the Hummingbird Cake or the much-loved banana pudding. All are guaranteed to please.
In a city filled with burger joints, it’s easy to have unwavering burger loyalties in your neck of the woods. But JG Melon is one of the few burger places people will travel out of their way for. The downtown location doesn’t quite feel like the storied Upper East Side haunt, but you’ll still get the same cheeseburger – a squat, griddled patty crowned with American cheese and bookended by a soft bun – along with a plate of the beloved cottage fries. You’d be remiss, though, if you didn’t also order a side of chili to dunk your fries in.
This emporium offers delectable Italian specialty foods, including pasta dishes and sandwiches. The home-made sausages and sauces are standout to-go items, while the range of reasonably priced olive oils and Italian spices draws crowds. Salespeople are friendly and knowledgeable, making this a fun and delicious shopping experience.
One of Bleecker Street’s oldest and most historic restaurants, Carroll Place is a gastropub with Italian-influenced fare and plenty of comfort food. The restaurant offers an impressive wine list, extensive cocktail menu and weekend brunch specials. Find live music downstairs and a cocktail lounge upstairs. Reservations are encouraged.
Legendary for the talent that’s graced its stage, from Bob Dylan to comedian Lenny Bruce, The Bitter End is a West Village institution. Live music acts perform nightly to a packed bar. An impressive sound system, folksy ambience and wide selection of wine, beer and cocktails guarantee a good time at this iconic music spot.
A modern-day saloon in the heart of the West Village, Terra Blues offers an impressive line-up of local and international blues, jazz and rock bands, who play nightly. Acoustic sets are played early in the evenings, while late nights are reserved for the rockers. A fine selection of whiskey, bourbon and scotch makes the two-drink minimum for a table a treat.
A New York landmark, Bleecker Street Bar sells cheap drinks with plenty of beers on tap as well as an assortment of wines and ciders. This laid-back New York bar offers billiards, darts and TVs that show sports. Weekday happy hours extend from opening until 8pm, with Sunday happy hours going all day long. Monday and Tuesday late-night happy hours boast drink specials from midnight to 4am.