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The East Village is full of life. Historically, it’s been a haven for those who were a bit left-of-center, who marched to the beat of their own drum. Now, like most other neighborhoods around it, it’s been gentrified, but it still holds onto some of its gritty feel. The proximity to New York University makes it a destination for students and recent grads, and its history as an Eastern European neighborhood makes it home to the ‘borscht belt.’ It’s a neighborhood that feels alive, and there’s plenty to do to keep you entertained.
There’s no better way to start your day in this neighborhood than at Veselka – a beloved Ukrainian restaurant that’s been around since 1954. Old timers will complain that the prices have gone up, but it’s still cheap compared to other options, and it has some of the best corned beef hash and pierogis in NYC.
If you’re looking to grab and go, Tompkins Square Bagels is your spot. Go for a regular bagel sandwich; if you’re feeling indulgent, try one with birthday cake frosting and eat it in Tompkins Square Park next door. Beware, though, as lines can be long on weekends.
For a mid-morning coffee, try Abraco. It’s a teeny tiny coffee shop that serves what might be the best espresso in the city.
After all that food and coffee, you’ll be ready for a walk. Shopping in the East Village is the perfect activity as there are hardly any chain stores here. Instead, you’ll find tons of independent boutiques and endless vintage shops, particularly if you walk down 9th Street.
For a quick lunch, consider a fried chicken sandwich at Fuku. It’s a relatively new addition to the neighborhood brought to you by David Chang – one of the most popular chefs/restauranteurs in the city – and people have been raving about the sandwiches. For something on the healthier side, try Westville. They serve fresh market veggie plates that will make you want to eat vegetables, and their sidewalk seating is hard to beat.
After lunch, consider stopping by one of the East Village’s bookstores and grabbing something to read in Tompkins Square Park. The Strand Bookstore is legendary for its miles and miles of books, but if you’ve already been there, stop into one of the smaller shops like Dashwood Art Books (a shop exclusively carrying photography books) or Mast Books – a shop with tons of special edition books that are hard to find.
For something that requires even less brain power, relax at the Russian and Turkish Baths. Particularly if the weather is bad, there’s no better place to soak in a hot bath, plunge in a cold pool, or get a massage.
As you might expect, the options for dinner are truly endless. Try Motorino for incredible pizza in a fun, yet romantic, setting. If you skipped ramen for lunch, try it for dinner at Ippudo or Momofuku Noodle Bar. For modern Indian food in a lively setting, try Babu Ji (also one of the best new restaurants of the past few years), but be prepared to wait a while. For casual but delicious Italian, try Frank, or one of their sister restaurants, Lil Frankies or Supper.
After dinner, grab a drink at Sake Bar Decibel. This subterranean sake bar is truly a unique spot in the city, and it should definitely be on your list. If sake isn’t your thing, try one of Ravi DeRossi’s bars – a man who’s opened multiple bars that specialize in different spirits. There’s Proletariat for craft beers, Amor y Amargo for bitters, Cienfuegos for rum, or Mother of Pearl for a tiki bar. The cocktails don’t come cheap, though, so if you’re looking for something more affordable, grab a beer at Royale and hang out on their patio.