2010’s 10 Best New Things About the East Village

Everyone has their year-end wrap-ups and this one is strictly a matter of opinion! The subtitle should be “IMHO.” With that in mind, I present the 10 best new things to arrive in the East Village this year, in no particular order:

Ninth Ward
180 Second Avenue
212-979-9273
It seems as though there’s a new bar opening every other minute in the East Village (much to the consternation of many co-op owners and Community Board 3). I’m a fan; I’d rather have a bar open up than one more branch of one more bank. Or a Starbucks. I can’t say I’ve visited each new watering hole; to be honest, I tend to obsessively frequent, like, one or two favorites. But when I bumbled into Ninth Ward one frigid Saturday afternoon in late November, curious about this new bar with a New Orleans name, I was beyond impressed. The place is gorgeous! There are intimate booths with velvet curtains you can draw to make them even more so. The walls are shutters that replicate the blocking out of blazing sun. The bathrooms are labeled “Sex,” “Drugs” and “Rock & Roll.” Hah! There’s a beautifully designed back yard with a fountain. And the centerpiece is a real wood-burning fireplace! But don’t rely on just the décor! They have a two-for-one happy hour that rivals even the best dive bars. There’s a kitchen that serves up tasty Cajun-inspired dishes. They have a wide selection of Abita brews on tap. And a staff that manages to balance efficient and polite with hip and handsome. The only downside is that most nights the place is packed with annoying yupsters. Sigh. There’s simply no fighting it. So you’ll find me there on random weekend days or early evening Mondays. Because it’s my favorite new bar!

New York Film Academy Café
51 Astor Place
347-829-6932
I have never actually been inside this coffee shop but I walk by it almost every day and the mere fact that it’s no longer (yet another) Starbucks is reason enough to love them. Nuff said.

Nordstrom Rack
1 Union Square South
212-220-2080
I’m a veteran bargain shopper. The less I pay for something the more triumphant I feel! I love clothing swaps and sales, thrift shops and freebies. So I welcomed the arrival of Nordstrom Rack with wide open, bargain-embracing arms. It’s a manageable size (as opposed to a regular department store) and impressively organized (as opposed to other bargain meccas like Century 21 and Loehmann’s) and the inventory moves along from fresh to marked down in a timely fashion. It’s pretty much my go-to store for just about anything I need clothing-wise. The fact that they carry shoes – both designer and not-so-designer – in my size (12!) makes me adore them even more.

NYC Icy
100 Avenue A
Yeah, so January isn’t the best time of year for an icy but that doesn’t mean they slip off my list of year-end awesomeness. When it’s 95 degrees out, with 95 percent humidity, there’s nothing like a frosty little cup of yummy! This tiny sidewalk stand is nestled between East Village Farm and Black Market and serves up scoops of exotically flavored ice. Just the thing to slurp while people watching in Tompkins Square Park!

PS 122 Renovation
150 First Avenue
212-477-5288
No, PS 122 isn’t new but their facelift sure is! For years, and I mean YEARS, I’ve walked past that lovely old building and thought to myself, “If I ever win the lottery, I’m gonna donate the money to fix that place up!” Well, I haven’t won the lottery but the renovation happened anyway and it looks great! Now, if only they’d do something about that unsightly black grating, it would look like it did the day it was built. Yes, there was a day when it the heavy bars might’ve been necessary to keep the bums from pissing in the doorway. That day is pretty much over.

South Brooklyn Pizza
122 First Avenue
212-533-2879
Their window displays a giant wheel of cheese in a chilly fridge. My friend installed the kick-ass sound system. And it’s pizza, fer crissakes. But those aren’t the reasons this place is on my list. Nope, it’s because any movement from hipsterville, to our east, back in the western direction of Manhattan is fine by me! That’s right, I’m a borough snob. Whaddayagonnadoboudit?

Good Beer NYC
422 East 9th street
212-677-4836
Um, do I even need to say why this shop made my short list? It sells nothing but beer! Admittedly, fancy beer, and I’m really more of a PBR kinda gal. But it’s at least a nose-thumbing at all those damn East Village wine joints that cater to people who, ya know, like WINE! Burp!

Dang Lai Palace
180 Third Avenue
212-505-2000
Yup, this is another place I’ve never actually been to. Because I order in, beaotch! I love me some skinny, slippery mai fun noodles and this place delivers! Literally! Their serving of edamame is generous and suitably snappy and I am a recent convert to their spicy seafood tom yum soup. Their menu says “formerly Happy Palace” and I’m sure they’re formerly a whole lotta other similar establishments. As long as their phone number remains the same, I’ll be calling them when I need my noodle fix!

Dr. Brendan
8 St. Marks Place
917-544-5949
Apple owners rejoice! Finally, there is an emergency room for your Mac! And you don’t need to take a number and wait for…hours. Yes, I love those folks up at Tekserve but, even though there’s loads to look at while you wait…and wait and wait…to be waited on, it’s still a huge inconvenience, if only because it’s such a haul from my house. Enter Dr. Brendan’s. I’m not sure exactly who Brendan is but when I popped in the other day there were a couple totally casual dudes who greeted me warmly, answered my questions as though I were standing in their living room and offered to give my MacBook’s ailing DVD drive a free diagnostic evaluation. Woohoo! (In defense of the two dudes, they used far more regular-guy terminology which, oddly, I can’t recall to accurately quote them…thusly did I descend into stilted tech-speak!) Plus they accept electronics to be recycled. I dropped off my old 3G tower and told them I’d be back with more business for them. Hopefully they won’t get so much business that they’ll start making us take numbers!

This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef
149 First Avenue
212-253-1500
Yes, this meaty gem is part of a restaurant “trio” that includes Artichoke Basille and Led Zeppole, also located in the East Village, but thank gawd they’re not another chain! The reason I loved Manhattan when I moved here is because it wasn’t like everywhere else and the homogenization of the city can get depressing. So kudos to every new eatery that isn’t a Chipotle or selling us FIVE DOLLAR FOOTLONGS! Sigh. Better to buy a drippy sandwich of sizzling beef slathered in squeezey cheese! Huzzah!

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