Tag Archives: East Village Manhattan

2011’s Best New Things in the East Village

A year ago I came up with an arbitrary eight new things in the East Village that made me happy. I’d like it to become an annual tradition here on NearSay. Some of these things technically aren’t new, but they also aren’t the same. Anyway, in keeping with tradition, here are my Best New Things from 2011:

Vera Meat

I’m a sucker for unusual jewelry, especially when it has a sense of humor. I wandered into Vera Meat on East 9th Street initially attracted by the display: a bunch of hands reaching out from the wall. Once inside, I found necklaces with dozens of adorable little charms hanging from the hands and immediately fell in love. I bought a tiny, slice-y knife on a delicate sterling chain. Now, every time I walk by I go in and fixate on something new. My current obsession is a one-inch hand, modeled after James Dean. When I finally give in and buy it, 20% of the proceeds will go to GRASP, an organization for Children & Adults with Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of Autism, which means I’ll be getting a new trinket and the satisfaction of doing good! You might find yourself fascinated with her fangs, a miniature brain or a couple of humping bears. Her jewelry is just delightful
315 E. 9th St.

Exit 9 Expands

I rely on Exit 9 for last-minute birthday cards and housewarming gifts. It’s the definition of a neighborhood shop: run by friendly locals and stocked with all kinds of stuff I actually want to buy. They recently moved out of their previous location, Avenue A between 4th and 5th, into more spacious digs just a block down, between 3rd and 4th. You can almost Hula Hoop in there now! They still carry all the books and cards, baby gifts and kitchen gadgets, fun socks and fragrant candles, but you’ll experience fewer baby carriage traffic jams. It’s all so wide open there’s plenty of space for them to pack the place with even more quirky merch!
51 Avenue A

Upright Citizens Brigade East

This new outpost of the bi-coastal comedy group was heralded with much hue and cry, first about a theater catering to college kids ruining the neighborhood and then their less-than-PC monikered bar: “Hot Chicks Room” (a reference to a skit). I’m surprised the locals were so easily offended. But then, I remember a far more renegade East Village. Whatever your feelings about frat guys or “destination nightlife,” anything other than one more *%$#-in’ karaoke lounge or sports bar is an improvement, in my book. It offers an alternative to drinking or dining and who couldn’t use a good laugh now and then? Besides, haven’t we all gotten used to falling asleep hearing the shrieks of spike-healed co-eds and their Abercrombie & Fitch-clad escorts? I can’t imagine this establishment is making things any worse. Huzzah for humor!

Flaming Cactus

Once upon a time, the East Village was known for an assortment of things that could’ve been called “flaming.” Now we have…art. Thankfully this particular art was installed by friends of mine, the clever Animus Arts Collective. The whimsical “cactus” are colorful zip ties on light poles, in keeping with Animus’ belief that “making art doesn’t require a lot of resources, formal education, or even money. Art and creativity are things we’re all capable of.” Part of the Department of Transportation’s 2011 Summer Streets program, the installation went up in early August around Astor Place and will remain till Summer 2012. These spiky lamp posts always make me smile.

JoeDough Sandwich Shop

I don’t cook. Ever. I order in or go out or bring something home. My oven truly is used for storage. So every new restaurant, regardless of the size or scope, is a potential expansion of my dietary options. Enter Joe Dough, the second establishment from Joe Dobias, chef and proprietor of JoeDoe on First Ave. That spot was for “my ego and what I want,” he says; Joe Dough is “for the customers.” So good of him to think of us! I’m just thrilled to have one more place to pick up a sandwich. As a creature of habit, I tend to order the same thing every time I hit the deli: turkey and cheese on whole wheat. Joe Dough offers far more exotic fare: Stoner’s Delight, After School Special and The Conflicted Jew, to name a few. And they deliver! Which means I won’t be taking my tax paperwork out of the oven anytime soon.
135 First Ave.

Movies “At” 2A

Back in the day, you could bumble up Avenue A and catch black and white classics flickering against a white rectangle, painted on the brick of the building on the corner of East 2nd St. The man behind the machine was Gary Balaban, who curated the films and played them with an old school movie projector mounted at the top of the stairs at 2A. Fast-forward almost 20 years — past petty bickering about who “owns” the surface of the wall that imagery was dancing upon and so on — to today (or, more accurately, tonight) when you can bumble up Avenue A and again witness the magic of cinematography playing over those same bricks. The projectionist has changed, as has the technology: there’s a pricy digital device responsible for the crisp images beaming across 2nd St. The result, however, is the same: serendipitous magic in the night. Oh, and that taco truck often parked below? Also amazing!
25 Avenue A

147 First Ave. Being Renovated

Last year I raved about the renovation of PS 122, saying how I’d long wished someone would rescue the old schoolhouse from its slide into decay. This year I’m almost as excited to see another renovation, even if the community won’t benefit quite as much when it’s finished. The ramshackle building right across the street from PS 122 has been empty for ages. It was a disaster when I moved into the neighborhood back in the late ’80s and once housed a hippy-dippy herb and spice shop. Ever since that shut down there’s been nothing but forbidding, boarded-up windows. Finally someone is showing the place some loving care. (And will, alas, probably be charging exorbitant rents.) I admit I have an unhealthy attachment to Manhattan edifices (edifi?) and feel no different about this one. The evils of gentrification aside, I’m always happy to see an old building cared for as opposed to destroyed. Contributing to my elation about this particular place: In the spring, The Bean will open its third location here. Any coffee shop that isn’t a Starbucks is awesome!

Sidewalk Re-Opens

When Sidewalk closed early last year I was heartbroken. This East Village mainstay has served as my living room since I moved here. In 1993 I wrote them up for Best People Watching in New York Press’s Best Of issue and I’d been drinking there ever since.  Their 2-for-1 happy hour pink margaritas are a favorite and I love their wilted garlic spinach. Where would I meet people for meetings? Where would I assemble my friends for overindulging in tequila-based beverages while basking in the sunshine? My world was unraveling! Rumor had it that the owners were arguing over making the place a cigar bar. Then the scuttlebutt was that they’d been shut down by the city. Whatever the real reason for the closing, they have reopened, albeit many months later. I heaved a sigh of relief. But of course, by now I’ve become accustom to entertaining at home. In my own living room. I’ll be venturing back, though, hoping to keep the place alive. The latest gossip is that they aren’t doing very well. (Mind you, this is all gossip.) Could be because they were closed for so damn long people found other places to go. Add the fact that their hours have become somewhat sporadic and you have a recipe for disaster. Or at least going out of business. Permanently. I’m excited about the springtime, when their outdoor tables will beckon and the weather’s more conducive to frozen margaritas. Plus I ‘m salivating madly about their Spiked Milkshakes. Oh yeah, other then their alcoholic offerings, their menu is more or less the same. My fingers are crossed that Sidewalk survives!
94 Avenue A

Feeling Strong, Now!

Okay, so I’m feeling a little bit better today…the fact that my Mac crashed and cost me a cool $450 (that I totally cannot afford) to fix might have factored into my funk. Thank yous to The Poet, E and Ironman for their kind words. My editor of the “published piece” has advised me not to directly address reader responses. I couldn’t help myself. So from a more positive perspective, I’d like to address some of those insensitive comments here:

bah, she’s the same age as my mom.

Oh. So does that mean that because you can’t imagine your mom having (or enjoying) sex that all women your mom’s age shouldn’t?

Anyone who refers to themselves as “legend”, in or out of print, is anything but a legend.

Uh, I didn’t refer to myself as a legend. It was a comment from a friend who I was quoting. Agreed, a bit self-congratulatory.

WOW! I know who this writer is. She is a drugged up self absorbed Burning Man type.

Yes, yes, she most certainly is! Okay, I’m not completely and totally self-absorbed. And not perpetually drugged-up. Burning Man type? Most definitely.

why is a 52 year old living in the east village? I live in the east village and feel like I’m old enough to be the parent of most of the kids I see walking around. Dude, I’m still in my 20s. Note to writer. Move to UES, and buy a couple cats.

Let’s see. How many things are wrong with this comment? Is there an age limit for living in the East Village? I see plenty of ancient folks pushing their walkers around here. Clearly the commenter can’t afford to live here, which is why I live here. I wouldn’t live on the Upper East Side if it were free! Idiot. But you’re still in your 20s, so perhaps that’s a given…

OMG.. I’m not even sure what I want my sex life to be like when I’m 52. I would rather just be super super super rich and not have one. 

Well, having a sex life is certainly preferable to not having one. And you can’t blame anyone for wanting one! If you’d rather be “super super super rich,” good luck to you! It’s easier for a 52-year-old to get laid than to magically become “super super super rich.”

I know we’re always being told to applaud the older set for trying to be sexual, it’s just kind of gross.

Well, I hope that when you reach 50, your sex life is zilch, zero, zip, nada! Cause that would be, ya know, gross. Karma is a bitch!

And lastly, one comment came from a fellow blogger:
interesting. single and 52 has more masturbating and sexual experimentation than single and 25. i can’t tell whether i’m worried, amused, sympathetic or vaguely grossed out.

I gave her a comment on her blog:
I hope things work out between you and your new boyfriend. If they don’t, you may find yourself single…perhaps even at 52.
I would never have imagined I’d be single and 52, I’ll tell you that! I’ve had a number of boyfriends and was married for a long time but, well, life happens. I sure as hell have had a fucking wild ride (both literally and figuratively) and wouldn’t change a thing.
The fact that you’d feel ANY of those things at the mere thought of a 52-year-old experimenting sexually just points to your young age and relative inexperience. Most “olds” are stuck in miserable sexless marriages. No one knows what the future will bring. You might want to be careful about what you make fun of. Cause 25 years from now, you could be ME! Bwahahahah!

Honestly, the more I look at these immature responses the better I feel. I’m sure I would’ve been disgusted by horny 50-year-olds when I was in my 20s but I would’ve been a bit more sensitive if I’d been addressing their sex lives. Or lack thereof. Ideally, I’ll have a whole new story to tell by the time I get back from the playa!

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
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
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
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.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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!