New York's coolest neighborhood has changed a lot, as any number of sexegenarian ex-punks will tell you. The Mars Bar is a craft cocktail lounge, blah blah blah. But you know what? There are some landmark that are still going strong, the anchors of the neighborhood's history. And they deserve your respect and attendance. Old school!
One of the last great Polish butchers left in Manhattan, this accurately titled East Village meat market produces magnificent kielbasa, hunter sausage, and, best of all, an amazing country ham.
This classic East Village bakery makes all the old standards: black and white cookies, hamentaschen, danishes, babka, and a really kick-ass rye bread.
This revamped landmark diner looks modern but has an old soul, having here for over 50 years. Go for the pierogi but stay for the amazing hamburger.
Sometimes I feel ambivalent about McSorley's. It's the ultimate old-time New York bar, the subject of an essay which is itself a classic, and the framed pictures on the wall make the place essentially a museum you can drink (very good) beer in. On the other hand, it's too well-lit, too self-aware, and its frat-boy crowd is always threatening to turn it into an outright bro hole. The fine hamburger and corned beef hash always settle the issue for me, though: McSorley's is a treasure.
The oldest, dirtiest, and most beloved "shvitz" left on the Lower East Side is no retro throwback, nor is it a carefully preserved artifact, like McSorley's: it's a time machine to the time when men were hairy, nobody exercised, and there were giant pools of polio lying around on the ground.
One of the secret pleasures of living in the East Village consists of knowing that an otherwise unremarkable newsstand run by unremarkable Indian men has, hidden away behind the counter, makings of an egg cream. Back in the day, candy stores sold papers and egg creams (a classic NYC drink made of chocolate milk and seltzer) and the Gem Spa is the last survivor of this ancient race.
A tiny, decrepit restaurant with plywood walls and about enough room for one fat man to walk through, the Stage is an old-school classic, a throwback that deserves to be landmarked or even preserved at the Smithsonian. Go there for corned beef hash, coffee, and white toast.
The genius move here was opening a semi-swanky bar as an adjunct to an all-night Ukrainian diner, and serving blintzes alongside high-end cocktails. God Bless the East Village!
This tiny Puerto Rican storefront on Avenue C served the best roast chicken in the East Village in the 1970s, and it serves the best roasted chicken in the East Village today.