The East Village: A Traveler's Guide

The history of the East Village is perpetually rewritten, and its well-worn streets have undergone many a makeover in even the past few years. But it radiates an unchangeable energy rich with history and diversity, encompassing the highest and lowest reaches of culture for many a decade. To the veteran New Yorker, the most precious gems of the Village are the time capsules that have endured over the neighborhood’s many transitions, the establishments suiting its taste for cultural impact, and the tucked-away spots that retain its air of secrecy and subculture.

Originally a refuge for new immigrants, the Polish and Ukrainian communities that first populated the East Village’s decorative Pre-War buildings most densely still preserve some indelible marks. The Sly Fox, for example, is a favorite spot for a beer or vodka when you’re on a tight budget. Beyond its stark outer hallway rests a dining hall both grandiose and quaint with its mounted folk art and linen napkins called simply “The Ukrainian.” Veselka, the Eastern European diner, still dominates the corner of Second Avenue and Ninth Street, purveying kielbasa and pierogi to Village dwellers 24 hours a day.

The golden age of punk had its roots in the East Village too. Legendary venues like Coney Island High and The Continental eventually gave way after very long runs and spikes in the rent. But you can still cruise by the historical Trash & Vaudeville if you’re short a pair of stretch jeans or a Plasmatics t-shirt. Vintage shops like Search & Destroy pay homage to the musical history of St. Mark’s Place with a steady supply of bondage pants and bomber jackets as well. And if you’re thirsty for more punk nostalgia you can wander into Lovers of Today off Thompkin’s Square Park, where the specialty cocktails are named after punk and glam anthems like “Satellite of Love” and “Another Girl Another Planet.”

The bookstore is another endangered species still holding ground in the Village. You can always find a treasure at the neighborhood standard East Village Books on St. Mark’s, or browse through the stylish curation of Mast Books on Avenue A.

So although there’s the blight of the occasional chain franchise, there are lots of places new and old around the East Village that city locals hold dear.

 

Words by Micki Pellerano