Past the pristine townhomes and high profile eateries is a historic neighborhood that defies categorization
The West Village is layered with a rich history. For hundreds of years, poets have mingled with authors, musicians, and artists — and they still do today. From the Music Inn on West 4th where Dylan spent time writing music to the beloved Stonewall Inn, recently designated a national landmark, its storied streets are where Aaron Burr took refuge after fatally shooting Alexander Hamilton. The annual Halloween and Pride parades bring steams of truly anything-goes revelers to the neighborhood that invented free-wheeling craziness. Yet it’s also a neighborhood that has experienced extreme gentrification. On weekends, the freshly scrubbed Canada Goose crowd descends en masse for $17 eggs in the restaurants du jour. Manicured townhouses sell for multiple millions. Big draw restaurants like Via Carota and Buvette ensure that most everyone makes their way down to experience the west village. With all this distraction, it’s easy for an outsider to miss its kaleidoscopic narrative. Its a place where celebrity residents are able to live anonymously alongside long-time residents, most of whom have lived in rent-controlled apartments for decades (or had the foresight to buy before prices skyrocketed). There is no typical West Village resident; this is part of its allure. So grab a cup of coffee from Jack’s on West 10th, put down your phone, take a look around and start wandering.
- Claude’s Patisserie 187 W. 4th (between Barrow and Jones) -The buttery scent of Paris envelopes as soon as the door opens. Though Claude retired many years ago, owner Pablo was trained by Claude. The mouth-watering croissants are still made daily. They are undisputedly the best in the village. Sit at one of the three tiny tables and enjoy simpler times; read the paper, converse or simply daydream and you’ll fit right in with the locals. Ask Carmen to whip up an Americano to drink with the croissant. Local tip: It’s one of the few spots where you can comfortably hitch your dog outside.
- Jones Street Wines 23 Jones Street (between W. 4 and Bleecker) Weekly wine tastings began during Hurricane Sandy in an effort to bring the neighborhood together. They stuck. Pop in on Wednesday evenings for the free tasting. The subterranean shop is exceptionally curated with little-known wines primarily from Italy, Portugal, and France. They are arranged by price with the least expensive bottles stacked first, as you enter. Most are priced at $20 and under. If you love something you’ve tried there, go back quickly for another bottle. They are always changing their selections and you may miss the chance to pick up more. Local tip: get a punch card; free bottle after 10 punches.
- Taco Mahal 73 7th Avenue South (at Barrow): “It’s fire”, says Andrei, a Taco Mahal regular who lives in the area. This family-owned newcomer has taken the area by storm. For about $8-$12, treat yourself to a full meal. Try the chicken tikka masala or lamb curry which both come with dahl, rice, and greens. Choose naan bread or roti, both equally good. Sit outside on 7th Avenue or take your meal to go. Local tip: go now before the resounding success convinces owner Danikkah to expand all over the city.
- Faicco’s 260 Bleecker Street – “How is your son liking Nashville? I haven’t seen him in a while” shouts Tom as he slices the prosciutto. Faicco’s is a neighborhood stalwart. It’s a place where construction workers, old Italian mamas and nearly everyone else goes for a hearty sandwich or sliced meats. This pork butcher and Italian specialty shop has been in the same family for over four generations. The winning sandwich? The $14.00 broccoli rabe chicken sandwich. Bring a friend, it will easily feed two. Or better yet, save half for dinner. Local tip: If you’re having guests, pick up a tray of the signature meatballs.
- The Fruit Man / W4 and Barrow – “Not today,” he shakes his head, disappointed. He gives the “avocado warning” before I even reach for one. Of course, he’s right, they’re hard as rocks. The only fruit vendor in the west village, Rafael prides himself on freshness. He explains, “My customers won’t come to me anymore if something isn’t fresh.” He discards all unsold stock every night, regardless of its condition. The well-stocked cart has all the basics, plus a variety of seasonal produce like pomegranates and figs. Often times he has organic fruit. Local tip: if rain is in the forecast, Raphael doesn’t set up his cart.
- Snack Taverna 63 Bedford (at Morton)- “I don’t know which wine we usually get” the woman wonders, menu in hand. The waiter overhears and is immediately at her side. “That’s the one” he points. This small Greek restaurant serves traditional dishes to pair with unusual and (happily) well-priced Greek wines. Make a meal of the Greek salad with small plates of horta, fava, and of course, the melitzanosalata. There is a 5-8 person round table in the window. Ask for it if you have a group. Local tip: reservations can usually be made fairly last minute; a rarity in the west village.
- LIfethyme Organic Market 410 Sixth Avenue (between 8th and 9th streets): A microcosm of the West Village itself where aging hippies mix with well-heeled townhouse owners who politely navigate up and down the skinny aisles. Some fill their baskets to the brim, others are there to buy just an apple. The small market has surprisingly, everything you need (with the exception of a full butcher and seafood section). Local tip: don’t go on Monday mornings expecting to buy your produce for dinner as weekend restocking is always very slow.