New York City Tour: East Village
The historic (and historically funky) downtown neighborhood now flaunts a sophisticated side.
Once an enclave of immigrants, then the refuge of bohemians fleeing West Village rents, NYC’s East Village is now firmly established as an eating/drinking/shopping playground. While you’ll still find unshorn poets, beatniks, and runaways, you’re just as likely to see baby strollers, runway models, and tomorrow’s celebrity chefs on its colorful streets.
1 Dinosaur Hill
Window displays packed full of furry stuffed animals, wooden play sets, and handmade clothes draw those young and young at heart into this East Village shop. In 1983, five ladies joined together to open Dinosaur Hill, providing alternatives to the increasing number of electronic toys. Over the years, the store has become a staple due to its handpicked collection of American and European toys that include sock puppets, city-shaped block sets, and the KÃ¤the Kruse bears. Past shoppers conclude that the owners have a very helpful presence in the store and are happy to help customers find that one-of-a-kind gift. Open daily, 11 a.m.â€“7 p.m.
2 Tompkins Square Park
The East Villageâ€™s â€œbackyardâ€
The consistent freshness of the fish is what keeps this East Village restaurant afloat in a city full of sushi options. While the unassuming storefront glows with the bright lighting, many pass by often without noticing the narrow dining room filled with simple wood tables and chairs and a sushi bar. Huge, uniform pieces of brightly colored salmon, tuna, and yellowtail decorate sashimi platters as specialties like the hamachi kama (the cooked neck of a young yellowtail) sell out quickly.
The Ukrainian couple Wolodymyr and Olha Darmochawal traveled to New York to escape war in their own country, and inspired by fellow immigrants in the East Village, they opened a candy and newsstand in 1954 that eventually became the famous Veselka. Today, the 24-hour restaurant is open seven days a week allowing hungry diners to satisfy their pierogi cravings at any time of the night. The expansive menu also includes other Ukrainian specialties like homemade cheese-filled blintzes and beef stroganoff.
The lack of space, or chairs, allows you to focus on the perfect cup of coffee at Abraco's Espresso Bar in the East Village. In the tiny but cheerful bar, famous barista and co-owner Jamie McCormick grinds and brews each cup of coffee to order. Of course, these are no ordinary beans - they come from North Carolina's Counter Culture Coffee. And if the coffee wasn't treat enough, owner-baker Elizabeth Quijada offers up sweets and savories made from fresh, local ingredients. A latte and slice of olive oil cake may just be the perfect start to a day.