What’s up fam. It’s Wednesday morning in NYC. I recently moved back. Since moving back, I’ve begun to get re-acquainted with one of my favorite aspects of major cities - neighborhoods. The neighborhoods in NYC are especially interesting to me because they feel so different. It’s like a bunch of mini cities inside one big city. They also have such distinct borders. For instance, when you cross Houston street from Soho into Noho, you feel it immediately. The same is true when you cross Bowery from Nolita into the LES. Sixth avenue into the West Village. I could go on.
One aspect of picking a neighborhood that isn’t commonly well understood is the neighborhood’s layout. Specifically, where do you want to live in the neighborhood, and where is the action. Today I will give my view on the layout of a couple neighborhoods that I’m familiar with. I’m an east side guy, so we’ll cover Nolita and the East Village.
Nolita stands for “North of Little Italy”. It is a newer neighborhood, and used to be classified under the umbrella of Soho. However, it developed it’s own personality and became Nolita. It is defined by the following borders: Houston in the North, Broadway in the west, Broome Street in the South, and Bowery in the East. It is small. It is busy. It is expensive.
Nolita is most well known for it’s restaurants, shops, and central location downtown. The coffee and breakfast scene is also strong. It is walkable to many desirable neighborhoods and it has access to the six train, a main vein in NYC. Nolita borders Soho (west), Little Italy (south), Chinatown (also south, and will someday swallow Little Italy), Noho (north), and the LES (east).
The most important streets here are Spring and Prince. That’s where you want to live. Anything south of that you’re either on a main street for through traffic (Kenmare) or a tourist trap (Broome). You want to be east of Mulberry, which is also a through street.
Restaurant recommendations: Seamore’s, Pasquale Jones, Mo Gelato, Sal’s, Emporio, Parm, Rubirosa, Ruby’s, Prince Street Pizza.
Bars: Spring Lounge. There are several other’s but Spring Lounge is most important.
East Village is known for the bar scene. It’s pretty dirty. There are some retail shops but not many. It still has an “Old New York” feel to it. The buildings are mostly old, and there is no Whole Foods. The rent here is going to be cheaper and your apartment will likely be bigger, however it will likely be a walk-up, your landlord and super are going to suck, and you’re pretty much on your own. That said there is a distinct sense of community here. I really enjoyed living in this neighborhood.
The neighborhood’s perimeter is defined by: 14th in the North, Houston in the South, 1st in the East and Bowery in the West. The main vein is 2nd Avenue - that’s where the Bars are. 1st Avenue is more on the sketchy side of things, but there are still a few notable things there. I would say living above 2nd street is important. Ideally you want to be on 5th street. You want to be West of 2nd avenue, ideally, so that you can walk to the subway in a reasonable amount of time. However, you could make it work living east of 2nd avenue. East of 1st is a non-starter. Also - beware of St. Marks (8th street), it’s okay when you get east of 2nd avenue, but it is a bit of a freak show to the west of 2nd. Seriously, it’s a big difference. You want to avoid it if possible.
The further North you get in the East Village, the more “sports bar” it starts to feel. There is also going to be a fairly strong presence of 20 somethings in this neighborhood. Not quite like the LES, but they are out.
Bars: Boulton and Watt, Cooper’s, B-Bar, Phebes, 13th Step, Death and Company. I really can’t name them all. I might come back and edit this (I don’t even know if that’s possible).
Restaurants: Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Frank’s, Mighty Quinns, Fuku Fried Chicken, Momofuku and all the spin-offs from that.
Nolita is “more hip” than the East Village, but is also crawling with tourists. That is a material disadvantage - sidewalks are small and it becomes difficult to get anywhere. Nolita isn’t well taken care of when it snows. It’s cramped. All things considered, I would rather live in the East Village.