Not so long ago, a grungy, dirty, needle and drug infested hell hole, this part of Manhattan has over the last decade metamorphosed into the it 'hood. It happens to be my favorite part of the city to hang out in, not just for the variety of ethnic and neuvo but ever vibrant food and drink scene but also because this section is steeped in New York history. Nestled between, rather I must say amongst as the boundaries are never clear, China town, Little Italy and random poshness of Gramercy, this section can vary from being fishy and dirty to wafting with warm welcoming flavors. Cross a street into another avenue and the streets are serenely lined with high end retail stores. Turn a corner and hidden from plain view are several PDTs, after hour lounges, clubs and back door watering holes serving high class cocktails in tea cups.
Especially at night, this is a place to explore. There are tons of above ground spots to hang about but talk to the locals and there are loads of secret and referral only spots that are really cool and different. LES may be gentrifying but I think it captures the essence of New York in its gritty, stubborn and yet high pitched, high strung, entirely fun way. It juxtaposes the working immigrants with the fun seekers, the faces lined by sun, sweat and tears with those lined by drugs, cigarettes, alcohol. It represents both the harshness and the sweet nectar of living in this wonderful city. Several named chefs have restaurants here. So, do many hole in the walls. The infamous Belgian fries, yes, here. Tompkins Park, that spot once riddled with discarded needles, the homeless and drag queens is now one of the most expensive real estate in the city. And yet, it still hosts the most interesting parades and panorama of human elements.
Raw and sophisticated at the same time. Essentially, walking around here is like stumbling into Wonderland. You never know what experience you may have. That is the mystery I covet. Never a dull moment, not a spot to fall asleep in unless you want to wake up stinky and robbed.
Today, I share a few snippets of a day walk through the area. There happened to be a street fair on and then a leisurely coffee and brunch at two hip spots of the 'hood. I will come back with more night time life when I can! Cheers!