As a West Village resident for the past (almost) five years, I feel very passionately about the “West Side” in the constant village debate. Since moving to NYC my group of friends always have a constant back and forth about where we should do anything, and, as the sole resident of the West side, I lose this battle majority of the time. While for awhile I was a little bitter towards the East side (purely #fomo), my love and appreciation has grown immensely. With a great bar and/or restaurant lining every single block, there is an abundance of places to choose from. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the options, my friend Marybeth from @mb_withasideofpb is here to help and make sure you hit all the local favorite spots. Check out her East Village guide below!
Place to order a strong cocktail:
Death & Co: The drink list at this East Vilage speakeasy is ridiculous — part of the reason why this establishment ALWAYS has a wait (even on a random Monday or Tuesday night). Each beverage is so intriguing, with ingredients like green chile, carrot, and cinnamon making an appearance on the creative menu. I got the Star Sapphire (tequila, gin, grapefruit). Go with another person and each try a few different cocktails to taste a few different drinks! OR if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for and they’ll whip something right up for you.
Parents are in town:
Il Buco: There’s something about having parents in town that just scream “Italian food.” And there’s something about Il Buco that just screams “I am cozy, have a great wine list, and even better pastas.” This place is special, and even parents who don’t like “trendy spots” can appreciate it. You can’t go wrong with a bottle of Pinot Noir, a few starters to share (don’t miss the burrata), and a few pastas for the table. Bon appétit!
Date night that involves getting dressed up:
One If By Land, Two If By Sea: Okay venturing a BIT off the East Village path here, but this place is too romantic to not write about. This hidden gem in the West Village is surrounded by flowers and ivy, warmed by fireplaces (yes, THERE’S MORE THAN ONE), and there’s a pianist to make things even more romantic. This is definitely a special occasion date night, but I promise you it will be a night to remember. Also, the food is amazing. Get the 3-course prix fixe for $100 (I know, it’s pricey, but this is date night!) and do not skip out on the ginger carrot cake.
Date night where I can still wear leggings:
Village Yokocho: This probably isn’t what you have in mind when you first think “date night.” It’s certainly not cozy and there’s no semblance of romance. It’s crowded, loud, and there will be a wait. But it is SO MUCH FUN. The menu, while it may seem overwhelmingly large, is chock full of tons of inventive Japanese dishes, like deep fried squid legs, tons of dumplings, and bibimbap galore. It’s small plates style (and pretty inexpensive) so you can sample a ton of different dishes. Get a pitcher of beer and keep the dishes (and drunken memories) coming.
Girl’s night out:
Tijuana Picnic: Fun vibes, ACTUALLY GOOD mexican food (their fish tacos are BOMB), and strong margaritas always make for a perfect girl’s night in my book. The place is split into two levels: upstairs is a mix of long picnic tables and booths, while the downstairs is darker and you’re free to make alllll the noise you want. Make an 8pm reservation in the basement of this Lower East Side gem, and keep the margaritas flowing as the downstairs dining area becomes a club. A few girlfriends and I went for my 24th birthday, and our 8pm dinner reservation turned into me getting a piercing at 2am after one too many margs. You should go.
Miss Lily’s: Similar to Tijuana Picnic, this place is great for big dinners where you’re looking to “have a night.” Order a few pitchers of rum punch and at least 2 orders of jerk chicken for the table. Do NOT miss out on the plantains or the jerk grilled corn. And get ready to talk loud — this place is a total scene on the weekends, with bumping music and a loooot of birthdays. If it’s your bday, you’ll get a free slice of carrot cake and I think it’s one of the most underrated desserts in NYC.
Takeout without feeling like garbage:
Ngam: I rarely get take-out, but when I do, I get Thai food. But not your run-of-the-mill greasy AF drunken noodlesi and fried spring rolls. I’m talking Ngam — where they’re doing “healthyish” spins on all of your traditional faves. Their curries are AMAZING and super light, but my personal fave is the Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai (with fried tofu and extra spicy sauce). In the fall, they have a seasonal Squash Noodle Pad and you MUST get it if it’s on the menu. Their papaya salad is also great. Everything is great. I love Thai. And now I know what I’m getting for my Sunday hungover supper.
Westville East: Westville is magical. Not only is it veggie-centric (which makes my heart sing), but you can also take your pickiest of friends there and they’ll find something they like (I have known someone to order a hot dog here). It’s not fancy or flashy, but it is CONSISTENTLY delicious, whether you’re eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They also do takeout, so could be put in the “Takeout without feeling like garbage” category too. You’ll have to wait for a table during prime time, but I’ve never waited longer than 20 minutes and it is WORTH it. A few of my faves: Market Vegetable Platter (beets with goat cheese, honey dijon brussels, pesto mashed pototoes, and artichokes with parmesan) OR if you want protein, the grilled salmon plate with 2 market sides is always a great call.
Van Leeuwen: I’m not a vegan, but I try to avoid dairy whenever I can (GI issues, anybody?) That being said, I have a passion for ice cream that runs deep. I frequent Sixteen Handles more than I care to admit and always have a pint of Halo Top in my freezer. But when it comes to high-quality ice cream, Van Leeuwen NEVER FAILS. They have VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM. And it doesn’t taste vegan. At. all. I think that’s all I need to say. Go there. Go on a date and try a bunch of flavors. Go by yourself and try a bunch of flavors. Just go. Treat yoself.
Al things brunch:
Cafe Mogador: I love this place for dinner, but I love it even more for brunch. There will be a wait, but it is WORTH IT for a Mediterranean brunch that will blow. your. mind. Start with a bloody mary, get an order of hummus for the table (even if it’s before noon…just do it) and get the Middle Eastern Eggs. Ask for their “spicy sauce” on the side. And take a killer Instagram before digging in.
Mud: This place is tiny, but it is simply adorable, healthyish, and there is something for everybody. Their coffee is also some of the best in the area (and you can quote me on that). Start with a HUGE mug of coffee with their homemade almond milk, get one of their grain bowls (the mushroom bowl is to die for) and make SURE there’s a buttermilk banana pancake on your table. Hey, you’ve gotta balance out the Healthyish somehow.