I used to stay awake at night dreaming about living in New York. In my idealistic, adolescent mind, it was a city of dreams; it represented freedom, opportunity and celebrated cultural diversity and artistic expression. I imagined a colorful city that was constantly on the go and full of energy and life; filled with interesting people who were driven, smart, talented and different from me.
This daydream was brought to life 4 years ago upon receiving my acceptance letter from NYU (thank you NYU and thank you parents!). And so, my New York chapter began at Greenwich Village, home to NYU, in 2012.
I vividly recall the mixture of emotions I felt when I arrived in New York for the first time during the summer of 2012; I was overwhelmed, anxious, scared (moving to a new city alone yikes), but most of all, incredibly excited. Excited for the new chapter ahead and all the colorful possibilities new beginnings bring.
I remember the first time I walked through Washington Square Park with my parents on a hot summers day. Despite the scorching heat, the park was pulsating with life and buzzing with energy. Music filled the air; there were jazz musicians and artists on every corner and the park was packed with NYU students, locals and tourists. I looked around with wide-eyed wonder.
A Quaint Neighborhood with a Metropolitan Edge
Greenwich Village, often referred to as “the Village”, is the neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan. Greenwich Village is regarded as an artists’ haven, the Bohemian capital, the center of the modern LGBT movement, and the East Coast birthplace of ’60s counterculture movements.
Despite its popularity, Greenwich Village exudes an intimate, neighborhood charm. It’s packed with 24-hour dining, shopping and nightlife, yet remains personable, with ample greenery, low-rise brownstones and a plethora of boutique shops and specialty stores.
Having been acquainted with the neighborhood over the past few years, I’ve developed a list of my favorite spots and places worth checking out. Here are a few I recommend:
- La Lanterna: This neighborhood gem was recommended to me by my friend Elly. The atmosphere is warm and intimate and the food is always delicious. This iconic Greenwich Village restaurant serves thin crust pizza, Italian pastries, a selection of wine and liquor, and boasts a charming garden area, fireplaces and live jazz.
- Kati Roll: A kati roll is a mixture of meat and vegetables rolled in Indian flatbread. I used to come here all the time with my friends after a study session at Bobst library. My favorite items on the menu are the chicken kati roll and chai masala tea.
- Think Coffee: Steps away from Washington Square Park, this spacious yet cosy neighborhood coffeeshop is great for meetings, NYU hangouts, and studying.
Caffe Reggio: Come here to sip an “Original Cappuccino” and enjoy the beautiful collection of artwork, some of which dates back to the Italian Renaissance period.
- Kungfu Tea: Conveniently located next to Washington Square park, this chain store serves my favorite bubble tea in the city.
- Artichoke Pizza: Famous for its warm, buttery, cheesy Artichoke base and crispy crust, the unique Arthichoke pizza has become a signature dish in New York.
- Saigon Shack: Stop by for a delicious bowl of classic beef pho to soothe your soul. There is always a wait, but its always worth it.
- Blue Note Jazz Club: If you’re a jazz lover, Blue Note is a must. Legendary jazz musicians take the stage at this intimate club that also serves American cuisine.
- Comedy Clubs: If you want to see stand-up comedy, look no further than Macdougal street. This street is home to several comedy clubs, including the infamous Comedy Cellar, as well as Greenwich Village Comedy Club, Comedy Village and more.
- Washington Square Park: Aside from Central Park, Washington Square Park is my favorite park in the city. This vibrant park, famous for the Washington Square Arch, has a tradition of celebrating nonconformity and buzzes with talent and creativity. This park has long been a hub for politics and culture in New York City. Today, you’ll find chess players in the southwest corner of the park, and a diverse array of entertaining performances delivered by talented musicians – from jazz to classical, dancers and artists.
- NYU: Last but not least, your visit to Greenwich village won’t be complete until you check out NYU. Although NYU’s schools are scattered across the city and New York city itself is a seamless extension of the campus, Greenwich Village serves as its main campus. Prominent schools including Tisch, Stern and the law school as well as the Bobst library are located in this neighborhood.
This quaint yet dynamic neighborhood celebrates culture, diversity and music. It’s filled with plenty of dining options, boasts a vibrant nightlife and exudes an idyllic and artistic charm. These reasons alone make it one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. But what really makes a place special is the meaning and memories you attach to it. Greenwich village will always hold a special place in my heart because it is home to NYU, making it the birthplace of my dream of living in this city. I will look back at my days spent in this neighborhood with great fondness.
I had received a Momofuku gift card 2 months back and finally decided to use it on the first Momofuku restaurant that was established – Momofuku Noodle Bar. This restaurant is most famous for its ramen (surprise surprise) and flavored buns, specifically the pork belly.
The noodle bar opens for dinner at 5:30pm. We arrived at 5.40pm on Saturday and waited in line for about 15 mins (which wasn’t too bad at all). This restaurant is always busy and packed so I recommend going there early to avoid the long wait.
Here are the dishes that I tried:
Smoked Chicken Wings: Pickled chili, garlic, scallion sauce
These tender chicken wings are coated in a delicious sweet, tangy and spicy sauce. I definitely recommend this appetizer to share, so delicious! It was probably my favorite dish of the night.
Chicken Meatball Bun: Jalapeño, iceberg, paprika mayo
Sumptious and tender chicken meatball sandwiched between a soft bun and coated in a tangy paprika mayo sauce, topped with jalapeño – very tasty! I’ve also heard that the pork buns are notoriously good here. It’s not on the official menu but just ask the waiter, and they’ll serve it to you (too bad I only heard about this after eating here). According to the waiter, the brisket buns are also extremely popular here.
Momofuku Ramen: Pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg
A well presented hearty bowl of ramen, perfect for a cold winter’s night. The tender pork meat produced a hearty flavor but the broth was not very salty, unlike some of the other ramen I’ve had in New York. It was appetizing and satisfying, but in all honesty, I preferred the ramen at Ippudo slightly more. It was better suited to my palate.
All in all, Momofuku Noodle Bar was a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience! The food was great, the service was attentive and the restaurant was buzzing with energy – an East Village treasure.
I enjoyed a wonderfully delicious lunch at Ippudo East Village today.
Ippudo East Village is the first international Ippudo to introduce the world to Hakata tonkotsu pork soup. While Ippudo East Village is rooted in traditional Japanese ramen culture, they also offer a modern interpretation that is both inspired by Japan and the culture of New York.
Pork Belly Buns
Two steamed buns filled with pork and served with Ippudo’s original spicy buns sauce and mayo. These are probably the BEST pork belly buns I’ve savored. The meat was so succulent and tender, the buns warm and soft and the original sauce was so tasty. I definitely recommend this appetizer!
The original silky “Tonkotsu” (pork) soup noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions and fragrant garlic oil. The ingredients blend well together – simply delicious!
Although there is always a wait to get seated, overall dining at Ippudo is a wonderful culinary experience! Delicious food, attentive service and a warm, soothing ambience – a neighborhood gem.
I’ve decided to start a photo series and commentary centered around the neighborhoods and cities I’ve visited. To kick off this passion project, I’ll begin with one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York – East Village.
A Cultural Melting Pot of Art, History and Good Food
I moved to the East Village last September. Over the past 6 months, I’ve enjoyed exploring all this eclectic neighborhood has to offer. The more I discover, the deeper my fascination.
The East Village — the blocks east of the Bowery between Houston and 14th Streets, was once considered to be part of the Lower East Side, but began to develop its own unique identity and culture in the late 1960s, when a flurry of artists, musicians, students and hippies began to move into the area.
The neighborhood has since emerged as a center of the counterculture in New York, and is regarded as the birthplace of several artistic movements, including punk rock and the Nuyorican literary movement. It has also been the site of protests and riots. Although in recent decades it has been argued that gentrification has transformed the character of the neighborhood, East Village is still known for its diverse community, vibrant nightlife (boasting the highest concentration of bars in the city) and artistic charm. Recent years have seen an influx of trendy bars, street art, boutique shops while an abundance of affordable eateries has made the East Village, the mecca for budget-minded foodies.
Here is a list of my favorite spots in the neighborhood:
- Cafe Orlin: Cafe Orlin is a charming cafe serving American & Middle Eastern food. I recommend the hummus with mushrooms and avocado toast (pictured below). These mouthwatering appetizers will leave you craving for more.
- Kenka: Located on the lively St. Marks strip, Kenka serves tasty Japanese street-style food and beer at a reasonable price. It’s quirky and risqué décor make for an interesting culinary and cultural experience. Don’t forget the cotton candy machine on your way out. Upon receiving your check, you’ll be given a small cup of pink sugar that you can spin into your very own cotton candy (pictured below).
- Spot Dessert Bar: Spot is an innovative dessert parlor that serves delectable Asian-inspired desserts. The line is usually long but it’s always worth the wait! My personal favorites are the honey toast and green tea lava cake.
- Jules Bistro: Jules Bistro is a charming, intimate French restaurant located on 8th street, between 1st and 2nd avenue. The warm cosy ambience, live jazz music and delicious food make for a great date spot or a fun night out with friends.
- Bean Cafe: The Bean is the quintessential East Village coffee shop. The staff, décor, food and beverages as well as music are inspired by the vibe and personality of East Village. It’s a popular spot for students, entrepreneurs, creatives and neighborhood residents who want to get some work done while enjoying a nice cup of coffee.
- Box Kite: This cosy little coffee shop is a neighborhood favorite for East Village residents. Come here to enjoy a cup of quality coffee and soak up the low-key ambience. House, hip hop and experimental music is often blasted through the speakers, giving this neighborhood coffee shop an edgy and modern feel.
- Tompkins Square Park: This popular park in the middle of the East Village is a perfect centerpiece for the eclectic neighborhood (pictured below). It is where the lives of artists, musicians, families, students and old neighborhood residents intersect.
Despite its grit and grime, East Village is a fascinating, lively and trendy neighborhood with a cult following. It’s culturally diverse community, plethora of food options, dynamic nightlife and artistic allure make it one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York, and quite possibly, the entire world.
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson
The snow storm didn’t stop me from going outside and having fun today! I had a great time walking around my neighborhood, enjoying the snow and picturesque views.
Here are a couple of photos I took at Tompkins Square Park. It looked like a winter wonderland: