East Village Basics
Welcome to the East Village, the neighborhood full of great bars and rock & roll. When people think of the East Village, they think of loud dive bars with live music. While that is a major part of the neighborhood, the area also has a ton of great restaurants, shopping, and entertainment venues. Once a place of counterculture and bohemia, this neighborhood’s culture has become much more family-friendly while continuing to celebrate its history.
History of the East Village
During most of the East Village’s early NYC history, the land was used mostly for farming and estates that belonged to some of the city’s richest citizens like the Stuyvesant and Rutgers families. These farms, while wildly successful, were later surveyed for the future grid system of the expanding city. Land was sold to developers and city elites, who transformed the farmland into one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city during the early 1800s.
Row and federal houses lined the streets during the early 1800s. However, as the city expanded north, wealthy New Yorkers followed the growth, and German, Irish, and Austrian immigrants began to move into the East Village. The neighborhood’s population exploded, and the city’s solution was tenement housing. As more housing was built, more people came to the city, and the neighborhood quickly became a melting pot of cultures.
The East Village remained a working-class haven for immigrants until the 1930s when the depression hit and displaced thousands of people. Many of the tenements became abandoned and were demolished, and larger apartment complexes began construction in the 1960s. It was at this time that artists began moving to the neighborhood in search of cheap rent and a community to call their own.
These artists formed a sort of counterculture in the neighborhood, and even take credit for creating several music genres like punk rock. The neighborhood also became home to several theaters, LGTBQ+ friendly bars, and hosted some of the most prominent musicians inside their institutions. However, the popularity of the neighborhood renewed interest in it, and the area gentrified quickly after the 1990s. Today, the area is still full of music and art, while also being home to luxury buildings and family-friendly establishments.
Shopping in the East Village
The East Village has some fascinating shopping opportunities if you know where to look. Some of the best shopping opportunities here include:
L Train Vintage
This vintage clothing store is right off the 1st Avenue L train station, and is full of unique clothes and styles. Since 1999, this store has been selling and receiving quality goods, giving the neighborhood some extra flair and attitude.
This bookstore embodies the attitude and counterculture of the East Village, selling books that have gone out of print along with rarer materials that are difficult to find. There are contemporary titles here, but the real treasures are the older books.
This East Village staple sells records new and old, and is more than happy to receive donations, especially of rare material. This shop has a huge inventory, and its knowledgeable staff can always suggest something new.
Theater and Entertainment Venues in the East Village
The East Village is full of places to catch a show. Some of the best entertainment venues in the neighborhood include:
This live music venue doubles as a nightclub, and is always packed to the rafters on the weekends. Hosting some of the most popular indie bands and artists around, this place is definitely worth a visit.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
This cafe and performance space has been around since 1973. Home to spoken word, music, and comedy nights, this space is a go-to for many artists in the city, and is where many artists got their big breaks.
This experimental theater is extremely popular, and produces some of the most daring works in the city. These eclectic shows have left audiences in awe since 1961, and have built an incredibly diverse community of artists.
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Where to Eat in the East Village
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The East Village is full of great food, where people eat and drink before they catch a show. Some of the best restaurants in the neighborhood include:
Baar Baar ($$$)
This Indian restaurant is one of the best in the city. With special holiday menus and delicious drinks, this establishment is perfect for dates and big events. Some favorites here include the paneer pinwheel and the chicken biriyani.
Pardon My French ($$$)
This French bistro is popular with the brunch crowd, as their specialty cocktails and comfort foods draw large crowds on the weekends. Some of their best selections include Brioche French toast and sandwich jambon-fromage.
This lowkey Korean establishment serves some of the best wings in the city. Beautiful, yet subtle, this place attracts customers from all over the city with its fried food and Korean classics.
Bars of the East Village
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The East Village is home to a ton of bars. Some of the best nightlife in the neighborhood includes:
Otto’s Shrunken Head ($)
This tiki bar/performance venue hosts live and comedy on a nightly basis. The drinks here are strong and plentiful, and the folks who work here are welcoming of everyone at any time. This is truly a unique place.
Claiming to have the best happy hour in NYC, this bar is party central for a lot of folks. People often come here for birthdays and holidays for the cheap drinks and friendly atmosphere. The DJ lounge is also a big draw.
Soda Club ($$)
This bar has a lot going on. Serving up delicious vegan Italian food alongside some of the best wine in the world, this establishment has gained attention from several prestigious institutions, including Michelin.
Juke Bar ($$)
This popular bar loves to host events, and has trivia nights, comedy nights, and live music every weekend. They serve up some bar food classics with elevated flavors, and their seasonal drinks are sure to cool you in the summer, and warm your soul in the winter.
Please Don’t Tell ($$$)
This cocktail bar has a speakeasy feel to it, and is the go-to for folks seeking to go wild and feel classy at the same time. Though a bit hard to find, this place is worth the effort, as they have some of the best drinks and atmosphere in the city.
Where to Live in the East Village
The East Village is an extremely popular area with newer buildings and historical gems. Some of the best places to live include:
This newer condo has a lot to offer residents, including a fitness center, rooftop terrace, and private outdoor space select units. The spa-like bathrooms here are a huge plus, and kitchens come with beautiful stainless steel appliances.
202 East 13th Street
This rental building has been around since 1920, but has recently been renovated to meet modern living standards. Gorgeous hardwood flooring and exposed brick give these homes style, making them very trendy options for potential renters.
118 East 1st Street
This unique condo has four units spread out over nine floors, which means that the homes here are all duplexes. Each home comes with a private outdoor space, enormous living rooms and kitchens, and private elevator entrances.
Tompkins Square Plaza
This rental building has been around since 1998, and has over 70 beautiful homes. The roof deck provides residents with some of the best views in the city, and the fitness center has great equipment.
This new condo has five luxury units, each one taking up a floor of the building. With private elevator access, a private outdoor space, and huge windows, these apartments are bright and comfortable, perfect for small families or young professionals.
Traveling in the East Village
The East Village has some interesting travel options and is fairly easy to navigate. Some of the best ways to get around here include:
The New York City subway system provides access to the north and south end of the East Village. The 1st and 3rd Avenue L train stops service the upper part of the neighborhood while the lower portion is serviced by the F train. The Union Square 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R, and W trains can get you close to the neighborhood too.
There are a number of bus lines that service the East Village including the M1, M2, M3, M8, M9, M14A, M14D, M15, M21, M101, M102, and M103 among others.
Rideshares and Bike Rentals
Traffic can get a bit annoying in the East Village, but it’s not as bad as other Manhattan neighborhoods, which is why driving and rideshares are extremely popular here. That said, biking is also a major mode of transportation in this neighborhood, and a swath of Citi Bike docking stations makes it that much more convenient. The neighborhood is also extremely walkable, full of hidden gems one can only find if they take their time traversing these busy streets.
The East Village is a neighborhood that has been both an elite area and a haven for the working class. The area is famous for the music and entertainment that sprouted during the 1960s and 70s, but that’s not the full story of this old neighborhood. The East Village is an ever-changing part of NYC that will embrace the future while celebrating its illustrious past.
Russell is a writer and comic based in New York City. His plays have been featured at Penn State’s Cultural Conversation’s Festival, The NYC Thespis Festival, and Imaginarium’s Inaugural Theater Festival. Follow him on TikTok and Instagram @pooleparty528