As a Tour Guide and a New Yorker, I’m often asked which neighborhood in New York is my favorite.
Typically, what someone is really saying is that they have a free afternoon and want advice on places to check out that aren’t classic tourist attractions. They want to experience a few new, unique, only-in-New-York experiences that cater to locals but are still exciting for someone visiting the city. Almost every time, my recommendation is the same: if you want to go off the beaten path, spend a lazy afternoon in Greenwich Village and just try to blend in. While you’re there, take yourself on a mini food tour, hang out at one of the amazing cafés near Washington Square Park, and enjoy a much needed break in a vacation otherwise packed with visiting New York’s never-ending tourist attractions. So, whether you’re looking for that unique New York experience or just want to take an afternoon to slow down and let your feet recover, consider this guide to a lazy day in Greenwich Village as my gift to you.
New York is known for its world class restaurants and for the sheer number of food options available on every block.
In Greenwich Village, one of the artistic and cultural centers for New York City, those food options tend to come with a more unique and experimental twist. For example, one of my favorite options is By Chloe, a vegan restaurant with menu items like Vegan Whiskey BBQ Burgers or Sweet Potato Fries dipped in Beet Ketchup. This vegan hot spot is beloved by the neighborhood’s artistic crowd and its population of NYU students, so you can almost guarantee that you’ll be the only non-local. Or, if vegan food is new to you and you’d like a vegan option that’s less experimental, try Red Bamboo, a popular vegan restaurant specializing in vegan comfort food. And yes, if you’re confused by what that term even means (like I was), it easily exceeds expectations. I have yet to try something at Red Bamboo that hasn’t blown my mind.
A full meal or a quick snack?
If a full meal sounds like too much and you’re simply looking for a quick snack, check at Pommes Frites, a Belgian Fries restaurant that boasts more than 30 different dipping sauce options. Or you could stop by the Creperie NYC for arguably the best dessert crepes in America. Just don’t expect warm southern hospitality at either location, as you’re more likely to be served by someone resembling the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Embrace it. It’s all part of the experience. If your sweet tooth is somehow still not satisfied, check out the hugely popular Dō, a dessert spot that serves up scoops of delicious, safe-to-eat cookie dough. Seating in most of these locations is also limited, so plan to enjoy your food while strolling around the Village like the artistic Bohemian that you are. Bonus points if you link arms like you’re on the cover of a Bob Dylan album (yes, that photo was shot in this neighborhood).
What is your mood?
Next, it’s time to decide what kind of mood you’re in and make your way over to either one of my favorite hole-in-wall cafés in the city. If you’re in more of a classy, artistic mood, grab a cappuccino and settle into a table at Café Reggio. This cute coffee shop isn’t just a Greenwich Village icon, it’s also the home of America’s very first Cappuccino. Founder Domenico Parisi introduced the Cappuccino to America at this location in the 1920s, and the popular spot has since been featured in countless movies like The Godfather Part II or the award winning Inside Llewyn Davis. For extra social media points, take a quick photo next to the original espresso machine from the store’s opening that is still displayed prominently against the café’s back wall.
Feeling more in the mood for a quirky, all-afternoon experience? Look no further than The Uncommons, a board game café located just a few blocks from Café Reggio. At the Uncommons, each guest pays a small cover charge ($5-$10) for their own table and access to any board game or party game you’ve ever heard of. You’ll be surrounded by all types of New Yorkers, from a couple casually playing a silly card game on their first date, to a group of friends getting together to play Settlers of Catan, to a table full of die-hard board game fans whispering about killing Zombies on Mount Everest in some crazy, epic board game you’ve never heard of. Even if you just go to observe and people-watch, it’s a worthwhile experience. Personally, I recommend grabbing a small pile of games that look exciting (there’s no limit to how may you can play) and trying each out until you’ve found your favorite. If any game seems too difficult or too boring, simply toss it back in the box and move onto the next one. Or, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask the staff which games they recommend and play whichever game promises the biggest laugh.
Washington Square Park
Finally, before you leave the Village for your next adventure, make sure you take a leisurely stroll through Washington Square Park. The Washington Arch is probably the most recognizable landmark in the neighborhood, and the fountain nearby is typically surrounded by dozens of street performers, artists, and some of New York’s most colorful local inhabitants. To blend in, simply sit on a nearby bench, sip your coffee, and let the sights and sounds (and smells) of the park wash over you. However you decide to spend the rest of your evening, you can feel rested and satisfied knowing that, at least for an afternoon, you blended in with the New Yorkers.