by Christina Parrella, 04/22/2014
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Roughly bounded by Broadway to the west and Bowery to the east, and extending south from Astor Place to Houston Street, NoHo is one of the City's tiniest neighborhoods—albeit one with outsize appeal. Overlapping the East Village, the up-and-coming area is rife with history: Cooper Union, for example, located at the neighborhood's northern end, was the site of many famous prepresidential orations. Before they stepped foot into the White House, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln all spoke from the Great Hall's podium. More recently, the neighborhood was home to artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and where the hole-in-the wall dive bar known as CBGB & OMFUG ("Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers") became headquarters for one of the greatest underground music scenes in American history. Without CBGB, the world might never have heard of Blondie, the Ramones, Talking Heads or Sonic Youth.
Cooper Union. Photo: Mario Morgado
Although those days are long gone, the neighborhood is still a cultural hotbed. NoHo (an acronym for "North of Houston Street") is an undeniably artistic district, evident in everything from the Astor Place Cube (also known as the Alamo) to the installation at the corner of Bowery and Houston Street—where, more than 30 years ago, Keith Haring painted his first mural on a concrete wall. These days the wall features images by a rotating cast of artists (including Swoon, Shepard Fairey and Barry McGee), curated by neighborhood gallery The Hole. The neighborhood also features a staggering array of excellent dining and nightlife options. On any given night you can hear live poetry, watch a local punk rock band or eat some of the finest food in the City. Read on for some of our recommendations.
Mile End Delicatessen. Photo: Daniel Krieger
For Jewish deli fare with a French-Canadian twist, visit Mile End Delicatessen. The diner serves up smoky, peppery cured-meat sandwiches and sides such as classic poutine—fries with cheese curds, covered in gravy. An older neighborhood stalwart, B Bar & Grill, offers a New American menu and, at its Taco Box window, inexpensive Mexican street-style specialties. After 11pm the space, which features an enormous patio, becomes a party zone. Acme, meanwhile, hosts a fashion-forward, arty crowd. There's a low-lit downstairs area that serves up snacks, appetizers and cocktails, while upstairs the menu's Nordic cuisine is divided into sections like Raw, Cooked, Soil and Sea & Land. The team behind Acme also runs Indochine, one of the most stylish restaurants in the City. Frequented by an impeccably chic crowd of artists, actors, models, fashion editors and a few ordinary folk, the Asian-fusion restaurant is known for its food and its glamorous regulars.
No less sceney is Italian brasserie Gemma, located within the Bowery Hotel, where the burrata is imported and the chicken is cooked under a brick, Northern Italian style. The dishes and decor are rustic, and the no-reservation policy, coupled with its sidewalk-seating area, makes it a prime summertime late-night spot. Another Italian eatery, Il Buco boasts a similarly bucolic feel. The communal tables and mismatched chairs lend the venue an Old World vibe, and its dishes are seasonal, fresh and invariably delicious. Dinner is accompanied by hearty bread and spicy Umbrian olive oil, harvested exclusively for Il Buco. Around the block, its sister spinoff, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, is a more casual trattoria. It features a wine bar and gourmet Italian market, selling local and imported pantry items like Il Buco olive oil, aged pecorino and an assortment of dry, cured meats that are equal parts spicy and fatty.
Hecho en Dumbo. Photo: Daniel Krieger
Additional area restaurants include doughnut and coffee spot Gasoline Alley Coffee, British steak house Saxon + Parole, Mexican eatery Hecho en Dumbo and Bohemian—a secretive 25-seat restaurant that serves high-quality beef sliders and fresh seafood, located behind butcher shop Japan Premium Beef, where you can buy beautifully marbled Wagyu steaks, rib-eye and ground beef.
For those in search of trendy styles, Atrium is a one-stop shop that carries an extensive selection of both men's and women's designer denim and other merchandise—accessories, shoes, sunglasses and the like. Oak, meanwhile, is more avant-garde, specializing in cool and laid-back luxe items from designers like Miguel Peña and Jeremy Laing alongside its own house line. The predominant hue here is, of course, black.
If your tastes are more colorful, visit the campy empire known as Patricia Field, filled with racks of glittery, lacy, feathery and leathery items. A fashion legend in her own right, Field—the fiery redhead responsible for outfitting TV and film characters like Carrie Bradshaw and Miranda Priestly—makes it a point to carry playful garb, makeup and accessories. There's also an in-store salon that provides hair and makeup services. At vintage haven Screaming Mimi's, a shop frequented by Fields, you'll find everything from princesslike tulle gowns and boas to acid-washed jeans and a ton of accessories. The vintage designer and specialty garment penthouse is a must-see too. On the more sophisticated end of the spectrum is Zero + Maria Cornejo, a label known for its streamlined, asymmetrical pieces. Its large space does extra duty as an atelier and showroom.
Menswear brands abound in NoHo as well. From understated basics at Save Khaki and bespoke looks at Louis Purple to the Southern gentlemen styles of Billy Reid, the options seem endless. But nothing stands out quite as much as the John Varvatos flagship, located where CBGB once stood. The store is stocked with the designer's signature collection of slim-fitting shirts, suits and jackets that rock stars like Slash and Paul Weller adore (and Kiss currently models). Varvatos also sells some first-edition vinyl and high-end audio equipment—as if the store's 315 Bowery address doesn't do enough to proclaim the designer's abiding love for rock 'n' roll.
Other Music. Photo: Malcolm Brown
Beyond clothing, shoppers can find goods at a number of sensibly priced, fun and offbeat emporiums. Located in an unassuming sub-street-level space on Bond Street is Dashwood Books, home to an impressive range of photo books, monographs and other coffee-table tomes. For the more aurally inclined, Other Music stocks an array of new and rare LPs. Give yourself enough plenty of time to peruse the merchandise here; the record store carries everything from classic and indie rock to electronic and international music, and features occasional in-store performances.
While Video Games New York sells new systems, the real draw here is the store's vintage consoles and cartridges, including those for Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64 and Atari. But the tech-obsessive who has advanced beyond the 1990s will enjoy a visit to the MakerBot Store. The Brooklyn-based company leads the industry in 3-D printing devices. If buying a device isn't an option, you can still watch a MakerBot in all its glory; classes, demonstrations and workshops occur frequently.
If you're shopping for the home, hit Environment, which carries a collection of furniture made from reclaimed and recycled materials. This showroom—operated by a friendly, hip staff—offers dining room tables, dressers, lounge chairs, beds and more, all designed with a sleekly modern aesthetic.
Photo: Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects
Arts & Entertainment
Visitors can enjoy dance, film, comedy and theatrical performances on a nightly basis. The Public Theater, the neighborhood's cultural mainstay, has been presenting classic theater, musicals and experimental performances at its Astor Place address for nearly 50 years (the organization has been around for 60). This building also houses Joe's Pub, an intimate space that welcomes international and local music acts. Across the street, the Astor Place Theatre hosts the popular Blue Man Group, an enthralling show that combines music, comedy and multimedia components.
At Bowery Electric, you won't find run-of-the-mill radio-friendly acts. The rock bar hosts indie, new wave and folk acts as well as soul and blues performers in a tiny back room. The front bar serves the usual drinks including a dozen beers on tap, cocktails and the signature Bowery Electric mixture of vodka, Midori and lemon juice. Nearby resto-bar Wise Men has a lower-key atmosphere but becomes one of downtown's most intriguing spots late in the evening, when patrons can imbibe to the sounds of downtown DJs.
Another local watering hole that celebrates music and the arts is Bowery Poetry Club. The performance space showcases music of all kinds as well as improv acts and, of course, poetry slams, open-mike nights and a variety of readings. And for those who enjoy the enfant-terrible antics of up-and-coming artists, downtown gallery The Hole is a cornerstone. Founded by former Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson, the art space sports a roster of visual wunderkinds such as Evan Gruzis, Matthew Stone and Jaimie Warren.