Must-See East Village
by nycgo.com staff, 03/03/2015
Search and Destroy. Photo: Kate Glicksberg
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St. Marks Place
Spanning three blocks of East 8th Street (from Astor Place to Tompkins Square Park), St. Marks Place is the face of the East Village. Over the years the strip has been closely tied with hippies, beatniks, punks and all other manner of countercultural characters. Today, casual Asian eateries and the odd chain shop line up side by side with bohemian boutiques and scattered remnants of the neighborhood's past. Ramen Setagaya serves filling noodles in a shoyu (soy sauce) broth, and Xi’an Famous Foods doles out spicy fare from China’s Shaanxi Province, just doors from historic tenements (like the ones at 96 and 98 St. Marks Place—used for the cover of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti) and sidewalk stands selling body jewelry.
Writer Ada Calhoun, who grew up on the block and wrote about the neighborhood in the recently published book St. Marks is Dead, says the street is always evolving but remains an exciting place. "You can still get an egg cream at Gem Spa, the way it was made in 1940," she says. Some things never change.
To wit, still standing are the St. Marks Hotel, a former flophouse where punk musician GG Allin lived, and the long-running Theatre 80. The theater is adjoined with absinthe specialist William Barnacle Tavern, which occupies the digs of a Prohibition-era speakeasy. At Search and Destroy, a punk-clothing emporium, everything on offer is secondhand and slightly bizarre—from fetish gear and vintage apparel to pop-culture ephemera from decades past. —CP