mini guide: tompkins square park

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before moving to brooklyn, the far east village was totally my stomping ground. ten years ago, this part of town was a little less gentrified, a little rougher around the edges, and that allowed for smaller shops anda few restaurants to really thrive without worrying about whether they could pay the rent.  that all became more difficult with the renewed interest in the area.

however, now with the economy slump in full swing, that change has helped to preserve a little bit of this grittiness. i have been wandering around the area for the past few months, rediscovering old favorite spots, andfinding new ones. it seems that even since last year, that a few more interesting spots have opened up as other fancier places have closed.   i could easily spend hours in the east village, so the list below is just a teeny tiny sampling of the fun treasures here.  i tried to stay close to tompkinssquare park, with my new favorite playground, but if you venture a bit further east things are even a little more interesting, particularly on the food front.

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food:

yerba buena: we just tried this well regarded latin spot for the first time last weekend, and despite being their earliest and youngest customers ever (i don’t think they see too many 2-year olds as they were shocked when we asked for a plain quesadilla), the food and cocktails were super.  j. loved the miso cod and i loved the guacamole and my yerba buena mojito.  we cannot wait to go back as adults only.  they also recently opened a second branch on perry street.  23 avenue a between houston and 2nd street, manhattan, new york, 212.529.2919.

lula’s sweet apothecary: for the vegan with a sweet tooth, lula’s is a super charming little ice cream soda shop with flavors like maple nut, rum raisin and ginger molasses.  they serve shakes, hot fudge sundaes and egg creams too all with over-the-top friendly, patient service.  516 east 6th street between avenues a and b, manhattan, new york, 646.912.4549.

redhead:  after so much talk, andwith bruni’s final review giving it his blessing, we were super excited to try redhead out last week.  andthere were some highlights. we loved the strawberry salad with sweet sticky almonds and the most delicate cornbread i’ve ever tasted. we didn’t love the surly service or the dried out fried chicken, but i think we need to give it another go. the space and laid back atmosphere are super appealing and it keeps getting accolades so maybe it was just a bum night.  349 east 13th street, manhattan, new york, 212.533.6212.

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shops:

cloak & dagger:  with beautiful fall colors,  well cut silk blouses, tailored skirts, and the cutest shirt dresses as well some lovely coats, this store is really a must visit. and while some of the outfits are on the young side and nothing is cheap (in the $140 to $300 range), there are definitely a few work eligible items that would be worth the splurge (well, maybe not the rompers).  441 east 9th street near avenue a, manhattan, new york, 212.673.0500.

the upper rust:  great antiques mixed in with a few new goodies.  the treasures for me here were the large collection of various glass containers for all sorts of things. cannot wait to indulge sometime soon.  445 east 9th street near 1st avenue, manhattan, new york, 212.533.3953.

autumn skateboard shop:  while i know nothing about skateboards, if i had to recommend somewhere to go for someone obsessed this is the shop. they are a back-to-the-basics skateboard place with a selection of the main brands and some local designers too.  makes you feel very east village (or just old)  just to be in there.  436 east 9th street near avenue a, manhattan, new york, 212.677.6220.

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