Former tenements on MacDougal Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
The tone for the tour was set at our meeting location, Monte’s Trattoria. The entrance, below a vintage neon sign, led to the basement of the 3-bay wide brick apartment building. The low-ceilinged space was cramped yet cozy. The men’s bathroom was about the size of an airplane’s. Minimalist chairs and tables were arranged to allow just enough passing room for the staff–men nearing retirement age who spoke with Italian accents. The lighting along the walls was dim, and the white table clothes and napkins provided a hint of urbanity. Framed paintings and photos of Italy hung on the wall.
Monte’s, established in 1918, is one of approximately seven stops on the Foods of New York Tours‘ foray in Central Greenwich Village. Each of the past two years at Christmastime, my gracious in-laws have taken us on one. We did the Original Greenwich Village Tour in 2012 year, and–despite the frigid December weather–were so impressed, we went again in December.
New York City is all about the newest trends, so it’s easy for some of its more traditional places to fall to the wayside. The Foods of New York Tours showcase dining spots that don’t necessarily sell cronuts, Ramen burgers, or kale smoothies. The jaunts also double as history and architectural walking tours. Like Monte’s, most of the eateries have been in the neighborhood for decades, and almost all are located in old spaces that retain a lot of historic fabric. Along the way, our excellent guide, Barri, provided historical context and pointed out locales important to the neighborhood’s history, such as the 1960s home of Bob Dylan, Beat Generation hangouts, and the hanging tree in Washington Square Park.
At $52, the tour may seem expensive , but the quality and quantity of food, combined with the historic insight into the surroundings, made it worthwhile.
Once outside of Monte’s, we walked past this sign to mark the location of the famed San Remo Cafe.
Greenwich Village’s take on Rainbow Row. The burnt red double row house was owned by Bob Dylan in the 1960s.
Caffe Dante at 79 MacDougal Street has been around since 1915. The coffeehouse was a hangout for the Beat Generation in the 1950s and the folk singers of the 1960s. It has since closed temporarily as it transitions to a restaurant. We tasted a sandwich there.
Masala Times, a casual Indian restaurant at 194 Bleeker Street, provided us with a wrap and a yogurty drink. It was the best food on the tour.
This weathered doorway next to Masala Times has a Cold War remnant above the door.
Porto Rico Importing has existed since 1907 and been in the same family since 1958.
Crooked Minetta Street follows the course of a stream that still flows beneath it. The street was developed in the 1840s.
Cafe Wha? has hosted everyone from the Velvet Underground to Kool and Gang. It also was the scene of Bob Dylan’s first New York City club performance.
We traveled back to Monte’s, our meeting spot, for a sit-down pasta tasting.
This basement was the Gaslight Cafe, a legendary poetry and folk club from 1958 to 1971. Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Bill Cosby, and Bruce Springsteen all graced the stage. It was re-created in the movie “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
The three rowhouses at 127-131 MacDougal Street were built in 1829. Sources say they were built by Vice President Aaron Burr, but that is incorrect.
Stanford White designed the Washington Square Park Arch, and it was dedicated in 1895. The arch is the centerpiece of the Washington Square Park, which was once a potter’s cemetery.
We went inside to try a chicken and rice dish at Negril, a Caribbean-themed restaurant at 70 W. 3rd Street.
The Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company at 208 Sullivan St. is housed in a former mob hangout, the Triangle Civic Improvement Association. My, how the neighborhood has changed.
It has lovely terrazzo floors.
I believe the mural on the wall is from the 1950s, before it was a Mafia hangout.
Lookout in a door inside the shop.
Our last stop was in Soho at Once Upon a Tart, a French bakery at 135 Sullivan Street.
For outstanding macaroons.
Until next year.