Taking a Food Tour is my new favorite thing to do when traveling. I skip the double decker bus and sign up for a walking tour, where participants meander and sample foods while learning about the area.
Since I’ve always been curious about the West Village in NYC, a food tour of that neighborhood seemed to be a good idea….off I happily strolled on a Sidewalks of New York tour on a stunning November day.
Here are some highlights.
Greenwich Village is north of the original New York settlement now the financial district. It was settled with immigrants, mostly Italians. At one time this was quite a center for the Mob.
The Italian tradition continues with lots of Italian markets and plenty of pizza. Our guide, Robert, pointed out John’s Pizza, famous since you have to buy a whole pizza, not just a slice. The other pizza of note is Artichoke Pizza—with a secret recipe. We tried that one, standing on the sidewalk. Yummy but very rich.
We learned to notice the signs. The brown ones mean that the area is protected historically….. can’t change the building facades.
The West Village—part of Greenwich Village— was just that….a village….that grew organically. Streets originated as cow paths or stream beds, winding around trees and rocks. Now they just seem random. When the city planners imposed the grid system Manhattan, they didn’t tear down these streets, but left them resulting with weird spots like 4th street crossing 14th and Waverly and Waverly . It is charming, although confusing. A bit of a “you can’t get there from here” kind of feeling.
Some signs are funny. Like this one naming the Irving House saying the Washing Irving Jr lived there. Like, who was that? He wasn’t the famous writer…….. our guide said he thought they made it up. He said there’s an Aaron Burr house. Mr. Burr died in 1802 and the house was built in 1830. Figure that one out. And this one saying, nothing happened here.
I particularly got a kick out of this very very narrow house—a 9 foot wide — where Edna St. Vincent Millay lived. It recently sold for 3.1 million dollars. She was a famous poet in her day and known for rather creative living.
I learned that the height of the windows in the homes were designed so people could see in them as they rode in carriages. Evidently the desire to be gawked at and show off by the rich and famous influenced the architecture.
We probably should talk about food. My favorite stop on the tour was Sweet Revenge—a wine and cupcake bar. The menu actually has wine and cupcake pairings.
And I got a kick out of seeing Chumley’s….an unmarked building that was once a very famous speakeasy. Like really famous. It was the venue for F.Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda’s wedding and tons of other significant events over the years. Orson Wells once had a $1500 bar bill, when beer cost 5 cents a glass.
Recently it was reopened after a ten year closure. I’m putting it on my “to visit’ list. I was sorry it wasn’t on the food tour.
We stopped at Washington Square Park on our stroll around the Village—once a potters field—which means that there are probably thousands of bones still buried here. It was interesting to hear that in 1917, some inebriated artists climbed to the top of the arch and declared the “Republic of Greenwich Village.”
The idea of succeeding from the union didn’t fly, but they had a really good time. Now NYU buildings surround the park so it is filled with students, tourists and village people enjoying being outside. It’s a place to play chess, enjoy music, savor a gorgeous day and marvel at the weirdness of the bird man.