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Meet 18th Street

To appreciate an authentic slice of 18th Street, there are two historic places well worth a visit – and it happens that they are both old-fashioned saloons. Pete’s Tavern, a “classic New York” drinking establishment, dates back to the Civil War. To understand the history, just observe the antique furnishings, taste their own 1864 ale, and gaze up at the walls where hundreds of photographs of politicians, actors, writers, sports stars, and members of the community span the decades. And a short distance away, heading west, turn off the cellphone, take a seat at the bar, and look up at the sixteen-foot-high tin ceiling and tarnished mirror at Old Town Bar, and drink in its history, too.

“Stuy Town” caps off 18th at the East River. The large private residential development of red brick apartment buildings stretches eighty square acres from First Avenue to Avenue C, and 14th to 23rd Street. Going west to the Hudson River is a staircase up to the High Line, and across the way sits Chelsea Piers, which began as a hub for freight and passenger vessels in 1910. It was nearly demolished in the eighties, but was saved and is in operation today as an amazing sports complex.

There has not been a street I have walked that did not have wondrous choices for food, but somehow on 18th, I managed to indulge myself over and over again with incredible meals. There are multiple Italian restaurants, including Paul & Jimmy’s and Posto Thin Crust Pizza. One of my favorite places to lunch in Manhattan is City Bakery. The list continues on to include: Japanese, Ootoya; Mexican, Rosa Mexicano and Javelina; Persian, Taste of Persia; and Venezuelan, El Cocotero. American fine dining is also typified by renowned chef Jean George Vongerichten’s equally renowned restaurant, ABC Kitchen. For a post-meal treat, a fine place for specialty chocolates is Cocoa. Equally delicious are the cakes and cookies at City Cakes.

When I was not eating, I did take note that 18th Street is well-represented in the furniture and home decor categories. There are stores that house antiques and those that specialize in modern day pieces. There are places to find an array of seating, convertible sofas, lighting, flooring, and kitchen and bath options, from the beautiful storefront of Homenature to the fun and practical array at Sit Down New York.

Both the guys and girls on the Manhattan Sideways team were wowed by the family run Rothman’s, a men’s clothing store that began as a pushcart business on the Lower East Side in 1926. As Esteban, our photographer, so aptly put it, “Rothman’s has the feel of a Soho boutique without the attitude.” The oldest independent children’s bookstore, Books of Wonder (be sure to watch our video), has had a presence in this area for decades as has Authentiques, a hidden gem between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, that is chock full of collectibles. Each time I entered Academy Records, I was astonished by how many people I found passionately perusing the classical collections of records and CDs. It was equally fascinating to learn that the charming Yoshimitsu Yamada has been teaching a form of martial arts at the Aikido School, for over fifty years, upstairs on 18th.

To complement my walk and discoveries of the specialty shops and restaurants, I always stop to admire the residences that have their own strong history. From No. 330 to 142 East 18th there is a string of historic landmark late-1800s Greek Revival and Italianate houses complete with handsome brick fronts and elegant metal work. They are examples of some of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood and are set back from the street, each featuring its own front yard, walk-up porch, and iron railings.

To the West, a hundred years ago, the block between Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue was once home to horse stables and now remains as a row of identical two-story buildings. Henry Holt, one of the oldest American publishing houses (1866) still maintains offices on 18th. Throughout Robert Frosts’ life, perhaps the most highly regarded American poet of the twentieth century, Holt was his exclusive publisher. I am proud to say that they published my mom’s newest book, Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost in 2014. Natalie Bober is an awarding-winning young adult biographer. This is her first picture book.

Ladies Mile Historic District begins on 18th Street and continues up to 24th Street. This is a landmarked area that is bordered by Park Avenue South to the east and Sixth Avenue to the west, and commemorates many of the now famous department stores that had their original homes in this area, dating back to the Civil War. They include B. Altman, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman and others that no longer exist, but conjure up fond memories for many of us – mine would be Best & Co.

From one end to the other, 18th Street is peppered with history, visible and invisible, and has an impressive contingent of colorful shops, restaurants, and venerable bars that beg to be discovered.

Read more about every place on 18th Street!