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Meet 17th Street

Every shop and restaurant is somehow tucked seamlessly in with the stunning brownstones from the east in Gramercy, through the Flatiron, and west into Chelsea, making walking 17th Street a wonderland of exploration. In fact, the street itself becomes a stage at Tenth Avenue, where visitors to the High Line sit in a makeshift theater and anonymously view all who walk past on 17th Street through a large picture window.

In keeping with every other street, 17th has its share of historic landmarks, interesting sightings, and beautiful brownstones and buildings that date back two centuries. Our favorite story is one that involves author Washington Irving. We discovered a plaque that would lead one to believe that he lived along east 17th, but befitting his own writing, it appears that this is, actually, legend. Yes, Irving Place, which surrounds 17th, is named for him. It seems, however, that only his nephew, Edgar Irving, resided on the street. It was Samuel Ruggles, a New York politician, who donated a parcel of his land in 1831 to be named Irving Place, in honor of his friend Washington Irving.

The entrance to one of the city’s most heralded markets is on 17th at Union Square. The Greenmarket has been a destination of mine for many years. I have watched the market grow over the decades from having just a few vendors to being the largest of its kind in the city. Depending on the season, there is an incredible selection of artisanal cheeses, fruits, vegetables, breads, and meats with many samples out for tasting. Never a disappointment, but frustrating because I want to purchase so much more than I can possibly continue walking with…or eat, for that matter. Therefore, it is always a great place for me to end my walking tour on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays.

There is no doubt that the Greenmarket sets the tone for 17th, as there are a multitude of food-related spots within a short distance, and so many business owners reference the market when I ask them why they chose their particular location. There are dozens of top notch restaurants to choose from when walking across this magical street with one more outstanding than the next. The House is situated in a romantic three-story brownstone and has a superb menu. Aldea has a breathtaking venue where one can dine on Portuguese food. I fell in love with Da Umberto as soon as I entered, but knew for certain that it was a treasure when I sampled their Tuscan offerings.

And this is only a small sampling of what awaits the adventurous foodie on 17th. A must-stop, however, is Haven’s Kitchen where Alison Schneider offers cooking classes, sustainable food options, and a country-chic event space in her multi-level carriage house. Another highlight is Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit, a healthy and delicious alternative to frozen yoghurt. And of course, it is no coincidence that several celebrity chefs have chosen to open their culinary havens on 17th, where they have easy access to the Greenmarket. For example, at Bar Jamon, Mario Batali has tried his hand at Spanish food.

Each street that I have documented thus far has had its fair share of bars, but 17th has numerous standouts. Lillie’s is decorated in elaborate Victorian Style, Rye House offers a lengthy menu of whiskey options, and Raines, hidden behind a nondescript entryway, is known for its memorable cocktails.

17th is also a wonderful side street for those looking to feast their eyes. It is home to Rubin Museum of Art, which houses a vast collection of Asian art, and Beads of Paradise, where experts and novices alike go to learn and appreciate the complex art of bead making. Original 19th and 20th century posters line the walls at Rennert’s Gallery, and Shareen, an indie vintage and bridal salon, is a must for anyone with an interest in fashion. Patty Tobin, whose boutique is filled with stunning designs for necklaces and other unique pieces of jewelry, also brings energy to her stretch of 17th.

The two small hotels on this street should not be overlooked. All the way east is the charming Hotel 17, housed in a beautiful one-hundred-year-old building, and on the west side, Chelsea Inn offers a small number of rooms in a nineteenth century house. Both are perfect spots to spend a night or two while exploring all that there is to do on the side streets of Manhattan.

For wanderers hoping to catch some excitement and commotion near Union Square, but then wanting to retreat into a bit of peace, 17th Street presents an intriguing combination of the two.

Read more about every place on 17th Street!