Previously the home of Nice Guy Eddie’s, Boulton and Watt is one of the latest additions to the bar scene in the East Village. Several of the young people on the Manhattan Sideways team needed a place to host a casual after-hours business meeting, so they decided to kick things off by going back to 1st Street. They were pleased to find an eclectic array of specialty cocktails on the menu (including a new favorite, the Mexican Revolver) along with several wines and beers. They did not originally intend to dive into the food menu, but as they sat and held their meeting over drinks, a waiter came by and brought them a complimentary Scotch Egg! "Fried and delicious, " was how they described it - the perfect addition to their first time experience at this fun and energetic establishment. I have no doubt that they will become frequent visitors in the future.
Transformed from a building lot to a beautiful space to showcase art, the First Street Garden Art Park adds culture to 1st street. Beginning in the spring of 2012, a variety of cultural events have taken place in this art park which, in 2011, was home to the first BMW/Guggenheim project. There are scheduled weekend programs showcasing music, dance and collaborative art for adults and children. Stop by anytime and see the newly unveiled artwork constantly changing.
A dainty shop located on Extra Place - that little side street off of 1st Street where the Ramones photographed an Album Cover - Nalata Nalata features high quality décor sourced mainly from Japan. In the same way that Manhattan Sideways shares the stories of businesses on the sidestreets of Manhattan, Nalata Nalata, as their website explains, “is a retail experience founded on promoting awareness of the people and stories behind our curated lifestyle products. ”On my first visit to Nalata Nalata, I spoke with Angelique J. V. Chmielewski, who co-founded the business with her husband, Stevenson S. J. Aung. Originally from Alberta, Canada, Angelique came to New York to study fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology while Stevenson, her boyfriend at the time, fulfilled his masters in industrial design at the Pratt Institute. Nalata Nalata began as a website beautifully crafted to feature sections like Backstory, with write-ups on the brands behind the pieces, and Journal, detailing the journey and artistic endeavors through captioned photographs. In late 2013, Nalata Nalata opened in Extra Place as a pop-up store and, after falling in love with the spot, the owners decided to make it a permanent stay. Though functional in a traditional way, each product in the store contains intrinsic artistic and narrative values, many sourced from “multigenerational craftsmen who continue to refine their skill. ” Angelique first directed me to the porcelain Ju-Bakos, Japanese stacking boxes, which are traditionally used for food on special occasions. Representative of multilayered happiness, each box was crafted with a different glaze. Later, Angelique held up a glass terrarium box designed by 1012 Terra, a company based in Chiba, Japan that is focused on celebrating plant life. In the box was a dried flower reminiscent of the rose in Beauty and the Beast. “In order to preserve a flower, ” she explained, “pin it in the box and flip it upside-down. When it has completely dried out, it will be straight when turned upright. ”Though devoted to sharing the works of others, Nalata Nalata is cemented by the artistry of Angelique and Stevenson. From the custom-made cabinets to the slab roof ceiling, the two redesigned the entire interior of the store in the months before its opening, with the help of some additional hands. The carefully selected products perfectly complement the spare, bright space. The store's website also reveals a great deal of artistry, with each piece beautifully photographed, set to a white background, and matched with a whimsical remark and a few lines about its origins, making online shopping more homey and intimate. The wool blankets exclaim, “Cool nights, brisk mornings, frigid afternoons. Whatever weather the day may bring I’m a tried-and-true, dyed-in-the-wool cozy friend… Always by one’s side to provide warmth and comfort. ”Nalata Nalata is also working on their own line of products. One recent addition, the denim Ojami, bridges Japanese traditions and contemporary American design. Handmade in Kyoto, the Ojami are versatile pillows. Angelique and Stevenson enjoy using them as seats to “live low, ” but they also function as throw pillows. In the future, the couple hopes to get into more denim and hardware products, while continuing to curate objects they appreciate artistically and sentimentally. For now, Angelique says, “We are just happy to be here. ”
René Henricks, a longtime inhabitant of the East Village, feels fortunate to have spent decades being able to walk to work. After spending time as a bartender at a Latin American restaurant on East 1st Street, she eventually took over the small space across the way to give her something to do between shifts. The kiosk had undergone many transformations since the 1930s, first as a shoeshine stand, then a newspaper stall, a flower shop, and even a front for a marijuana dealer, before it became Juicy Lucy Juice Bar. Three years later, René opened a second location on the avenue to attract more customers. All of the drinks and açaí bowls are made in small batches on the spot using produce that is delivered daily. “You can’t get fresher juice anywhere else unless you make it yourself, ” René asserted. As such, her regulars continue to return for both the delicious juices and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere that pervades Juicy Lucy. “I have been lucky to watch the progression of families here. ” The kiosk holds sentimental value for many who are accustomed to visiting Juicy Lucy or passing by its corner spot every day. “The East Village has afforded me a nice lifestyle. I’m really grateful to it. ”
St. Joseph House on East 1st Street and Maryhouse on East 3rd Street are sobering remnants of the old East Village. Staten Island resident Dorothy Day was known as a Catholic social activist and journalist. Most notably, she co-founded the Catholic Worker movement — which includes a newspaper that continues to publish new issues today — and two “houses of hospitality. ” She did not stop there, as she established more of these houses for the poor throughout the country and around the world. In addition to providing food for the hungry with a soup line that operates five days a week, both houses are home to two dozen men and women. In recognition of Dorothy Day’s remarkable life of service, she was made a “servant of God” by the Catholic Church in 2000. Her philanthropic legacy lives on here in the East Village through St. Joseph House, Maryhouse, and the newspaper she edited until her death in 1980. And, in 2022, a new Staten Island ferry will be christened with Dorothy Day’s name.
A plaque placed at No. 50 commemorates the anarchist, Justus H. Schwab, who lived upstairs above the saloon he opened in the later part of the 1800′s and ran until his death in 1900. One of his obituaries reads: “Even this once so knotty figure has the axe of the All-conqueror felled. Flown is the thunder voice of former days, quenched is the fire in the imperial eye. With muffled step, Death stole into the well-known homestead at 50 East First Street - Justus H. Schwab at 6: 10 o’clock last night, and at the age of fifty-three, breathed his last. ” This lively saloon attracted the likes of Emma Goldman and many other radicals of the time.
Blue Ribbon was off to a terrific start when I visited the first weekend after it opened in 2013. There was good music and a lively crowd enjoying the offerings in this brightly lit space with large picture windows. The manager stopped by our table and remarked that the “young cool people” frequenting Blue Ribbon seemed to have perpetual smiles on their faces as they indulged themselves at the tables furnished with an array of honeys (mustard, wildflower, and chipotle) and habanero hot sauces. Whether people are munching on the menu staple of crisp-skinned moist chicken breast or the “chicken on the edge” choice of Beak to Butt (crispy necks and backs with hot sauce and pickled peppers), the chicken is cooked to perfection. Any chicken dish paired with a side of potato wedges dusted with chilli powder certainly makes for an excellent quick meal – and all of this can be washed down with a beer. The restaurant is a venture of the Bromberg brothers who have been exciting New Yorkers with their excellent food since 1992. This is their first “fast food” endeavor, and it appears to already be flying high.
I was met by an eclectic, interesting selection of decorations as I entered Hairrari. There was everything from taxidermy to modern art, making it homey and welcoming in a very quirky way. Andy and Marcel, two of the employees, told me that the owner, Magdalena, does all the decorating herself. She picks up art and objects from anywhere and everywhere, including city antique stores and flea markets. “She doesn’t really plan anything, ” Andy said with appreciation, "She just picks up random stuff. " The two hairdressers clearly have a lot of respect for their employer, who is the sole owner both of the three Hairrari salons scattered throughout the city and the company “Manetamed. ” “It’s mom and pop-ish, ” they said. Madga is Polish-American, having moved to the United States when she was very young. She opened the first Hairrari in Brooklyn in 2012, and has since come out with her own brand of beard oil. I asked Andy and Marcel what it was like working in a neighborhood with so many hair salons and barbershops. Andy said that even though sometimes you get “salons next to salons” in the East Village, they still all manage to fill a niche and become busy around 5pm. Marcel added that their clientele travels not only from every part of the city, but also as far away as France and Germany. “It’s just everyone, ” Andy stated, including local professionals and students. Though they get a pretty even split between men and women, Andy pointed out that most of the people who stop in could be defined as “artistic. ” Marcel nodded and mentioned that they had seen a lot of beards. He told a story of how one gentleman stopped by with a beard down to his waist, asking to have it chopped off. Magda stiffened the entire beard using hairspray and then cut it off so it kept its shape, like a hair sculpture.