A bite-by-bite tour of a charming neighborhood.
One could do far worse than spend an afternoon getting lost in New York City’s West Village, wandering the tree-shaded warren of criss-crossing streets, curved lanes lined with old brick townhouses, boutiques, corner parks, coffee shops, and restaurants. You will discover a corner of New York City that is somehow peaceful yet bustling, tony yet lived-in. It is one of the most quintessential neighborhoods in New York. And, the West Village has some of the city’s best food.
Come with an empty stomach. Here is the hungry person’s travel food guide to where to eat in the West Village.
1. First Bites
Emerge from the subway at Christopher Street (1, 2) or West 4th Street (A, C, E, B, D, F, M). Rosemary’s is a local favorite, a pretty and airy all-day Italian restaurant popular for its brunch (free drink with any entrée!) and reasonably-priced pastas.
Joseph Leonard is an essential brunch pick, and features seasonal American food. But this all-day spot is also worth a stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Waits at this quiet, rustic charmer are common at peak times, so come early or make a reservation.
British ex-pats, Anglophiles, and those who simply enjoy the simple charms of a raisin scone frequent little British grocery store Myers of Keswick. Stock up on Digestive biscuits, PG Tips, Tiptree marmalade. Hope to get there when the flaky potpies emerge warm from the oven, filling the shop with the aroma of butter. The hot Cornish meat pastie tastes like heaven. Assuming heaven is a wad of beef encased in puff pastry.
Nearby High Street on Hudson was an instant hit when it opened a few years ago, an extension of the Philly original. Most popular for its artisan breads, creative and satisfying seasonal breakfast dishes, and rustic-chic vibe, it is easily walkable to the High Line, Whitney Museum, and the Meatpacking district.
Health-conscious beautiful people like The Butcher’s Daughter for its wholesome, super fresh vegetarian fare and diet-sensitive menu. The bright space is filled with plants and the promise of a well-made green juice with adaptogens.
Empellon Taqueria is a cozy, upscale (for tacos) West Village outpost of chef Alex Stupak’s growing mini-empire. With daily specials, seasonally-rotating selections, and a great happy hour, Empellon is a great option for a casual meal or snack.
2. The Women of Grove Street
Grove Street is fast becoming the domain of business (and life) partners Jody Williams and Rita Sodi. That is not a bad thing. On the corner of Grove Street and 7th Avenue, recently-opened Bar Pisellino makes even the most weary tourist feel like a young Sophia Loren on her day off. Grab an espresso or aperitivo and enjoy the polished wood and marble surrounds while journaling or reading a novel.
The cozy, incessantly-popular Buvette serves as an all-hours gathering place for the West Village set and in-the-know locals and tourists alike. Aesthetic details like silver cocktail trays and rustic wood floors matter, and help make this French boîte one of New York City’s most charming spots. Don’t forget to explore the smart French wine list.
Warm, bustling Via Carota serves tasty, seasonal Italian food (think grilled artichokes with aioli, zuppa di vongole, tonnarelli cacio e pepe) that is unpretentious, attractive, and infinitely satisfying. The New Yorker called it New York’s “most perfect restaurant.” The restaurant takes no reservations, but the generous hours (10 a.m. to midnight most days) usually ensure a table, especially at off hours.
3. Tea and Coffee
Té Company, on West 10th Street, hides in the first floor of a brownstone, with only a small sign to indicate the tiny, carefully-curated tea shop within. True tea fan? Reserve a private tasting.
Bosie’s Tea Parlor recently got a spiffy new upgrade when it relocated to a new spot on LaGuardia Place. Bosie’s vibe is casual and unpretentious, and not a delicate, pinkies-out affair. A popular place to pop in with a friend for afternoon tea and a snack.
Hip coffee spot The Elk not only serves up a nice cup of specialty coffee; they also do a nice menu of all-day breakfast and lunch fare. The food hews toward well-balanced, satisfying dishes like steel-cut oats, cage-free egg and avocado toasts, and soba noodle bowls.
You may also enjoy: A 4-Step Guide to Mindful Eating
4. Dinner Out
Sushi Nakazawa is one of New York City’s high temples of sushi, a quiet affair where you pay $150 for the privilege of eating a series of 21 perfect nigiri. Not cheap, but it is extremely good and a nice way to spend a special date night.
Chef and owner Angie Mar has breathed new life into The Beatrice Inn, a traditional chop house that also is not afraid of a little innovation. The Butcher’s Block — dry-aged chateaubriand for the table, anyone? — is a particularly fabulous way to go, but the whole menu will take guests to the point of gut-busting, and wallet-busting, satisfaction.
Creative grill-your-own beef (and only beef) yakitori happens at tiny Takashi, a fun spot for a small group or casual first date. The extensive options can be a little overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to put yourself in the server’s hands when making your picks.
For better or worse, jewel box restaurant Little Owl sits on the ground floor of, sigh, “the Friends building,” which means a steady rotation of selfie-seeking tourists outside. But once inside, guests enjoy a reliably tasty and candlelit meal of casually elegant American fare that leans Italian.
The Riddler is the new champagne bar the West Village didn’t know it always needed. With a breezy, casual elegance and a menu featuring all things classy that pair well with champagne, such as caviar, shellfish, and white truffle risotto. The Riddler is an essential stop for toasting a good day, or washing away a bad one. And FYI, there is an off-menu “chambong” option. Which is about what it sounds like.
Japanese hand roll spot Nami Nori is my current obsession. The space feels equal parts chic and warm, with whitewashed brick and curved, bleached wood counters. Nami Nori’s friendly and unpretentious service is worth a mention, but the temaki stand out the most. Get the California temaki (seriously), spicy crab dynamite, and the furikaké fries. The restaurant offers a great lunch set for $19, but I usually get a few extra hand rolls as well.
Small Italian mainstay L’Artusi knows exactly what I want to eat, like a big bowl of house-made pasta. I am choosing to ignore its recent “Grade Pending” health rating because I like it so much.
5. On the Sweeter Side
Big Gay Ice Cream began as an ice cream truck and has grown into a mini-chain, thanks to its exuberant vibe and great ice cream. The ice cream sandwiches, soft serves, and shakes will make anyone’s day.
Mah Ze Dahr is a new/classic bake shop serving well-made cakes, pies, brownies, pastries, and cookies.
Go to Dominique Ansel Kitchen. The eponymous chef (and cronut inventor) prepares many desserts to order — yep — and the level of creativity and pure deliciousness is a world apart. Plus, the kitchen serves some good savory dishes.
Where is your favorite spot in the West Village? Share in the comments, below.
– Lisa Kolb Ruland