A Long Weekend in NYC's East Village [with a Toddler]
There are so many fond memories I have with my husband from our time of dating, engagement, and marriage, spent in New York City. After relocating to suburban Northern Virginia, we decided it was time to revisit our favorite place and immerse ourselves in The East Village for a long weekend.
For lodging, we knew we wanted to stay in an apartment with a kitchen so we could save money on dining out and have a more authentic experience of the city, so we booked a cute studio on Airbnb, which had a fire escape view that was very New York.
For the first day of our trip, we wanted to explore on foot, buy groceries, and get a feel for the area. We walked from Tompkins Square Park to Whole Foods in Union Square, up 1st Ave and across 14th St. The upstairs seating area in Whole Foods has an incredible view of Union Square and the Empire State Building that shouldn't be missed. It was a little surreal pushing a stroller in the neighborhood where I used to work 60-70 hour weeks, with no thought of when I would have enough stability to become a mom. As I gazed at the buildings, I thanked God for all of it: the work, the people I connected with while I was there, the trials, and everything that brought me to the exact moment I was in.
Next, we explored the lower part of 5th Avenue nearby, and window-shopped from 14th St. to the Flatiron Building near Madison Square Park. With a hungry toddler in the stroller and the sunset looming, we headed back to our apartment to make dinner plans.
We were hoping to find grass-fed beef and organic vegetables to eat (as fits our Paleo/ Primal/ Autoimmune Paleo diet), and stumbled upon Whitman's. The cozy restaurant is has a take-out counter, and surprisingly cozy seating area one flight downstairs. We ordered Upstate burgers with sweet potato fries, and Chicken on Greens for our little hungry one. The staff happily accommodated our no-bread policy, and recommended Crack Kale on the side. The burgers were super juicy and seasoned well. The kale was crazy good, with every mouthful combining the zingy bite of lemon and chili, alongside the bittersweet Pecorino cheese-- a treat for sure. We loved the seasoning on the fries, as they were smokey and perfectly salted.
Our apartment had a fire escape big enough for 2 chairs, so we drank coffee outside chatting before our daughter woke up and it was very romantic-- a true New York moment I'll treasure.
That day we planned to visit friends in Brooklyn, DUMBO to be exact. We took the F train downtown to York St. for coffees at AlMar, then walked to Recess, an indoor play gym for little ones. Not only was Recess super clean, but it had toys and play structures that our daughter loved exploring with her little friend. We bounced, went down the little slides, played with magnets, read books, and she giggled nearly the entire time. Afterwards, we headed to One Girl Cookies for an afternoon treat, and yes, more caffeine. Serendipitously, 2 of the featured cookies were coincidentally named after our girls! It was so sweet, both figuratively and literally. No trip to DUMBO is complete without walking down to the water to see Manhattan across the way, while marveling at Jane's Carousel. Everything about that day was quintessential Brooklyn, and the friends that toured with us had delicately planned every detail. We left Brooklyn cold-nosed and warm-hearted.
Soho was calling, so on Day 3, we roamed the picturesque streets of shops and mini cafes, filling ourselves with street culture inspiration-- I mentally took pictures of so many great outfits. My husband and I turned a corner from Mulberry St. to Mott St. and spotted Greecologies' sign for Butter Coffee, and he nearly jumped for joy. The cafe was bright, airy, and modern; a perfect pit-stop to rest our legs, refuel with rich coffee among some stylish, young New Yorkers, and plot the rest of our day. They had also had homemade grass-fed yogurt, and light breakfast and lunch options like chia seed pudding and spanakopita (Greek spinach pie). This spot should not be missed!
On the last day of our trip we had little time to waste, so we found a mass to attend at an Italian church on Carmine Street, Our Lady of Pompeii. The mass was full of young families, all speaking Italian during the prayers and responses, and I was catapulted back to the summer I spent abroad in Rome. This little pocket of New York's West Village had the perfect mix of NY grit and other-worldly wonder. After mass, the Italians chit-chatted on the steps with lively hand gestures and cheek kisses. We ducked into the cafe adjacent to the church, Grom, for a little espresso before choosing where to brunch, because brunching is a verb in New York.
Little did we know, the cute, trendy spots filled up well before the mass was over, so we lucked out of trying Jack's Wife Freda. While we googled a few other locations to eat, we stopped into House of Oldies, a record store with an owner as cool as the records themselves. His gruff New York accent and worn Yankees hat were begging for a quick history of the shop. He proudly stated it was a labor of love, stocking records to suit every taste from Aretha to Fleetwood Mac, and that he had been there for 40 years. If I owned a record player, I think I would have been his new favorite customer.
After decided to get take out from Ellary's Greens [buckwheat pancakes and a kale salad!], we drove down to the water to take in the view of the Freedom Tower before heading home to Virginia.
One of my friends told me that I'm the only one she knows who would take a vacation to Manhattan, and though that might be the case, it was the most impactful and inspirational trip we have had there to date. The East Village is not exactly known as a family-friendly neighborhood, but we found it suited us well. The location allowed us to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go from the West Side High Line park to the East River and everything in between. We found the local restaurants accomodated our dietary needs, so after-dinner boredom was cured with a quick walk down to Brodo for a cup of warm, homemade bone broth, while we strolled St. Mark's Place, and our sweet tooth was cured with dairy-free coconut milk ice cream from DF Mavens. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's were just blocks away, and there was ample opportunity for people-watching with the buzz of the Village.
We carried our girl most of the time in the Ergo, leaving the stroller in the car, so we could navigate more easily and keep her close, as she wasn't completely convinced we had to hold hands the entire time. I absolutely would take a long weekend there again, though I want to pretend I live in the West Village next time around.