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The Silk Route - World Travel: Flatiron Building, New York City, New York, USA
americas asia pacific africa & middle east europe

USA: New York City - Greenwich Village, High Line, Chinatown, Flatiron
September 2015

Greenwich Village The High Line Chinatown The Flatiron Building
USA NYC Chinatown

 

Great food and culture tours in Greenwich Village and Chinatown, a stroll along the green High Line and finally made it to the beautiful Flatiron Building.

 

Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village


Greenwich Village
Greenwich VillageAbingdon Square and statue of a "doughboy".
Greenwich Village

 

Greenwich Village - or simply The Village - is a unique neighbourhood in Manhattan. On the one hand it has a real small town feel with quiet tree-lined streets, smart brick townhouses, small shady parks and low-rise buildings; on the other it will be forever associated with a Bohemian lifestyle and many different kinds of music.

We were strolling through the area known as the West Village one Sunday morning and came to small leafy Abingdon Square with a statue dedicated to the memory of the neighbourhood servicemen who fought in the First World War. The figure is that of a foot soldier nicknamed a "doughboy".

It was hot and I sat on a shaded bench while Andrew took photos. I fell  into conversation with a really nice man reading a book, a long-time resident of the Village. He knew a great deal about the neighbourhood and said that residents were determined that it should retain its character as much as possible. Hence new builds are restricted in size and height and planning is strictly controlled.

One hot and sunny morning we took a "Foods of New York Tour - The Heart of the Village"1 - a food tasting and cultural tour focussing on the music legends who had connections here.

Greenwich Village
Grilled cheese and brisket sandwiches.
Greenwich Village

Bob Dylan lived in the deep red house in the 1960s until compelled to leave by a persistent 'fan' who kept bringing people to see the building and going through his trash!

We began with excellent grilled cheese and brisket sandwiches at Melt Kraft.

Greenwich Village
Since 1915 Caffe Dante on MacDougal street has welcomed residents, famous and not so famous, as well as visitors. A taste of home for the many Italian immigrants who made up most of the population of this neighbourhood at that time.

 

Greenwich Village

 

Greenwich Village
Masala Times

Our next food stop was Masala Times on Bleecker Street for fabulous eggy curry wraps and absolutely gorgeous mango lassi. The interior is highly amusing, decorated with Hollywood and Bollywood film clichés.

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Bleecker Street
Greenwich Village
Porto Rico Importing Company

 

 

 

Also on Bleecker Street is the Porto Rico Importing Company, established in 1907 and selling a huge range of coffees and teas. You can just imagine the wonderful smell!

 

Greenwich Village
Porto Rico Importing Company
Greenwich Village

 

 

Our next stop was Monte's Trattoria on MacDougal Street where we had good pasta but in rather a plain tomato sauce.

 

Greenwich Village
Pasta at Monte's.

In this heart of the Village there are many famous spots including Caffe Reggio which claims to be the first in the country to serve cappuccino and was a favoured haunt of prominent members of the Beat Generation including Kerouac and Ginsburg.

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village

On the same street is another favourite Beat hangout, Cafe Wha?,2 where many famous musicians played when they were unknown - Bob Dylan played his first gig in the city here. The Velvet Underground, Woodie Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen all played here when they were starting out.

It was also at Cafe Wha? that Jimi Hendrix, playing with his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, was seen by the Animals bassist Chas Chandler who was so impressed he convinced Hendrix to come to England - and the rest is history!

On the way we had pizza at Artichoke Pizza -  a great Margherita pizza, though they'd run out of fresh basil.

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village

 

Greenwich Village

 

Right next door to Artichoke Pizza is Minetta Tavern, another veteran MacDougal Street establishment, once known as the Black Rabbit3 and serving modest meals it is now a fine steak house.

Greenwich Village
Early 19th century Federal style rowhouses on Macdougal St.

Yet another is what was once the Gaslight Cafe at 116 MacDougal. Here Beat poets and then musicians performed. After complaints about the noise level of applause (I guess it was all unamplified acoustic music at the time) audiences took to snapping their fingers instead - an iconic symbol of the Beat Generation.

A short stroll to Washington Square Park. We had been early for the tour and had spent a bit of time here already, innocently sitting down at a chess table to play a game. We hadn't realised that these were personal tables and you had to pay!

Greenwich Village
Washington Square Park
Anyone for chess - at a price!

The park was one of David Bowie's favourite places in the city; he lived a few blocks south on Lafayette Street.

Greenwich Village
Stanford White Arch in Washington Square Park.

 




Greenwich Village
Art Deco apartment block One Fifth Avenue.
Greenwich Village
One of the statues of Washington on the arch.
Greenwich Village
Townhouses on Washington Square North.


Greenwich Village

Once a cemetery, where thousands of bodies remain buried, and a place for public executions, now people from all walks of life stroll or relax on the benches, read or listen to musicians play.

Around the edges of the park are some fine townhouses - probably worth several tens of million dollars each!

Stanford White Arch in the park was built to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Washington's inauguration.

Greenwich Village
Another famous jazz venue, now no more.

We had empanadas at Cuba Restaurant and Rum Bar but weren't too keen. They were rather dry, we much prefer the Peruvian and Bolivian versions which are much more succulent - very messy to eat but really good!

 

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company
The mural dates from the 1950s or 60s.
Greenwich Village
Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company
Original door with lookout from the mafia social club.

 

 

Our penultimate stop was Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company. This place used to be a mafia hangout not so very long ago and still has original artefacts from that time.4

In the 1980s and 90s the mafia Triangle Civic Association Social Club met here and mob boss Vincente "Chin" Gigante's conducted business.

Greenwich Village
Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company
Original sign from the Mafia social club that used to be here, and whisky bottles pulled out of the wall.

After refreshing tea we moved on to our final stop, the Francois Payard Bakery for salted caramel macaroons.

Greenwich Village
Francois Payard Bakery

At three and a half hours this is a long tour but for variety of food and in-depth description of the neighbourhood and history I doubt it can be beaten - highly recommended.

 

 

The High Line

The High Line
The southern end of the High Line at Gansvoort and Washington.

The High Line5 is a brilliant urban renewal project which took a set of disused elevated freight railway tracks and converted them into a traffic-free green space. It runs through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea to the west of Greenwich Village and has been a huge success, providing a place for relaxation and  gentle exercise.

The High Line
Traces of the old Meatpacking District can still be seen from the south end of the High Line; beyond is the Hudson River.

There are numerous access points, not all with elevators, the southern entrance is at Gansvoort and Washington Streets in the Meatpacking District. We started here on a very hot Sunday when quite a few others had the same idea!

The High Line

 

The High Line

 

The planting was designed by Pete Oudolf so is soft and naturalistic.


The High Line
Inside Chelsea Market.

The High Line stretches north through Chelsea. At Chelsea Market, between W 15th and 16th Sts. there are a large number of places to eat. We had a very good lunch in Friedman's - excellent grilled salmon salad, burger and home-made lemonade.

The High Line
Inside Chelsea Market.
The High Line
The IAC building on the corner of W 18th and 11th, the first building in the city designed by Frank Gehry.
The High Line
W 23rd from the High Line.
The High Line
Rails from the original train tracks.
The High Line
The High Line
The Empire Diner

 

After lunch we continued strolling north, coming down off the High Line to seek out the fabulous Art Deco Empire Diner on West 22nd and 10th.

The High Line
The Empire Diner

We went inside and the interior is just beautiful, full of classic Art Deco detail.

The High Line
The Empire Diner
The High Line
The High Line
Following the line of W 30th below.
The High Line
Hudson Yards is the site of major redevelopment.

 

The High Line

 

 

 

At W 30th the High Line turns west to follow the line of the street below. We walked as far as it was possible to go but work was being done on the extreme end section.

The High Line

 

Chinatown

 

dim sum go go
Foods of New York provide a booklet with each tour with lots of useful info.

The evening we visited Chinatown it was rather damp. The rain began to fall as we waited to meet our guide for the "Foods of New York Chinatown Tasting & Culture."1 Fortunately all the food was served in sit-down meals in restaurants so we weren't actually eating on the street!

dim sum go go
Dim Sum served with jasmine tea and dips at Dim Sum Go Go.
chinatown
Lin Zexu
chinatown
Fresh fish in Chinatown.

We met at Dim Sum Go Go on East Broadway and this was our first place to eat. And what a starter it was - truly fabulous freshly made dim sum. There were five varieties to taste  with two dips. The vegetable-based Jade dumplings were good but not our favourites. I liked the chives and shrimp dim sum but Andrew was not so keen. The pork dumplings and duck dumplings were excellent and the roast pork bun out of this world. The dumplings were served with three "dips" - two with chili and ginger flavours, the third an amazing combination of various ingredients including, I think, ginger and shrimp, which rapidly disappeared. All washed down with a lovely jasmine tea.  Raheem talked about the ingredients of the dim sum that we were eating, how they are cooked etc. with great enthusiasm.

Outside, even though it was raining, Raheem gave a very good history of Chinatown as we moved between restaurants. Though San Francisco has the largest area Chinatown in the US, this Chinatown in Manhattan has the highest population by far.

chinatown
Dragon fruit - we had seen and tasted these in Vietnam where, on another street food tour in Hanoi, we had been told that they need to be kept a little after fully ripened to allow the flavour to develop properly.

Dim Sum Go Go is close to Chatham Square where there is a statue of the anti-drug activist Lin Zexu. He was a Qing dynasty official known for his scholarship and integrity who advised the emperor on measures to prohibit the use of, and therefore illicit trade in, opium.6 In the square there is also an arch erected in 1962 dedicated to the memory of all Chinese Americans who have fought and died for the USA.

Doyers Street was one of the most fascinating locations that Raheem took us to, steeped in history.

To begin with it is a curved street, a full right angle bend, which is most unusual in New York City. It was nicknamed "The Bloody Angle" because of all the Tong gang murders that occurred there -  more than anywhere else in the city at one time.

chinatown
On the site of Doyer's original distillery.
chinatown

 

chinatown
Behind the wooden door of Apotheke is a newer addition to Doyers Street - a modern cocktail bar whose interior mimics an old-style pharmacy - on the site of a former opium den!

 

 

At one end of the street is a United States Post Office which was previously a distillery run by Henry Doyer whom the street is named after. The only way the authorities could close it down was to convert it into a Post Office!

Nam Wah Tea Parlor is the oldest tea house in the city dating from 1920.

chinatown
The sharp bend in the middle of "The Bloody Angle"

We walked along Pell Street, another quintessential Chinatown street, and on to Mott Street and Aji Ichiban.

chinatown
Pell Street
chinatown
Dried Guava & Dried Papaya
Shredded Black Sesame Cod Fish & Sesame Shredded Fish

 

chinatown
Licorice (I think), Chili & Seedless Preserved Olives
Preserved fruits including plums.

Aji Ichiban (a franchise founded in Hong Kong) sells a huge variety of Asian snacks, including many wonderful dried foods such as fruit, crab, fish and squid, some plain, many in some kind of seasoning. We sampled lots!


chinatown
Thai's Squid & Hokkaido Roast Squid
chinatown

 

chinatown

 

On to the Peking Duck House which gave us another great eating experience - absolutely gorgeous Peking duck wraps, really succulent.

chinatown

We made our way down Mott Street to Columbus Park, where the rain suddenly started to fall with a vengeance! Nevertheless, in the open (but roofed!) pavilion, Chinese men were playing board games, seemingly too engrossed to bother about the weather.

chinatown
chinatown
chinatown
Any unauthorised person dumping rubbish would be fined $1500 and "you shall be caused with bad fortune. Those that do not violate or dump here shall be blessed with good luck."
chinatown
Next time we're in the area we'll definitely be coming here - the variety of exotic flavours sounds wonderful: green tea, black sesame, and many more.

Our final stop of the evening was the New Malaysia restaurant on Bowery, between Canal and Bayard. There we had roti canai - a flat  bread, very flaky, with a spicy sauce dip - more excellent food!

chinatown
Roti Canai

 

The Flatiron Building

flatiron building
flatiron building
Seen from the Empire State Building.
flatiron district

Art Deco Metropolitan Life North Building on the left and Met Life Tower, on the east side of Madison Square Park.





flatiron building

 

 

This has always been a favourite since seeing the beautiful Edward Steichen photograph, taken at twilight in a misty New York.7 We finally got to see it up close in 2015.

Built in 1902 it perfectly fills the difficult site at the apex of a triangle between 22nd and 23rd close to where 5th and Broadway cross.

Designed by the Chicagoan Daniel Berman8 it was one of the first skyscrapers to be built in the city.

 






flatiron district
Don't see many of these around - a FDNY fire alarm on Madison at E 25th, I think early 20th century.



flatiron building

 

Madison Square Park sits across 23rd from the Flatiron between Fifth and Madison, a welcome shady green space when it's hot.

 

flatiron district
A fine monument to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut in Madison Square Park.

 

References

  1. Foods of New York Tours
  2. Cafe Wha'
  3. Art Nerd New York: Minetta Tavern
  4. Off the Grid Business of the Month: Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company
  5. The High Line
  6. MIT Visualizing Cultures: The First Opium War
  7. The Met: Edward Steichen - The Flatiron
  8. NY Architecture - The Flatiron Building