MacDougal Street Musts
Greenwich Village is inarguably the most charming neighborhood in Manhattan. It’s been that way for a while, many thanks to the Village’s most famous block, MacDougal Street. A quick “Why MacDougal Street Is Iconic” history lesson: The San Remo Cafe, which was located at 93 MacDougal Street for over 40 years, attracted Bohemians and writers including James Baldwin, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jackson Pollock, Jack Kerouac, and many more. Though MacDougal is currently going through a bit of a transformation thanks to an influx of new hot spots and a surge in falafel prices, the spirit of the street will never fully change. The spirit of rock ’n’ roll is alive and wild at Cafe Wha, opened in 1959, where Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Jimi Hendrix used to play. Caffe Reggio, another favorite of downtown artists (since 1927!), continues to thrive, thanks in part to NYU students—because apparently, they’re not entirely terrible.
From beloved institutions to new, buzzed-about restaurants, these are our picks for the must-visit spots on the changing albeit forever charming block.
MacDougal happens to be home to one of New York’s best oyster bars, Mermaid Oyster Bar. It’s more date night than the Mermaid Inn crew’s older, divier East Village and Upper West Side outposts. Many, like Time Out New York, claim the New England seafood joint is the best out of the bunch. Highlights, of course, include the sublime sea (get it?) options of oysters, but the menu doesn’t stop there—entrees including the Roasted Maine Sea Scallops and Fire Roasted Striped Bass are to die for. The crabcakes and lobster bisque—also perfect. And did we forget to mention its great happy hour? The Chef’s pick oysters will cost you $1.25. A mini New England clam chowder? Three bucks. Oh, and you had us at $9 lobster roll. The cocktails aren’t too shabby either. Tip: Come on a Monday, but prepare for a crowd at this MacDougal favorite because Happy Hour goes until closing time.
79 Macdougal St, New York; T. (212) 260-0100
The Village stand-up LOL-inducing institution, The Comedy Cellar, is a must-do on MacDougal. Opened in 1982, by stand-up comedian Bill Grundfest, it’s one of the most famous comedy clubs on the planet, which makes sense since many a famous name (See also: Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, et very famous al.) tend to make surprise drop-ins to test out new material in the tiny brick-walled basement. Expect stellar sets from the rising stars, too: Aziz Ansari and Jon Stewart got their comedy career start here, after all. Oh, and the unforgettable NYC evenings will only cost you a cover charge of $14 and a two-drink minimum.
1267, 117 Macdougal St, New York; T. (212) 254-3480
Hip and history-heavy Minetta Tavern is yet another MacDougal must. It’s an experience, and we’re not just talking about the food, which we’ll get to. If you wonder why Minetta Tavern has speakeasy-vibes, it’s because it was a speakeasy in the ’20s. In the late ’30s, it opened as Minetta Tavern, drawing early customers like Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings. NBD. The relic was revamped by Keith McNally in 2009, immediately garnering psychotic buzz, which resulted in a “Sorry, you’re not on the list” doorman and a NYT Critic’s Pick feature. Well, the appropriate hype didn’t hurt, because 10 years later, and it’s still going strong—a major triumph for New York City here-today-gone-tomorrow hotspots. From the red leather banquettes to the muralled walls, stepping into Minetta Tavern is an electric experience. Also an experience: the restaurant’s aptly hyped-since-2009 Black Label burger, which originally shockingly cost, gasp, $26, and now a not-so-alarming $33. Oh, New York… But the burger is on every best burger list for an inescapably mouthwatering reason. Correction: reasons. It’s a blend of skirt steak, ribeye, and brisket; it’s topped with buttery caramelized onions; it’s magic on a Balthazar Bakery bun. The roasted marrow bones, the veal chop, and even the pancetta pasta will also drive you crazy. You’d be crazy not to go. Unless you’re a vegan, though the frites and drinks are really good, too.
113 Macdougal St, New York; T. (212) 475-3850
It’s good to switch things up once in a while. So, go on and stop by Emmett’s, a frills-free and friendly bar on MacDougal, to decide if the hype is real about their specialty, the Chicago-style deep dish pizza. The traditional deep dish is thick, loaded with cheese, and takes at least 30 minutes to make. If you really want to shake things up, choose soppressata as your topping, or order a specialty deep dish—you can’t go wrong with The Classic, which involves a lot of sausage, green pepper, and onion. Excellent thin crust options are also on the menu, as well as salads and sandwiches, including pretty damn amazing burgers, Italian sausage sandwiches, and a Chicago-style hot dog. Emmett’s, which was opened by Chicagoan Emmett Burke in 2013, has that neighborhoody, old-school tavern feel. Prediction: You’ll be feeling better than fine post-meal.
50 Macdougal St, New York; T. (917) 639-3571
Udon heaven can be found on MacDougal. We’re talking about Raku, a stylish Japanese restaurant serving what many appropriately consider the best udon in the city. Lauded chef Norihiro “Miyake” Ishizuka and his partner Huey Cheng opened this fashion-world-attracting beauty in 2017 following the success of its East Village location. The menu at both locations offers more than 20 delicious variations of hot and cold udon, all loaded with soft and chewy noodles. There’s something for everyone in the ingredient list: mochi and chicken; duck breast; red crab; shrimp and eggplant; seasoned fried bean curd. We could go on and on. A fan favorite is the curry udon, with spicy curry chicken or Washugyu beef. Other authentic Japanese delicious dishes include several donburi options (the Oyako Don and Katsu Don are perfect), and the small plates (agedashi tofu, gyoza, Japanese fried chicken, etc) are fantastic. Stroll in solo and grab a seat at the gorgeous bar. The stylish space is also ideal for a first date. Good luck with that. And prepare to fall in love with Raku.
You can’t get much more classic Greenwich Village than this casual, cash-only joint known for its banging burgers. It exudes that opened-in-the-70s vibe (green gingham tablecloths and glass Heinz ketchup bottles), though it actually opened in 2015 by the Magnolia Bakery owner, Steve Abrams alongside his brother, Danny, and Shaun Young. J.G. Melon’s original location on the Upper East Side has been drawing in loyal customers since 1972, which has a lot to do with the majorly juicy, seven-and-a-quarter ounce griddled patty, which is considered one of the city’s most iconic burgers. The space is dim-lit, usually loud and always full of character. It’s a locals-heavy, neighborhood type of hangout that’ll inevitably have you coming back for more beer and burgers. Move over Minetta Tavern—the iconic J.G. Melon burger (pickles and onions on the side!) only costs $11.75. True New Yorkers know that you must add the American cheese though ($12.50), and a savory side of cottage fried potatoes. And beer. Lots of beer.
WORDS Alex Catarinella