Bleecker Street, New York
Written by Gregg Henglein Illustration by Vaughan Davies
The dynamic music editor of The Village Voice, Maura Johnston, is everything that makes New York City great. Join her for a walk through her favourite street.
We’ve known each other some 25 years now, and there was always a lot of stuff in Maura Johnston’s music collection that carried a ‘what in the world is this stuff?’ component.
Of course, now I recognise the real problem was that Maura’s world, musically, was far bigger than mine. I simply didn’t take enough time to explore it.
Johnston loves music and New York City, passionately and with ever-present effervescent charm. She joined The Village Voice as music editor early last year and the job fits her like a glove. She was made for this job…and for this piece.
So what is this music Czar’s favourite street?
“The stretch of Bleecker Street between Seventh Avenue South and Bowery, where some of my favourite spots to see music and hang out are located,” Johnston says with a smile one could only wish was contagious. “Even after the influx of huge glassy towers all over Manhattan during the 2000s building boom, this block, with its walk-ups and shops, feels like old New York.”
That old feel is complemented by new music, running the fretboard from almost famous to finding their way, trying to make it under New York’s bright lights. Asked to pick one…
“The best place to find truly new music is (Le) Poisson Rouge, a subterranean space that’s welcome to all types of musicians – the only requirement really is that the music be pushing artistic boundaries.”
Before scouring the music venues, there are great eateries – “So many,” Johnston enthuses – along the way.
Risotteria, a classic Italian restaurant, offers a substantial and diverse menu, whose quality is best conveyed by Johnston’s observation: “The breadsticks alone almost made me weep with joy.” If some of you seek more casual fare, hit up John’s Pizzeria – a slice of the city minus the slice (they serve only whole pies).
Add to those the Chinese-meets-New American blend of Noho Star and Von, a bar just off the Bowery that serves as “a fantastic place to rendezvous for a quiet drink with a friend,” featuring a good wine list and expertly mixed cocktails.
“The Blind Tiger, always has a warm feel, even in the dead of night,” she says. “And a huge, always rotating selection of the world’s best beers,” doesn’t hurt either.
New York, USA
The First Time
Of all the streets in New York City, whose every nook and cranny she has explored, for this section to earn favourite status from Ms. Johnston is high praise indeed.
She recalls the first time she was there: “I was in high school on a cut-class-for-the-day ‘field trip’ to NYC. The street was definitely a lot less built-up then and I remember feeling sort of disoriented as I squinted up at the low-slung buildings. It seemed so far from Penn Station back then, like it was another world – even though it was only five subway stops.”
Follow Maura Johnston on Twitter @Maura and at www.villagevoice.com/ authors/ maura-johnston/