New York’s Bleecker Street, a cool cross section of the Big Apple


If you are like us a music fan, movie buff, pizza lover, pop culture afficionado or just an urban rat who loves to roam the streets, Bleecker Street is the street for you. Bleecker Street connects East Village and Bowery with West Village and ends at Abingdon Square. Today it is most famous for the Greenwich Village nightclub district, music venues and comedy clubs but it was once the epicentre for American bohemia and 60s music, and the street starts/ends at one of the icons of punk rock culture, CBGBs. Robert De Niro grew up on Bleecker St, 177A Bleecker Street is the location of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum and Iggy Pop has discussed dying on Bleecker Street in the song “Punk Rocker”. It is safe to say that Bleecker Street is the major artery in New York’s pop cultural pulse.

Where to start?

Our walk starts in the east and the Bowery district. Easiest way is to take the Subway B D F or M to Broadway-Lafayette St and then walk east on Houston St, then do a left on Bowery and you will have Bleecker Street on your left after 1 block.

CBGBs

Before you set off to the west down the street, cross Bowery to the east and visit the old site of CBGBs, the most infamous rock club in New York, and perhaps the world. CBGB OMFUG (Country, BlueGrass and Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers) club was opened in 1973. It soon became the melting pot for new wave and punk rock New York bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie and Talking Heads.

It was a small hole in the wall sweatbox of a club, and their toilet was infamous. The number of great bands that played that small venue is mindboggling. The Police played their first US gig there, Elvis Costello, Misfits, Television, Joan Jett and the Beastie Boys to name a few also played there. The venue closed on October 15th 2006 after Patti Smith had played the last show at CBGBs, it was a great loss to the music world. The venue today holds an upmarket Rock n Roll clothes shop by John Varvatos. Luckily, they have kept the wall decorations of old posters, flyers, and gob from countless punks.

Overthrow Boxing Club

A very cool façade and entrance to the Overthrow Boxing club at number 9 Bleecker Street with some fine murals next to the building. There are several nice old school Federal architecture houses between number 7 to 13 and 21 to 25 Bleecker Street. There used to be a mission at number 21 and 29 that provided a home for “fallen women”, attempting to reform prostitutes and unwed pregnant women around the turn of the 19th century. Look for the writing above the door at number 21 that bear the lettering “Florence Night Mission”.

Greenwich Village

Continuing east you cross Lafayette St, Broadway and Mercer Street before you get some rather large and imposing blocks on your right hand. This is the bottom end of New York University apartment blocks and the campus itself expands north towards Washington Square park. You are now entering the fabled Greenwich Village. La Guardia Place has some nice outdoor eateries on the left side of Bleecker. No 152 Bleecker Street is the former location of the Café Au Go Go, a Greenwich Village nightclub located in the basement of the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre building in the late 1960s.

The club featured many of the biggest names in music and entertainment between the opening in February 1964 until closing in December 1970. The Grateful Dead had their New York debut at the club and continued to play no less than 10 times in 1967 and 3 in 1969. Other music legends who played there were among many Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley, Muddy Waters, Howlin` Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Cream, The Yardbirds and The Doors (what a club!). Further across Thompson and Sullivan St the number of pubs, bars and restaurants increase.

MacDougal Street

Where Bleecker crosses MacDougal Street you should take a short detour north up MacDougal street. The amount of old and famous watering holes, cafes, and clubs in the few blocks up to Washington Square park is the stuff of legends. At the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal at No 93 is the former site of the San Remo Café, the heart of the bohemian movement. This was the hangout of luminaries like William S. Burroughs, Miles Davis, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollock and Dylan Thomas just to name a few. Imagine!

Bob Dylan owned an apartment at No 94. Dylan also made his debut at famed Café Wha? At No 115, also famous for Jimi Hendrix playing some of his first gigs here. Other acts that played concerts at Café Wha? Includes Bruce Springsteen and The Velvet Underground. The Comedy Cellar at No 117 has featured every name in comedy and is still going strong. Café Reggio at No 119 has been a coffeehouse since 1927 and has been featured in many movies including The Godfather Part II. Left on West 3rd St is the famous jazz joint Blue Note.

Washington Square Park

We would suggest walking as far as Washington Square park, our favourite small park in New York. The south western corner is occupied by chess hustlers. Keep walking into the square in the middle of the park and look at the Washington Square Arch and the view through the arch up 5th Avenue. The arch has been used in movies and in the intro for the Friends sitcom series.

Washington Square Arch

Continuing west on Bleecker Street we recommend a cup of espresso at Porto Rico Importing Co. they have been pushing the caffeine high since 1907. Crossing 6th Avenue, the street veers off in a more northernly direction into West Village. Sit down with your espresso at Father Demo Square, an Italian style piazza great for people watching.

Foodie street!

Bleecker Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue with side streets is a small foodies paradise. A plethora of cool restaurants, delis, and takeaway joints. Drool at the Italian sweet goodness at Pasticceria Rocco. Murrays Mac and Cheese which does exactly what is says on the façade, serve delish mac and cheese. Faiccos Italian Specialties with their sandwiches filled with home made sausanges and other assorted artisan meats. Next door is Trattoria Pesce Pasta with great outdoor seating. And next door to that is another Murrays, namely Murrays Cheese Bar. And if you fancy some great oysters, do a right down Cornelia Street to Pearl Oyster bar. Further down Bleecker Street is the pizza institution of Johns of Bleecker Street, serving pizza to New York since 1929. And our favourite small hole in the wall pizza place is on the corner of 7th Avenue, Bleecker Street Pizza. Delish cheap pizza with some inside dining on respatex tables, if you cannot find a place, grab a takeaway slice and find a place to sit outside and enjoy one of the best slices of pie in New York.  

Shopping

Past 7th Avenue Bleecker Street changes content again and turns in to a shopper’s paradise. Lots of cool small independent upmarket clothes shops. At the intersection of Perry street, you can walk down the street to the east and see Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment entrance at Perry Street No 64 known from the hugely popular and very New York series Sex and the City. On the corner of Bleecker Street and West 11th lies the well-known Magnolia Bakery.  

Thank you, Bleecker Street!

At 8th Avenue it is all over. Bleecker Street ends and turns into Hudson Street at Abingdon Square. No big fanfare or disco lights, it just ends just as abruptly as it started in Bowery. The distance is no more than 1,1 miles (less that 2 kilometres) but it is jam packed with all that makes New York tick. For us it is the ultimate New York street, combining popular culture, food, drinks and sights in a spectacular way. The best of all is when Bleecker Street ends you are only 3 blocks from another great area with some great sights, The Meatpacking District and one of the coolest walks in the world, The Highline.  

Categories:Travel, usaTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 comments

  1. I love reading posts about New York and seeing your photos. I have never been to New York, but when I wrote my first novel, I sent two of my main characters there for an eventful weekend, and I loved researching the city to figure out where they would eat, what they would do, how they would get around during their time there. All that research made me want to visit even more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you👍we have been visiting around 20 times, and every time there are new places, neighbourhoods and stuff to see. I think it is the ultimate city, both in content, popular culture and sights in general. What is the name of the novel, and where can I find it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a city like no other….and although I have never been there, I believe every word you say!

        I created a footer on my website with the books I published in 2020. There is a picture of each, and when you click the image, it takes you to Amazon. I am still polishing the books up as when I read the paperback copy, I sometimes come across annoying spelling mistakes I did not notice when I self-published. But I love the story, and am still amazed that what started out as one flash fiction short story became a 300,000 word manuscript that I had to edit extensively.

        In July 2019, I came back from Australia, full of love, full of dreams, and with a few tears because England is the opposite side of the planet from Australia. A blogger published a post with some suggestions for writing prompts. One of them was a picture of a woman, with the question – “Who is she waiting for?” I wrote a short story, and realized at the end that it needed a part 2. After part 2, I realized it needed a part 3. Eventually, I published the story of Annabelle Riley in something like 140 separate parts. The first part really sets the scene for what is to come. It is called “We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves” (my editors suggestion, because she did not like my original title, but this was the title of one of my key chapters).

        I started out writing a romance, which I wanted to be light hearted and fun, but it turned into something else. It started to become a story about a growing, learning how to deal with our own weaknesses, confronting past mistakes and trying to make amends, accepting help with challenges. I think overall, it remained true to it’s core – a light hearted romance, but it became an epic journey of overcoming a crisis.

        My character starts the book in a fictional town called Blackwood in Wisconsin, where a guy called Chris tries to get to know the caramel beauty he is attracted to. The scenes in New York are probably my favourite. My character goes back to New York to meet someone she feels she caused huge stress to in the past. It’s ironic because when I first started writing, I mentioned her ex-boyfriend in passing, and had no intention of him being part of her story. At the time, I was estranged from my ex-housemate and he inspired the character. But halfway through writing the series, my ex-housemate made contact with me and we became very close. Jack and I are now engaged to be married. I had so much fun developing the fictional character he had inspired – a grunge rock-star who is full of attitude and at this stage hitting the big time, yet still effected by stage fright and a slave too his own bad habits. The scenes between Annabelle and bad boy Dean are some of my favourites in the series, and that weekend to New York was so much fun to write. I was amazed at how Dean’s character became key to Annabelle moving forward.

        I sometimes wish I had paid for professional publishing services rather than doing everything independently, but at the time I was writing, I was working part time and volunteering the rest of my time, and then once the Pandemic began I started to send my wages into a family pot we set up to make sure that any of our family who were struggling financially due to how the pandemic was effecting their work were all going to be ok. I made the right choice. It would have been selfish of me to put my book before my family. But I still hope one day that I can find the time to submit my manuscript to publishers and pitch Annabelle’s story as a young woman’s epic voyage in life. Jack has told friends and colleagues about my book and I am sure that 95% of my sales are due to him, but I won’t let him mention them on his social media accounts. I think it would open the door to some of his fans who don’t like him having a girlfriend being cruel to me about my books. As an amateur writer, I am not ready for the sharp side of social media.

        But I have to admit, I truly loved the experience of writing, developing characters, researching New York (and Switzerland where part of Book 2 is set) and pushing myself to explore mental health themes I had shied away from in the past. I was so absolutely determined not to let cliches ruin the story. I wanted to allow my character to be candid and tell the well-meaning folk around her that she was sick to death of being told every cloud has a silver lining. I fought hard to make sure that none of her problems were going to be solved with a magic wish upon a star, and that she was not going to end up with a fairy princess wedding. No…I wanted this to be real, but I wanted it to also be about getting somewhere and realizing that you can overcome storms rather than becoming a sunken wreck, and at your own pace, you can restore the damage, strengthen the timbers and learn to open up the sails again and move forward.

        There you go…..that is way more information than you asked for!!

        Like

      • Very cool👍I still think that even self publishing beats not publishing at all. Just to say, and to know that you have published something. How many people actually «make» a book in their lifetime. Admirable for sure. And I think the realism, the gritty truth about life, is essential. We have all our own stories, plans that have fallen to pieces, and dreams that never come to fruition. Still, without cracks, dark places, sorrow and hopelessness, there is no redemption, and to come out on the other side of adversity a stronger and more confident human being, is maybe one of the sweetest things to experience.
        I will check out if I can aquire the book and read it, just have to finish my Robert Galbraith book first👍

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are so right. I do feel that every person has a story, that is so worth telling, and so worth reading. Annabelle’s story became a story that merged some of my experiences with those of two close friends of mine. I found it very hard to write just my own story…a little too vulnerable. But weaving real life experiences into fictional characters is compelling.

        I would be honoured for you to read Annabelle’s story. It’s been nice to talk about it. Asking a writer about their book is like asking a parent about their young child!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Totally agree, and I concur, I would not write about my own life experience unfiltered, there needs to be a buffer between writer and reader, unless its an autobigraphy.

        Liked by 1 person

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