Homegrown NY: Nolita

Nolita exploded in the late 90’s with the arrival of trendy restaurants, bars and hip boutiques. Deriving from the acronym--North of Little Italy—Nolita is bordered by Soho, the Bowery and Little Italy. It is one of our favorite places to shop and eat, with a real neighborhood feel.  On nice days many of the restaurants have seats that spill out onto the street. Centered on three very fashionable streets—Mott, Mulberry and Elizabeth our day bleeds slightly into Little Italy at times, because we just had to share a few of our favorite haunts.

Breakfast: Starting at the edge of Nolita/Little Italy, are three great choices to start the day. Eggs are the star ingredient at the tiny adorable Egg Shop served on delicious sandwiches or bowls. We’re a big fan of the “sleuth” bowl made with quiona, avocado, pickled carrots and a poached egg. We’d come here for the hash browns alone. (More like a giant tater tot) Right across the street, another favorite, The Butcher’s Daughter is a stylish, light filled cafe with a take away juice bar next door. Everything is vegetarian; they do a good version of avocado toast or try the coconut yogurt parfait. (There’s good soups and salads at lunch, we’re fans of the spicy kale or the daily made market hummus with crudités.) And then there’s the much talked about Black Seed Bagels.  The smell of the bagels cooking in the wood fired oven hits you as soon as you walk in the door. It lives up to the hype; the sesame bagel with white bean hummus, eggplant, and arugula was so good, that we need to go back soon. Expect a wait at all three of these locations on the weekend unless you go early.

Old Favorite: Like most of NY, we’ve been going to Café Habana for years for the Huevos Rancheros and the Mexican grilled corn. It’s tiny, so expect a wait unless you time it right.  If you’re impatient, or hungry, or both, head next door to Habana to Go.

Off the Beaten Track: Before venturing into Lolita proper, search out No.6 on Centre Market Place between Broome and Grand. This may just be the place that brought clogs back into vogue. There is a selection of vintage and original designed clothes, but those that are in the know come here for different variations and color of the wood clogs and boots. If you haven’t been, here’s a warning; No.6 can easily become an addiction.

Shop: Though you’ll find some well-known designer boutiques like Tory Burch, Steven Alan, Rag and Bone and Vince, Nolita is rich with small independent stores with their own style and personality. Wandering Mott, Elizabeth and Mulberry can keep you busy all day. Here is where we headed:

  •  Creatures of Comfort: One of our favorite NYC stores, founded in LA back in 2005 and housed in a beautiful 2300 square floor space on Elizabeth Street since 2010. The selection of clothes tends towards downtown chic and comfortable high fashion; this is not a store for conservative dressers. Featuring their own in-house line, eclectic lesser known labels and designers such as Isabel Marant, Rachel Comey, and Acne. Great accessories and shoes complete the shopping experience.
  •  Malia Mills: One of four stores in NYC, shop here for beautiful bathing suits and cover ups, alongside a small selection of clothes and hats. The suits though expensive, are manufactured locally, and are known to be made to fit "real woman with real curves". The helpful sales staff will help fit you through the fun process of bathing suit shopping.
  •  Erica Weiner: Born in Brooklyn, where her other store is located, Erica designs and makes all of her jewelry in a showroom on Chrystie Street. The Erica Weiner Jewelry Collection is all under $200.00, with many pieces priced in the $50-$100 range making this a great place to get gifts. There is also a fine jewelry collection and a collection of vintage pieces Erica finds on her travels. 
  •   Love, Adorned: A beautiful, inspiring, artful collection, this is a "wow" store from Lori Leven of NY Adorned. East Village NY adorned is quite possibly the best place for tattoos and piercings, with small delicate stay in hoops and studs for the tamer crowd. Billed as a lifestyle store you can find one of a kind artisan products ranging from African woven fans, ceramic mortar and pestles, textiles, wall hangings to bells and chimes. The new and vintage jewelry is worth saving up for.
  •   Figue: Inspired by her travels around the world designer, Stephanie Von Watzdorf opened this jewel box of a store showcasing her bohemian chic designs, both clothes and accessories.  Check out the travel log on her website for some wanderlust envy.
  • Warm:  You'll want to linger at beachy and dreamy Warm, a personally curated boutique from Winnie Beattie and her husband Rob Magnotta who actually met surfing. Filled with unique items for men, women and children from clothes to home goods and accessories. Check out Warm's own line of hand made fragrances and oils created by Winnie and made in California. This is a special store! 
  • Le Labo: Santal 33 is the most popular scent at this unisex luxury perfume shop where every bottle is made to order. Talk about a fresh product. The candles in beat up tin jars are pretty great as well.

Lunch: People wait on long lines for pizza at the legendary Lombardi’s, but we prefer Rubirosa around the corner which not only has better pizza, but delicious pastas, salads and an excellent eggplant parmesan. Café Gitane is always crowded, always fashionable and a good spot for either brunch or lunch. This may be the home of the original avocado toast that is now pretty much guaranteed on most menus. You have to order it along with the excellent hearts of palm salad or Moroccan cous-cous. The falafels at Taim are excellent; get the platter with the combo of traditional green, harissa and red pepper. Or just stop in here for the date, lime, and banana smoothie.

Anytime Bite: We love the festive atmosphere at Tacombi (at Fonda Nolita), and the fresh street style tacos served out of a parked VW converted van. All complimented with La Antigua Mexican coffee and Lupita natural sodas, aguas frescas and fresh made juices.

Read: McNally Jackson is more than just a bookstore. The downstairs hosts frequent author readings, there’s a corner devoted to printing your own books, and if you get thirsty there’s an in store café. Plus there’s a wonderful selection of journals, stationary, paper and greeting cards.  We love the extensive poetry selection, especially the small personal chapbooks. All the traditional stuff like staff picks, cookbook collections, periodicals and bestsellers are well selected. Around the corner is a small satellite shop; the McNally Jackson Store: Goods for the Study. (Read more about NYC bookstores here).

Historic Landmark: World famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral is on Fifth Avenue, but did you know the original seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese was what is now referred to as St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral or Old St. Pat’s. Built on Mulberry Street between 1809-1815 it was declared a NYC landmark in 1966 and added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1977.

Art: Established in 1977, but moving into it’s striking new home on the Bowery in 2007, the New Museum showcases contemporary art and acts an “incubator” for new ideas. Thursday evenings from 7-9 Pm are pay as you wish. This summer exhibition is the first major NY show of German artist Albert Oehlen.

Dinner: If you like spicy Thai cuisine then you’re going to love Uncle Boons. Standouts include the green mango salad, the rotisserie half chicken, crab rice and the khao soi, a noddle dish with chicken in a yellow curry. The Nolita branch of Chelsea’s Socarrat Paella Bar is much bigger than the original and accepts reservations! Start with garlic shrimp and fried artichokes before moving on to paella washed down with sangria. Peasant is a beautiful rustic restaurant that’s been in Nolita before it was called Nolita, serving delicious Italian food. The ambiance is enhanced by the charming open kitchen with vintage brick wood-fire ovens, built incredibly by hand by chef Frank Decarlo.  You can almost imagine you’re dining in a small Italian town.

On the List: We still haven’t made it to The Musket Room, but it’s on the list for Chef Matt Lambert’s locally sourced cuisine inspired by his hometown of New Zealand.