East Village & Lower East Side
The East Village and Lower East Side may no longer be the city's top playground for beatnik poets, starving artists and punk rockers (gentrification has changed that) but it's still a top destination for some of the city's youngest, hippest residents and visitors, who co-exist alongside still-thriving Polish and Ukranian communities. Packed with bars and restaurants, many offering delicious and cheap ethnic food, the East Village is also home to historical attractions such as St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery Church. A cleaned-up Tompkins Square Park (the dog run is a favorite meeting spot for many of the neighborhood's residents) makes for great people-watching. At night, a young crowd packs East Village restaurants like Momofuku Ssam Bar, Boca Chica, Dok Suni or The Mermaid Inn. After dinner, take your pick of bars, from sophisticated (Angel's Share) to far from it (Coyote Ugly Saloon and McSorley's Old Ale House are two of the divey yet enduringly popular institutions that come to mind).
Below Houston Street, the Lower East Side has undergone a radical transformation in recent years due to gentrification, a change not everyone considers a positive one. On the negative side, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the neighborhood on its list of endangered places in 2008 due to over-development. You can also get a glimpse of the neighborhood's rich past with a visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which chronicles the experiences of millions of immigrants who poured into New York in the mid-19th century, thousands of whom once lived in the building now housing the museum. The positive side of the changing neighborhood is its wealth of restaurant, dining and shopping options (standouts include restaurants like 'inoteca, Rayuela and Clinton St. Baking Company along with live music at Arlene's Grocery and great indie and foreign films in the plush surroundings of Landmark Sunshine Cinema, on Houston between 1st and 2nd Avenues).
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