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East 7th Street: A Foodie’s Paradise

In recent years, the East Village on the whole has come to be known for its budding gastronomy scene.  One street in particular that has really hit it big in this scene is East 7th Street.  With our program tomorrow evening on the social history of East 7th Street, we thought it only made sense to explore this street and all it has to offer.  Of course, we couldn’t control our grumbling bellies from focusing on all the delicious tastes and smells.

Porsena & Porchetta, Sara Jenkins' two restaurants on East 7th Street

Sara Jenkins, cookbook author and Top Chef alum, has made the East Village her personal playground for affordable, rustic Italian cooking (read more about her HERE).  East 7th Street houses her two most popular outposts, Porsena and Porchetta.  The latter, located at 110 East 7th Street between 1st Avenue & Avenue A, was her first endeavor in the neighborhood.  Porchetta, Italian for pork, primarily serves its namesake, the traditional street food of Central Italy that Sara grew up with.  It is worth noting that all the pigs used for Porchetta’s dishes, which are extremely affordable, are raised humanely and contain no hormones or antibiotics, according to the restaurant’s website.  Porsena, a pasta-centric traditional Italian trattoria, follows the same ideology- fresh ingredients, affordable prices, and a welcoming neighborhood aesthetic.  Sara saw the trend of people going to an Italian restaurant and ordering pasta (considered only the 1st course on most Italian menus) as their main course, so she ran with that trend and based Porsena on it.  She was smart to do so because this neighborhood gem has become an East Village favorite where hearty Italian cuisine can be enjoyed without breaking the bank.

L: the porchetta sandwich at Porchetta; R: the cannolicchi con una marea di formaggi (little twists with many cheeses) at Porsena (my personal fave!)

The block of East 7th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A is probably the richest in foodie staples in all of the East Village.  In fact, for the past two years, there has even been an East 7th Street Food Crawl!  This block has an especially abundant dessert culture.

storefronts L to R: Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Butter Lane Cupcakes, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

The oldest of this dessert triumvirate, Butter Lane Cupcakes, opened in 2008 at 123 East 7th Street.  Their focus is on pure ingredients and offering both American and French buttercream icings.  Butter Lane gives you the exciting option to pick your cake flavor and icing flavor and create your own cupcake.  They also offer icing shooters- yes, a “shot” of icing!  Next door to the shop is a class space where cupcake affectionados can learn all about making the sweet treats.

Just next door to Butter Lane at 125 East 7th Street is newcomer the Big Gay Ice Cream Store.  You may be familiar with their famous ice cream truck that started in June 2009 and took standard Mr. Softee ice cream and turned it into magical creations with imaginative toppings.  This past Labor Day weekend, the truck took its goodies to the current brick and mortar location where patrons can grab a salty pimp (soft serve vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip) all year long.

The final link in the dessert trio is Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream at 48 East 7th Street.  This ice cream shop, too, started out as a food truck and found such success that they are now operating three storefronts (the other two are in Brooklyn).  This all natural ice cream contains a base of only three ingredients- fresh hormone free milk and/or cream, pure cane sugar, and egg yolks.  The end product is dense, rich, and creamy and comes in artisanal flavors such as giandujia and red current.  So, if your sweet tooth starts kicking in you know where to go!

L to R: a chocolate cake, pistachio icing-frosted cupcake from Butter Lane; the Gobbler (vanilla ice cream, pumpkin butter, crushed graham crackers, craisins, and whipped cream) from the Big Gay Ice Cream Store; tarragon ice cream from Van Leeuwen

This same block of East 7th Street also offers some great pre-dessert date options.  My personal favorite is the Bourgeois Pig at 111 East 7th Street.   The bordello decor showcases a Marie Antoinette-esque French theme serving up wines from Alsace to Provence.  The food is top notch with fondues of both the salty and sweet natures stealing the scene.  A date could easily mingle on for hours in this cozy spot.

Speaking of French and fondue, there is another restaurant on the block that serves this up as well.  Taureau, at 127 East 7th Street, is “a cozy 25-seat BYOB serving creative French Fondue in a casual bistro setting.”  If your date is scheduled for a weekend evening you may have a better chance getting seated here than at the Pig.

L: the interior of the Bourgeois Pig; R: the interior of Taureau

Another great date spot, if you’re in the mood for rustic Greek home cooking, is Pylos located at 128 East 7th Street.   Clay pots (in Greek, pylos) hang decoratively from the ceiling and complete the elegant, yet comfortable ambiance.  The menu is perfect for sharing lots of small bites from stuffed grape leaves to hummus.

Another relatively upscale spot perfect for date night is Giano, Italian restaurant and wine bar, just next door to Pylos at 126 East 7th Street.  Giano serves Italian food that is divided up on the menu into traditional and contemporary, an exciting twist from the Milanese owners.

Top: the interior of Pylos; Bottom: the interior of Giano

East 7th Street also offers a few specialty food options that can satisfy an eclectic taste.  The first is Luke’s Lobster at 93 East 7th Street.  Famous for their lobster and crab rolls, this is a must-try for any seafood lover.  Straight from Maine, the lobster roll is considered by many the best and most affordable in the City.  Right next door is Caracas Arepa Bar.  A Venezuelan treat, an arepa is a corn-flour round stuffed with savory noshes like roasted pork shoulder with spicy mango sauce and grilled leeks with caramelized onions and guayanés cheese.

L: lobster roll from Luke's Lobster; R: arepa from Caracas

So, next time your stomach starts to grumble go no further than East 7th Street and you will undoubtedly find whatever tasty treat you are craving!  And now that you know about the gastronomy of the street, join us for tomorrow evening’s presentation, East 7th Street: Anatomy of an East Village Block, to learn all about the social and cultural history of this amazing street!


3 responses to “East 7th Street: A Foodie’s Paradise

  1. Korzo Haus too (near Avenue B), good food going on there. Zum Schneider & Edi & the Wolf are serving up excellent German & Austrian fare. Kafana (slightly off 7th Street on Avenue C) makes great Serbian food, perfect for the cold weather.

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