The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage

Filet Mignon
2013/03/01 04:44:06
My friend Brooke loves food just about as much as I do and we have been working on making a food tour happen for a number of months.  On Monday February 25th, we embarked on a walking tour of Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, the East Village/Alphabet City and finally the West Village.  We met for breakfast on West 3rd St. in Greenwich Village at the newish oatmeal cafe called Oatmeals.  I had been here before and was eager to return.  


 I may have to try this one!

 It's small, cozy place, decorated with oatmeal tins and pillows advertising oatmeal brands.  

 Their stock in trade are steel cut oats, which are completely different (and much, much better in my opinion) than the instant packets found in supermarkets.  I love size offerings and they have one more, a fairly big bowl called the "Weird Uncle Bear".  They do offer signature bowls or totally customizable sizes with any number of sweet and/or savory toppings and milks.  

 So many that I want to try...

 I went for the Canadian (cinnamon roasted apples, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, maple syrup and sea salt).  A perfect combination of sweet and savory and the oatmeal was chewy, hearty and just what I needed to start the day.

 Brooke opted for the Truffle RisOATto (shaved parmesan, truffle oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper).  Really intense.  The parmesan and truffle oil was quite rich and we both really liked it.  And they weren't shy with the pepper.  I had never really considered oatmeal as a savory dish but this really opened my mind to it.  Just a great little place, staff are great and the owner's name is Samantha Stevens, which is shared by everyone's favorite TV witch!

 I couldn't resist a shot of this cute little doggie on the way out.  I love the different colored eyes.

 As we walked to the Lower East Side, we passed this taqueria that we earmarked for a future tour.  I love the nod to Metallica!

 Interesting, but as it was still morning, it was a bit early for a bit of the hair of the dog.

 Our second stop was at Economy Candy on Rivington St.  

 Brooke's first time here and she was eager to check it out!

 I never tire of this place as there is always something new that I haven't seen before.  This gum is such a brilliant idea.

 And a little 80s rewind with Pac-Man candy.  I think it's strawberry flavored.

 And this is just Atari joystick tin that holds gum.  I spent HOURS and HOURS playing games with mind-blowing special effects like Tank and Pong, but man, did I love that Atari.

 And what my friend Greg and I used to call "rack packs".  We would spend hours in the local dollar store in our early teens poring through these looking for the best cards to buy and trade.  Tens of thousands of cards and many happy memories later, it was totally worth it.

 I remember trying these and being put off by the wax bottles and spitting wax out of my mouth.  Did anyone like these as a kid?

 Just picking one of these up, I feel as though I should be tying some damsel in distress to some train tracks or at least pursue my lifelong dream of forming a barbershop quartet.

 The Jelly Belly-M & M section.  We both put together sizable bags of mixed Jelly Bellies.  Buttered Popcorn, Tangerine, Canteloupe, Root Beer, etc...  Mmmmm....

 I've seen these before but don't remember exactly what they are.  Has anyone tried them?  They look like communion wafers that have been blown up with compressed air.


 Third on the hit parade was the Essex Street Market.  This is a great place to wander around and take in.  There are lots of interesting shops and groceries, many Latin in origin, that to me seem somewhat exotic having grown up in a small town without much diversity.  Fish mongers, butchers, dry goods, etc...

 Some of the places are closed on Mondays (Roni-Sue Chocolates, Shopsin's General Store) so it is good to check the website or call ahead for hours.  We didn't try any of the juices here at Tra La La Juice Bar...

 but the baked goods case at Rainbo's and... was looking mighty good.  Our plan though was to do a walk through and then pick a few places that we really wanted to try.

 Not sure if you can tell from this picture but these whoopie pies are massive!  We didn't get any though as we had some other places in mind. They also own the fish market stall across the aisle and we considered splitting a grilled grouper sandwich but we had some seafood in mind towards the end of the day so we filed this one away for the next tour.  I swear, you could do a whole tour and never leave this market.  It is actually quite small but lots of food packed into this space!


 And they seem to specialize in custom cakes...

 Some of which are outrageous!  It would have been a crime if I DIDN'T take a picture of this!

 I had been hearing good things about Brooklyn Taco from and this menu had us both jonesing for a Guaco Taco.  

 Meatless Mondays sounds like a good idea to me. 

 For years I never liked guacamole as a had been subjected to really terrible versions that resembled art class paste rather than an avocado.  This guacamole was amazing.  Chunky, buttery and velvety, it had corn, tomatoes, onions and habaneros in it and topped with cotija cheese, crema and a spritz of lime.  I forgot to ask where the double (good call) corn tortillas came from but they sure tasted fresh.  We were both really wowed by this taco and could have eaten a couple more a piece but given that we had many more stops to go we decided to save it for another trip.  The guys working in that tiny kitchen were great and when we told them about our tour they gave us recs for other great spots in the neighborhood.  

 Brooke, about to rock the guac!

 We popped into Formaggio Essex hoping to score some of the cheese sandwiches that they usually have made but they hadn't any ready to go just yet.  

 Mmmmm, stinky cheese!

 For all of your spice needs.

 My apologies for this poor quality photo but it was the best of a bad lot.  Boubouki is a small food stall making some killer spanakopita (spinach pie).  This was so crispy and full of flavor.  Brooke and I split a slice but after the first bite I regretted not getting my own.

 Brooke had never been to the market before so I had to show her Shopsin's General Store, even if they were closed today.  We snapped away like the paparazzi without fear of incurring the wrath of Kenny or his family (you know what I'm talkin' about, TTM!).  It really is a small food stall but packed with great flavors.  Pricey for sure and with some offputting rules but I've been so blown away by the food that I'm willing to return.


 A kissing cousin to the Luther Burger perhaps?

 Now THIS has Billyboy written all over it!!

 And a stop at Saxelby Cheesemongers for a grilled cheese sandwich before heading to our next stop.  Unfortunately, their hot press for grilled cheese wasn't ready yet.  D'oh!!


 And some history of the Essex Market


 Yes Virginia, there IS country ham in New York City!

 One of the grocery markets has a pretty extensive collection of beverages...

 so we decided to try a Fentiman's Curiosity Cola with ginger and herbal extracts which turned out to be quite refreshing.

 If you're thinking of coming here, they have some seating so you can sit down and chow down,  They also have a barber shop, coffee shop, bread bakery, clothing store and sexual education museum (no joke!).  The market was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy so many of the merchants are just getting by.  If you find yourself in NYC and looking for an interesting place to check out with great food, definitely come down and throw some support towards the independents.  I'm sure they love it.  

Much, much more to come...
Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 06:15:59
I know exactly what you mean, man.  I have my days too.

We planned to hit up Taim Falafel & Smoothie Bar on Spring St. in NoHo (North of Houston St.) next but the place was jammed and we figured that the wait would be pretty long so we skipped it this time.  I've been there before and highly recommend it.  Thanks for putting me on to this excellent place, Ayersian!

That just meant we could skip right over for dessert at Rice to Riches!  I've always loved the signage here...

especially this one!

I wonder if anyone has ever tackled the Moby?

This was the first thing my boss ever told me on the first day at my first job as a bag boy when I was 16 years old at P & C Grocery Store and it's something I still think about and try to apply in every job I undertake.  There's always something that needs doing.


We split a Solo-sized Honey Graham for Mr. Smith, topped with buttery graham cracker crumbles.  I love rice pudding and Brooke is not such a fan but she wanted it give it a try.  Normally, I'm a purist and don't go in for toppings but Brooke's choice of the crumbles was spot on.  I love this flavor and it's in my top 3 at the shop but those crumbles (oh, those crumbles!) were buttery and slightly salty, like a really good pie crust and it offset the sweetness of the pudding and was quite addictive.  Thanks, Brooke!

On the way to the East Village we spied this graffiti art on a wall and it made me think of Don Martin's artwork in MAD Magazine.

And one of my favorite stops in the East Village, Toy Tokyo.  Tons of pop culture, comic book and toys for kids and kids at heart.  Another place where I always find something new and interesting.

How awesome is this?!?!

Some Keith Haring dancing on the ceiling.  Great, now I have an urge to start singing some Lionel Richie.

Oversized Star Wars action figures, from the REAL Star Wars, not any of that Anakin Skywalker-as-Veruca Salt/Greedo-shot-first prequel business!

Truth in advertising?

Love these, though I don't think my 7-year old niece should be expecting a Silence of the Lambs in Your Pocket in her Christmas stocking this year!

Shrink down Jason and Michael Myers and they just don't seem as threatening.

Our lunch stop was at Mighty Quinn's Slow Smoked Barbeque on 2nd Ave. at 5th St.  This place has been getting a lot of buzz staring when it was just a food stall at the Smorgasburg food fair in Brooklyn and now finally to a B&M location in the East Village.  


When we walked in the smell of smoke was the first thing to hit our noses.  In was concerned that it might be too strong and overpower the flavor of the meat.

The decor is pretty spartan and I think perhaps designed to focus on eating which is a good thing.  No blues music, washboards on the walls and knickknacks to distract from the tasty task at hand.  


A fairly simple, straightforward menu.


Mmmmmmm, brisket.

They gave us samples of pulled pork and brisket to try.  I only had the brisket but we both loved it and ordered a single serving of the brisket (with a brioche roll, pickled chiles, onions and cucumbers), sides of vinegar slaw and burnt end baked beans and a housemade iced tea.  This was very filling and a prefect size for both of us to share.  The brisket had a fair amount of fat on it which I don't normally care for but this just melted on the tongue and provided a lot of moisture and flavor.  It had a good smoke ring and the beef flavor came through nicely.  The pickled vegetables were a bright counterpoint and the vinegar slaw (Brooke's favorite) had just the right tang to it.  The roll was good but totally unnecessary.  I didn't try the iced tea but Brooke seemed to like it.  Our bill came to $14.50 which we thought was pretty cheap (at least by NYC standards).  Will most assuredly be coming back for more!

We both really liked the beans and they had smoked sausage as well as burnt ends in them.  As good as they were I am still mourning the loss of my most favorite burnt end beans from RUB BBQ, which closed this past New Year's Eve.  Sniff.

We were really digging the sauce and I'm glad they didn't add any to the meat and instead let us apply as needed.  We made a puddle on our tray and dipped from time to time.  It was a tomato based sauce with a vinegary tang and peppery bite.  Something I would definitely buy if they decide to bottle it.

Stay tuned...more good eats on the way!!
Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 09:26:04
Start with kicked up Oatmeal, throw in some Greek and Mexican food, and a walk through for some candy and things. I would have stuck a Red Velvet Whoopie in my pocket, you never know when your going to have the spare 1/2 without eating something. The Falafel stop would have been great before the Rice pudding and then on to some great looking Smoke, WOW what a great walking food adventure..............Brioche and BBQ, only in NYC.........Great report Billy, thx it looks like you both had fun..........Billy, you should quit your day job and do food tours.........pnwc
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 10:31:43
I saw the Canadian on the oatmeal menu and thought that's the one I'd go for, before I saw that's the one you chose. Looks great! The bbq looks good too, a brisket sandwich is in my future for lunch today I think.
Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 12:51:39
Since Mighty Quinn's didn't have any potato salad we decided to get our potato fix at Pommes Frites just a couple of blocks up the street on 2nd Ave. between 7th St. & St. Mark's Place.  This is one place that I never tire of.  

 It is a tiny storefront but is definitely packed with HUGE flavors.

 We were both trying to figure out how to describe the decor and all we could come up with was a German beer hall crossed with a Tudor style house.  Neither of us have been to Belgium so I'm guessing that frites shoppes there may have a similar design?  


 So many choices...  They usually give out samples and the guy at the counter gave us about 6 frites and 8 sauces to sample.  We tried the Roasted Garlic, Vietnamese Pineapple, Organic Black Truffle, Bordeaux wine, figs & sage, Sweet Mango Chutney, Wild Mushroom, Parmesan Peppercorn mayos.  We liked them all and the Sweet Mango Chutney is my go-to" mayo.  

 A combination whose time has come!

 We ended up splitting a Regular (read: Small) size frites, which was still more than we could both finish.  Our two sauces were the Organic Black Truffle mayo (on the left) and the Bordeaux, figs and sage mayo.  We loved both of them and kept going back and forth on which one we liked the most.  They make most if not all of their own sauces here and it really shows in the taste. I'm pretty sure they don't make their own mayonnaise but they do chop their own herbs and  and mix in the flavors for a fresh-made dipping sauce.  From any seat in the house you can see them doing the prep work for the sauces.  I was really digging the intense black truffle flavor but the Bordeaux wine and sage really came through in the other mayo too.  I didn't pick up the figs but it was still an great sauce nonetheless.  So glad I tried something different on this day.

 At this point, we were starting to feel a bit fullish so I suggested that our next stop be at Gem Spa, just a few steps up the street at St. Mark's Place, for a refreshing chocolate egg cream which I feel also works as a digestive.

 One size only for $2.50, this really hit the spots and was a great palate cleanser and recharged our taste buds and stomach for our next stop.

 After taking a moment to pause and reflect on the Beastie Boy's Adam Yauch we made our way to...

 Luke's Lobster on E. 7th St. near 1st Ave.  We briefly considered splitting an arepa at Caracas Arepa Bar next door but we were beginning to feel like we were close to the end of real estate in our stomachs so we settled on splitting a lobster roll.  

 I love the decor in this place and this mural was painted by a Bowdoin College (Maine) grad.

 Just give me a boat and some traps and I'm ready to go!

 The Taste of Maine looks like my next meal.

 The lobster roll here is a hybrid of sorts as it is a cross between a hot Connecticut style and a cold maine style.  The lobster meat is chilled and bound with a tiny bit of mayo and then warm herbed butter is ladled on top.  They do butter and toast the buns which for me is a key element in any style of lobster roil.  I've been here a number of times and love it but today there was some shell in my roll which was a bit off-putting but it wouldn't stop me from coming back.  

 We had one more stop in the West Village and on our walk there from the East Village we came across this awesome sign.  Any guesses where this can be found?

 The Washington Square Park Arch at 5th Avenue.  I've spent many a summer afternoon hanging out in the park with my lunch and a good book, taking in the street performers, panhandlers, NYU students and other denizens of the Village.  

 We capped off the tour with dessert at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop on the corner of Grove St. & 7th Ave. South in the West Village.  I was particularly excited as I read recently read that they paired up with a local bakery (Dough) and are now offering doughnuts!!  

 Rainbow cone...unicorn approved!!

 While we were waiting for the crosswalk light we spied this sign and from across the street all we could read was Your Mouth...Your Butt.  We HAD to see what that was all about!  They focus on soft serve ice cream and their three machines are named Andrew, Anthony and Gail (for Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain and Gail Simmons)!

 They had Blood Orange, Lemon Poppy and Almond doughnuts but they looked as though they had been sitting around for a while so I passed on them but decided to get an Awesome Sauce sundae.  Brooke passed on dessert but opted to try a couple spoonfuls of mine.  

 This really was awesome!  The soft serve was creamy and not TOO sweet, the candied pepitas gave it a welcome crunch and was a flavor I don't usually have except around Halloween pumpkin carving time and that housemade spicy chocolate sauce was the bomb!  They guy at the counter said they use cayenne, chipotles and cinnamon and it's a slow heat that creeps up and hits you at the back of the mouth and lingers for a bit.  A perfect end to a wonderful tour.  Already drafting the itinerary for the next one.  Thanks for sharing some stellar eats with me, Brooke!  Next time we'll rope Dave, Dayna and maybe a few others into the mix as well.

The 411
1.)  Oatmeals
      120 West 3rd Street (btw. MacDougal & Sixth Avenue)
      New York, NY 10012
      Ph# 646-360-3570
2.)  Economy Candy
      108 Rivington Street
      New York, NY 10002
      Ph# 212-254-1531
3.)  Essex Street Retail Market
      120 Essex Street
      New York, NY 10002
      Ph 212-312-3603
4.)  Brooklyn Taco
      120 Essex Street
      New York, NY 10002
      Ph# 646-820-8226
5.)  Boubouki
      120 Essex Street
      New York, NY 10002
      Ph# 718-344-4202
6.)  Rice to Riches
      37 Spring Street
      New York, NY 10012
      Ph# 212-274-0008
7.)  Toy Tokyo
       91 2nd Avenue (btw. 6th & 7th Sts.)
       New York, NY 10003
       Ph# 212-673-5424
8.)  Mighty Quinn's Slow Smoked Barbeque
      103 2nd Avenue (@ 6th St.)
      New York, NY 10003
      Ph# 212-677-3733
9.)  Pommes Frites
      123 2nd Avenue (btw. 7th St. & St. Mark's Place)
      New York, NY 10003
      Ph# 212-674-1234
10.)  Gem Spa
        131 2nd Avenue (@ St. Mark's Place)
        New York, NY 10003
        Ph# 212-995-1866
        No website
11.)  Luke's Lobster
        93 E. 7th Street (@ 1st Avenue)
        New York, NY 10009
        Ph# 212-387-8487
12.)  Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
        61 Grove Street (@ 7th Avenue South)
        New York, NY 10014
        No phone
That's all for now, folks...or is it?  I may have a couple of more stops on a related mini-tour to add to this one.  Just waiting to hear back from someone about posting their pics.
"Eating is an adventure, enjoy the ride!" - billyboy, 2013
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 13:21:53
The Prince of the City strikes again!  Nice stuff billyboy.
When I saw the "Moby" at Rice to Riches, I immediately thought of Tony Bad
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 16:46:44
Ale is well at McSorley's?
Great report and pictures. Thanks for sharing.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/01 16:54:06
Once again thanks for taking us along with you and for typing out a list of all of the places you visited. I always save your lists in a word document so I can refer to them later. Great report! the NYC tourist board should hire you!
Double Cheeseburger
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/02 20:11:04
Thanx...good report.
Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/02 20:59:06
Great report!
Now if that dog had been sitting in front of the "Hair of the Dog".......I might have worried a little!
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Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/02 21:07:35
Thanks joerogo.  I think that Moby-sized would be my white whale though I'm not sure I'd ever really want to capture it!
Thanks mikeam.  McSorley's is indeed the answer.  I could spend two weeks in just the East Village and not get to all of the places I want to check out.
myterry2 & EdSails, thanks so much.  That would have been pretty funny if that doggie had been there!  
We did pass a bar in the East Village that was having "The Princess Bride" trivia night.  That movie has a HUGE following with people my age and would definitely draw a crowd at that bar.  What a great idea!
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/04 08:32:00

The lobster meat is chilled and bound with a tiny bit of mayo and then warm herbed butter is ladled on top.
That sounds really delicious!  So there are no unwanted ingredients like chopped celery, onion, etc.?
Great way to spend a day, Billy!
Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/05 09:13:31
Hey ScreamingChicken, nope.  Just lobster meat, a swipe of mayo, lemon butter and a dusting of spices.  Honestly, I could do without the spices but that lemon butter is NICE!!  Hoping to put together a tour for this summer when it's actually WARM again!  We did one for Roadfooders on Nov. 2010 and had a blast.
ann peeples
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/05 17:49:06
Fun, fun, fun!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/06 13:00:04
Although this was yet another wonderful trip report, there is one big, unanswered question.  Knowing your dedication to authenticity, I can only assume you dressed as one of the Village People for your tour.  But, which one?  I will go ahead and guess the construction worker!
I told Mariton about the oatmeal place and she is already excited for our next trip to NYC.  And what a gem Rice to Riches is!  Thanks again for this great report! 
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/06 13:43:08

Knowing your dedication to authenticity, I can only assume you dressed as one of the Village People for your tour.  But, which one?  I will go ahead and guess the construction worker!
If this isn't a request for someone with Photoshop skills I don't know what is...
Filet Mignon
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/11 02:51:45
You guessed it, BB!  My dad was a construction worker so it was only fitting.  What can I say?  I've gotta be...a MACHO MAN!
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Village People Tour AKA Brooke & Bill's Awesome Village Voyage 2013/03/19 14:17:50
Hey Billy Boy !!!!
Another great report , thank you for sharing all these fine places .
Pomme Frites is one of my favs ,