Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit New York City for an experience through the University of Michigan’s fantastic Career Center. After a morning full of learning (thanks to Hudson’s Bay Company and the people at Saks Fifth Avenue for hosting us!) and a delicious lunch with my group from the tour, I decided to head downtown and explore some of the places where I’ll be living this summer.
First on my list: Mulberry Iconic Magazines, on the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare between SoHo and the Bowery. “Iconic” is half convenience store, half international destination. It’s the physical equivalent of a curated news feed: the tiny bodega is lined wall-to-wall with fashion, interest, and lifestyle magazines from every corner of the globe.
I spent a solid half hour just browsing titles. Japanese fashion magazines I never even knew existed jumped out at me, every cover an invitation to indulge in the niche hobby I swore I was the only person that liked. It was easy to imagine a pre-internet world where Iconic was downtown’s cultural beacon. After an hour’s indulgence in this world of ink and paper, I walked out with this season’s Business of Fashion (Demna Gvesalia on the cover) and a copy of Sneaker Freaker. If you’re a fan of hard-to-find magazines like Kinfolk, Surface, and Wallpaper, make sure you visit Mulberry Iconic – it is perhaps the greatest print destination in the world.
After my stop at Mulberry Iconic, I popped across the street to visit Noah (195 Mulberry St), one of my favorite boutiques in the city. I’ve written at length about the good work Brendon, Will, and the whole team are doing before, so I won’t waste words here. If I didn’t just walk out with half of Iconic, I’d pick up some of their SS16 tees right away. The white “Gulls” tee and multicolor “Earth Uber Alles” are some of my favorite graphics on the market right now.
While I certainly feel like I live at the downtown stores, I left Noah to go check out where I’ll actually be this summer. I left the Bowery and headed towards the East Village to get familiar around NYU. In a move that would make good Samaritans and industrial planners alike swell with joy, New York University opens its dorms to students each summer at a rate that makes Manhattan, well, affordable to students. Many young people owe their ability to accept internships solely to the generously-reduced housing, and I am no exception. Bro move, NYU. Of course opening the dorms over the summer keeps them at efficient operating capacity even after students move out, but hey, glass half full. I took a walk around the village as an afternoon overcast descended on Manhattan.
With grey clouds now blanketing the sky, there was no better time to stop for an afternoon coffee. I put on my best “jaded student” smirk, veered off of 4th ave, and grabbed a cappuccino at Think Coffee. Think is a staple of the NYC coffee scene, with locations scattered all over the island. Each serves up high quality, ethically-sourced beans and locally-made pastries in an intimate environment best described as Central Perk meets Hollister lighting. As I sat down with my magazines, a couple behind me discussed summer travel plans (backpack through Asia) and a group to my left spoke in hushed French. A man at the next table read novels with a legal pad to his side, periodically stopping to jot notes before a hurried re-immersion. Vignette drama played out in a cozy hardwood darkness, and then, there was me. Even with my imported fashion magazines and hipster beard, I could just tell the real Think patrons smelled fresh blood. In short, I’m hopelessly uncool, and it took a visit to Think Coffee to realize that.
That’s not a negative – I actually loved my experience there. The coffee was delicious (my cappuccino was foamed to perfection and came decorated even when ordered to go), the booth was cozy, and every glance away from text on page meant a brief vision of some interesting person doing something much more profound than read fashion magazines. I found myself wondering if I was the same to those sitting opposed. Or maybe they could tell it was my first time. My “jaded student” smirk had long since dissolved in the inviting gloom, and the succession of “this is the coolest place” Snapchats surely labeled me a phony to anyone who could see my phone screen. This dialogue threatened to repeat many more times before I left. So I did what any reasonable person would do: quieted those thoughts and enjoyed my surroundings. Then, I drank good coffee, and got back to my magazine. All in all, I loved Think Coffee. Come the end of the summer, I might even be a regular – I’d just have to get cooler first.
Around 6pm, I left think and took a long evening walk up 7th Ave to visit my friend Kristina’s BFA exposition at the Fashion Institute of Technology (27th St/7th Ave). Her final project was a 9-photo grid exploring themes around the color pink. After 4 years of honing her craft, Kristina’s presentation was nothing short of spectacular – the results are below.
With dinner hour fast approaching, I said goodbye to her friends and family then walked back down 7th to the Village proper. For dinner, I met my friend at Village favorite 100 Montaditos (176 Bleecker St). This little restaurant is the New York outpost of a Spanish tapas-tavern that opened near the Gulf of Cadiz around 2000. If you remember high school Spanish, a montadito is the equivalent of an Anglo-American sandwich – specifically, a small roll topped with traditional ingredients.
Diners at 100M are encouraged to order a wide variety of the finger-sized subs and share them tapas-style, a task we eagerly embraced. With tiny sandwiches in one hand and sangria in the other, it was hard not to feel like summer was in swing. If you go, make sure to grab seats out back in 100M’s idyllic walled garden. Watching the sun set over the East Village with a belly full of chorizo was the perfect complement to an outstanding meal.
As streetlights flicked on, we walked two blocks up Bleecker St to grab dessert at Grom (233 Bleecker St), a world-famous Italian gelateria bordering one of the Village’s many public parks. I can’t really describe just how good their desserts are. Fresh ingredients, an obsession with quality, and eclectic flavors all served up with traditional Italian techniques - it’s no wonder Grom is one of the few Zagat-rated ice cream shops on the island.
“But this isn’t ice cream, it’s gelato” – same difference. If anything, I prefer subtle flavors in smaller quantities to a cone full of chocolate and sugar. Gelato is certainly lighter, and pairs great with espresso. With bitter coffee to balance saccharine sweetness, I savored my small Crema di Grom for as long as the room temperature treat could stay solid. Sure, it wasn’t the cheapest dessert ever. But when it’s this good, you sacrifice. Grom is far and away the best gelato I’ve ever tasted.
With our dessert tragically over, my friend and I ambled through the Village on a quiet summer Tuesday. Unlike a college town, the bars weren’t prepping for a Tuesday night of cheap pitchers and waived cover – on the contrary, people were enjoying themselves. Pleasant conversation and the occasional clinked beer stein floated the darkness that was just now settling in. Miles away from the artificial glow of Times Square, there was this: pleasant, authentic, a life lived without pretension. While Midtown billboards fought off darkness, Village cafes embraced it. It was a section of the city I had never experienced before, but now, wanted only to visit again.
But then I remembered the purpose of my time at Think, my walk around Washington Square. Visit? I could do one better. In a few weeks, I’d live here. Start spreading the news.