There is something wonderful about going someplace and knowing it is not just the pretty sights or the grand experience that you are there for. There are places that teem with history, where unexpected nooks and crannies contain some fascinating nuggets of information. Exploring these places is an unmatched experience.
At the same time, there are moments when these places are those that you will pass by on your way to someplace else. You won’t even know their significance until someone points them out to you. This is where tours become really handy. Who knew that this little tea house used to be the favorite meeting spot of prominent mob members? Who knew that this little cafe served the first ever cup of cappuccino in the US?
These are the things that came to mind as I strolled through the path carved by Foods of NY Tours’ “Heart of the Village Walking Tour”. I have previously taken their famed NoHo and Nolita tour, so I kind of knew what to expect. But I was still floored by the level of new information that I received. That and the amazing taste of New York cuisine.
Starting through the Heart
The “Heart of the Village” tour traverses through Greenwich Village, one of the most iconic parts of New York. It is one of the two tours that go through this place, the other being the “Original Greenwich Village Food Tour”. The tours proceed from Thursday to Monday, all throughout the year. It starts between 12NN and 12:45PM, which is just perfect — it’s lunchtime by then, and most people’s stomachs are just about ready to be filled.
The tour can have as much as 16 people, but there were only 13 of us during the time I was there. The tour tackled mostly mom-and-pop-style shops, those that have been handed down through generations. It’s these shops that often prove to be the most resilient, and that’s just what we saw during the tour.
We kicked off the tour by meeting here. It was a 100-year-old cafe, and we were served some sourdough flatbread. We learned that this place served happy hour cocktails every 4 to 7PM. I wondered how it was like to have happy hour at a century-old place, but that was an experience I would have to put off for the moment.
If you ever fancy some Indian food, this is the place. Just prepare your tastebuds for an explosion of flavor — and a lot of spiciness. The place is very Bollywood — there is even a cute little board off to one side that attempts to differentiate between Hollywood and its Indian cousin.
I was quite surprised when we dropped by here. For one, this was not on the list of shops to be toured as mentioned on the website. Second, its official name is “Porto Rico Importing Company” — it sounds too industrial to be part of our tour. However, it serves fresh-roasted and amazingly brewed coffee. It used to be a bakery, but the change of its focus seemed to be for the better.
Walking through the jungle
After Porto Rico, we took a stroll around Minetta street. This was a very curved street, which according to our guide used to be infested with all manners of gangsters and ne’er-do-wells. The place was so unsafe that it used to be likened to Little Africa. But oh, how the times have changed! Right now it’s a beautiful street with the trademark New York character.
An establishment owned by a fun guy named Sam, the oatmeal raisin cookies served here are like no other. They are served fresh from the oven, and they are so plump and delectable.
From a cookie treat, we walked around Washington Square Park. It had a facsimile of Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe. From here, we proceeded to the last stop of our legendary food trip.
To wrap things up, we had a well-wrapped Mexican burrito (see what I did there?). It was very tasty, and the flavors were just right. I absolutely loved it. You can also order Margaritas separately, which we did. It was an excellent pairing, and a perfect way to round up the village tour.
Greenwich Village has a little bit of everything. From Indian, to American, to Mexican, it’s a real treat for the palate. All the trivia bits we learned was just icing on this well-baked cake. And like a perfect tourist attraction, it’s one that makes you want to keep coming back for more.