The Resident Tourist in Soho

    Alison McDonald, Writer/Director

    While away the hours in these SoHo institutions that have stood the test of time.

    NY – I admire people who possess the energy and drive to ferret out the newest, edgiest and most exclusive underground hideaways.  But that ain’t me, babe.  Like a pilgrim, I return to the places that soothe the soul and provide shelter from the storm — and don’t soak you when the bill comes.  What follows is a great day of time travel in SoHo.  Bring a good friend, but leave your social networks behind.  Remember, you’re visiting sanctuaries, which isn’t to say they aren’t loud, but your ringing cell phone will definitely disturb the peace.

    1. The Bar at Fanelli Cafe

    1.  Opened in 1847 by Nicholas Gerdas, and later sold to the Fanelli family in 1922, Fanelli’s Cafe is actually just a humble pub with really great, and very reasonably priced, grub.  Situated at Prince and Mercer, major SoHo crossroads, Fanelli’s (the “Cafe” is silent) is a bona fide locals’ haunt — and as a result, has become a tourist magnet.  Therefore, plan your pilgrimage during off-peak hours; have a late lunch or an early drink.  Best to avoid the joint altogether during the summer.  But go you must!

    There’s plenty on the menu for carnivores to savor, but Fanelli’s veggie burger is a bucket-lister, owing largely to the paradoxically sweet onion bun in which it’s sandwiched.  I always order my vb with cheddar cheese and sautéed mushrooms, but Fanelli’s stroke of genius is their pesto sauce, which comes standard.  Do not order the fries.  As tasty as they are, you’ll miss out on an exceptional house salad.  It’s the perfect alchemy of unfailingly fresh vegetables dressed (not doused) in a tangy lemon vinaigrette.  The above feast for the senses will set you back only $13.00.  Note: Ladies, if you need to use the restroom, I highly recommend skipping across the street to the Mercer Hotel (take the elevator down to Level “K” for kitchen).  The water closet at Fanelli’s can barely accommodate Smurfette.

    2. Film Forum

    2. Follow my advice and take a scenic route to destination #2.  Head south on Mercer and make a right on Spring Street.  (Do not walk down Prince, unless you want to be body-checked every step of the way.)  This isn’t the long way; it’s the Chanel way (Spring & Wooster).  Stare, yearn, covet, but do not enter; you have better things to do.  Head west on Spring until you reach Avenue of the Americas, then head north until you reach West Houston, where you’ll hang a left.

    You have now arrived at Film Forum, one of the most revered independent art-house movie theatres in the country.  Best of all, Film Forum boasts the best popcorn on the planet.  (It isn’t hyperbole, it’s a fact, and you’ll thank me for skipping the fries at Fanelli’s.)  Get there early so you can peruse their quarterly bulletins that read more like cinema studies course listings.  Past retrospectives include: The Movie Musical (I was there every night for a week), The Newspaper Picture and Essential Pre-Code, a month-long tribute to fabulously wanton women.  It’s a cash-only box office, so I recommend buying your tickets in advance at the Film Forum website.  The most obscure seeming features often sell out.  And, yes, I think some people just come for the popcorn…

    3. Caffe Dante

    3. Having seen perspective-altering cinema, you now need a haven in which to decompress. The best thing about Caffe Dante is everything: its no fuss décor; its no hassle service (they’re happy to let you sit there all day) and its low key vibe.  Located just north of Houston, the 97-year-old cash-only cafe falls half a block outside the border of SoHo.  And perhaps that’s what explains its utter lack of pretension.  The desserts, however, are grand — and, unlike in life, there are no bad choices.  If you’re into people-watching, you can certainly do it here, but remember that you’re on hallowed ground.  So turn off your cell phone, soak up the scenery and tap into the glorious sensation of time standing still.

    For more on Alison, click here.

    Share on FacebookTweet this PostPin Post
    f a c e b o o k
    t w i t t e r