Steps away from Washington Square Park and the West 4th subway stop is MacDougal Street, a throbbing artery in the heart of Greenwich Village. As day tumbles into night, the quaint shopping paradise gives way to a rollicking year-round carnival atmosphere that rivals Bourbon Street, as people wander from bar to bar or simply linger in the streets and enjoy the ambiance. While MacDougal is best known for legendary celebrity haunts like Cafe Wha? (Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol) and The Minetta Tavern (Ezra Pound, e.e. cummings, Ernest Hemingway), the stretch between West 3rd and Bleeker offers a ton of diversions that are worth checking out.Slane 102 MacDougal St., (212) 505-0079
Slane isn't the most traditional Irish pub, but it does boast a great Irish waitstaff and a name cribbed from one of Ireland's castles. The big draw here is the live music, which plays Monday through Thursday, without cover to boot. When the weather's nice, the large front doors are kept open, allowing music and patrons to spill out onto the street, capturing the Irish love of life more than corned beef and cabbage ever could.Nepa Bohn 106 MacDougal St., (212) 477-8723
Handmade Nepalese goods crowd this tiny store. The selection is limited and not necessarily practicalâ€“â€“paper lanterns, lush fabrics, Buddha statues, incense, and paper goods make up the bulk of the waresâ€“â€“but everything is so beautiful that the store is worth a visit simply for visiting's sake.
The Village Ma Thai 107 MacDougal St., (212) 529-3808, (718) 899-5590
The decor is non-descript, the drinks are weak, and the Thai food is good but not necessarily worth the trek downtown. So why go to Village Ma? Karaoke. Every Friday and Saturday night, the back room transforms into a karaoke-fiend's dream. With an extensive song catalogue and a bevy of eccentric downtown characters to play the captive audience, you can make your bid for musical infamy amid a slew of like-minded individuals.Esperanto Cafe 114 MacDougal St., (212) 475-5000
Stake out your spot early if you want to eat at this 24/7 cafe, because it's always crowded, and with good reason. Their rich desserts (try the pumpkin cheesecake or pecan pie) and home-brewed coffees are fantastic and reasonably priced. The odd mish-mash of furnishings-an antique telephone booth and steamer trunk, tiny tables, and a threadbare-but-comfy couch-only add to Esperanto's appeal.The Hat Lady N.Y.C. 116 MacDougal St., (212) 358-1868 (718) 205-2800
This store is a mix of Buddha statues, communist memorabilia, jade jewelry, pipes, and, most importantly, knitted hats. But dismissing the hats as mere garments would be a disservice to Liza Yu Chen, the Hat Lady herself. These are hats to be worn with flourish, twisted yarn recreations of Chinese characters, world monuments, exotic foods, zen gardens, and teapots.The hats are not cheap, but Chen is more than willing to bargain. And if you're really nice, she may give you some Chinese candy of questionable content.
Caffe Reggio 119 MacDougal St., (212) 475-9557
This eclectic cafe serves up traditional Italian sandwiches, desserts, and drinks with a side of history. Built in 1927, Caffe Reggio lays claim to introducing the cappuccino to America and has served as a cinematic backdrop for movies like The Godfather II and the original Shaft. One dim corner houses the very first espresso machine, and the large front windows offer a view of the building in which Louisa May Alcott supposedly penned Little Women.
MacDougal Street Ale House 122 MacDougal St., (212) 254-8569
Venture into the subterranean Ale House and you'll be greeted by the warmest, coziest basement bar imaginable. The exposed brick walls are appealing, there's a back room for darts and a pool table in the front, and the pints are cheap. What more could a cellar dweller ask for?
Club Groove 125 MacDougal St., (212) 254-9393
Groove has served as a launching pad for many R&B/funk artists, and has been graced by the likes of Chaka Kahn and Meshell Ndegeocello. It's easy to see why this bar is a hit. The live music every night and lack of cover Sunday through Thursday keeps frugal music fans coming. The intense red decor and great bar menu keep the mood loose and enjoyable.