If you are like most New Yorkers not currently in the market for a bong or a face tattoo, it's probably been a while since you've strolled down St. Mark's Place.
This historic street (8th from 3rd Avenue to Avenue A, if you're new here) is and always has been a pretty weird place – one in which you can get a variety of unique things, be it a cheek piercing, some cheap socks, a fake ID, or that yin yang tattoo you've been wanting since 30 minutes ago.
Better yet, you can also get some excellent food – you just have to know what places are worth checking out. Infatuation Global Headquarters is located right in the heart of it, so we've got a pretty good grasp on what's what. We also think you should come visit some time.
How do we know this place is good? Well, largely because crowds of Japanese teenagers line up outside right when it opens at 6 p.m. The energy keeps flowing until 2 a.m., when it becomes a late night favorite for chefs who know that chicken on a stick and beer is exactly the thing to consume after midnight.
This place has two locations, separated by a few friendly karaoke places and tattoo parlors. One's for takeout, and the other's a sit-down place full of the kind of people who go on dessert dates. At both, they serve small Japanese-influenced sweets that are incredibly good. Get something with matcha.
This decades-old cheap eats standby is known best for its original Macdougal Street location, but the newer St. Marks outpost is just as good and one of the best places to eat for under $5. Do be warned you may feel like you ate a brick afterwards.
In our opinion, The Bao has the best soup dumplings in Manhattan. They're lighter and more delicate than places like Joe's Shanghai and also come in super spicy and wasabi varieties. The rest of the menu is good, too.
Kenka is an insane place. It's loud, frantic, full of cheap of beer, and features bull penis on the menu. There's also sometimes a cotton candy machine outside. So there's that.
If bull genitalia isn't what you're in the mood for tonight, Mark Burger is next door. They're famous for sliders, which is what you should order.
Time for a drink stop? Holiday Cocktail Lounge has been around pretty much forever. (Leon Trotsky apparently used to hang out here, if an establishment's Marxist pedigree is important to you.) After closing a few years ago, it reopened recently with a small menu and a great cocktail situation overseen by Michael Neff, most recently of Ward III. It's somewhere between a mixology spot and a dive bar, in a way that totally works.
Cafe Orlin is a brunch standby, but it does the job any time of day. It's a solid, affordable, always enjoyable place to hang, particularly if you can get a table outside. They do one of the better veggie burgers around.
The Xi'an Famous Foods mini-chain of spicy western Chinese food has a recently renovated store on St. Marks. Get involved with some spicy cumin lamb noodles, and then probably go somewhere to be alone for a while.
Another VIP of the outdoor brunch circuit, with solid Moroccan/Mediterranean food. Bring sunglasses and plan to eat something with hummus.
By day, Box Kite is a top notch coffee shop serving salads and sandwiches. In the evening, it turns into a six-seat restaurant with an $85, eight to ten course tasting menu that's gotten great reviews. At midnight, it turns into a pumpkin.
Xe May is what we like to call a hipster banh mi place, which is to say the banh mis are named things like "The Sidecar" and have pineapple chutney. The good news is they happen to be pretty damn good.
Hidden behind a mysterious white wall and small door is a really excellent sushi restaurant. It's tasting menu only, and as a result doesn't come cheap.
At the very end of St. Marks, you'll find the Empellon folks' taco spot, which specializes in the al pastor taco – roasted pork shoulder topped with a bit of pineapple. In a neighborhood that has approximately three taco shops on every block, this is one of the very best. They also have 17 beers on tap and a whole Michelada menu, so it's a good spot for a drinks meet up, too.