photo credit: Kate Previte
In the 1960s, Bob Dylan hung out at Fanelli Cafe. Now, the old-timey tavern is mostly just patronized by aspiring influencers, Carhartt-wearing creative professionals, and other well-dressed people who have less student debt than they'd care to admit. This century-old spot has long been one of the least pretentious options for a meal in Soho, although ever since they expanded their sidewalk seating during the pandemic, the whole place has turned into a scene. And good for them. They deserve it.
Located at the corner of Prince and Mercer—where hypebeasts, tourists, and trust fund artists converge—Fanelli is a little out-of-place time capsule. It's changed ownership a few times over the years, but the interior still looks ancient. The ceiling is tin, the walls are decorated with black-and-white photos of boxers, and the menu consists of some very normal bar food, with a few Italian specialties mixed in. Charming as the place is, most prefer to sit outside, and it’s not a mystery why.
Turns out, the sort of people who spend time in Soho really like to be observed. Walk by Fanelli on a warm summer evening, and you’ll see a bunch of folks wearing recycled Y2K trends loitering on the sidewalk as they wait for an outdoor table. The scene is similar to what you’d find outside a cafe in Paris, complete with cigarettes and stubby wine glasses. If you want to show off your latest YSL handbag or announce to the world that you now wear wide-leg pants, here's where to do it. That’s the real reason why you go to Fanelli.
If you claim to love the food here, you’re lying. Your heart is in the right place, and we admire your devotion to this neighborhood staple, but you’re saying things that just aren’t true. There’s nothing special about the sandwiches at Fanelli, and the salads are some of the saddest in town. But that’s fine. With most entrees in the $20 range, the prices are fair for what you get. So come by and pretend to be absorbed in a plate of spaghetti or chicken fingers while you do your best to make people look at the shirt you just bought off Depop. Everyone else will be doing the same.