Best Cheap Gift Destination: Fish’s Eddy
889 Broadway, at W. 19th St., 877-347-4733
Need a quirky gift but don’t have the cash? Fish’s Eddy is still your place. The store has been a destination for decades, but may have been forgotten with all the new boutiques and chain stores that have moved in to hawk their wares for the price-conscious. With beautiful votives for $10, kitschy coasters for $3.95 and sets of Japanese garden glasses for $20, you can stock up on distinctive stuff for your pals—and maybe even have a little left over to spend on yourself.
Best Place to Feel Like a Kid: Make Meaning
329 Columbus Ave, betw. W. 75th & W. 76th Sts., 212-362-0350
Remember when you were tricked into going with your friends to one of those pottery places where you had to plate while gabbing about your girlfriends? It’s back—kinda. Make Meaning opened up a few months ago in child-friendly Upper West Side and has somehow managed to balance the twee with the sophisticated. They have classes to teach you how to make items with glass, or you can try out candle-, jewelry- or papermaking. Sure, there’s always the chance that you’ll feel a little uncool sitting around while threading beads. But remember that whole knitting thing? Plus, getting your hands a little dirty is always fun.
Best Place to Place to Feel Like a Man: Hog Mountain
192 5th Ave., at Sackett St., Brooklyn, 347-725-4236
After logging 5 miles on the stroller and an afternoon of Daddy & Me classes, Park Slope guys can find refuge at Hog Mountain, the general store for men. Walk out with a silk tie, a brown leather wallet, a Carhartt jacket, a flannel shirt and a saw. It’s Americana for an urbane set that prefers a classic look that’s stylish. The store is stocked with a variety of Levi’s jeans—even skinny (if you must) and slim-fit. Men can treat themselves to Lucky Tiger grooming products, get a pair of cuff links and finally learn how to tie a bow tie from the store’s knowledgeable owner. Just make sure you park your stroller far enough from the tool section, out of Junior’s reach.
Best Place to Hawk Your Clothes: Buffalo Exchange
332 E. 11th St., at 1st Ave., 212-260-9340
Unlike certain consignment shops that seem to only want to take your most bizarre and ugly items of clothing (we’re looking at you, Beacon’s Closet), Buffalo Exchange will actually validate your sense of style by buying up the items in your closet you either don’t fit in, no longer wear or just never looked right on you. And instead of taking your things and having you wait around for them to sell in order to collect, they hand over the cash upfront. BE has outposts nationally, but the East Village outlet looks for trendy, seasonal pieces that are in good shape. It’s even a cute place to shop.
Best Tattoo Parlor for a Newbie: East Side Ink
97 Ave. B, betw. E. 6 & E. 7th Sts., 212-477-2060
Achieving legendary status as the leading tattoo parlor in New York in the 1990s, East Side Ink is a clean and unintimidating place, staffed by knowledgeable and exceptionally talented artists. The original shop was opened in 1992 by the highly regarded Andrea Elston, but nowadays, veteran tattoo-aficionados Josh Lord, Jen Terban and Yadira Mendez-Firvida run the show and include inking personalities big and small: Lord, Patrick Conlon, Mark Harada and Ethan Morgan. Over the years, some of the shop’s famous clientele has included Ozzy Osbourne, Woody Harrelson, Brian McKnight and Amy Winehouse. You might remember that about a year ago they got into a bit of trouble with the city for letting an unlicensed Rihanna tattoo her initials on to some of the shop’s eager artists—a health-code no-no that could have costed up to $2,000 in fines!
Best Shoe Repair According to a Drag Queen: Steve Express Shoe Repair
311 E. 14th St., betw. 1st & 2nd Aves., 212-228-9368
Sure, there are fancier shoe repair shops in the city, in trendier neighborhoods surrounded by fancy boutiques. But why would you want to pay an unnecessary $50 just to re-sole a heel? A hole-in-the-wall down a short flight of stairs, Steve’s is a secret favorite of shoe-abusing East Village drag queens. He can replace your soles, re-attach or straighten a heel (without using cheap glue—his work actually lasts) and perform all kinds of repairs for under $30 a pair. In fact, the only time our tipster paid more than $30 for a service was when the man crafted a high-heeled leather boot into a strappy sandal contraption, for a mere $60. Plus, he can fix watch bands and batteries, adjust your jewelry and even copy your keys! They don’t make ’em like this anymore.
Best Cheap Nail Salon That Won’t Give You Fungus: Tina’s Nail Salon
555 5th Ave., at 15th St., Brooklyn, 718-369-1908
Forget the red plastic covering the ceiling and the tacky hanging fixtures—Tina’s in South Park Slope is the best deal for mani-pedi pampering. For $12.50, you get a pedicure complete with a massage, and you can add on 10 more minutes for $10. Really, it’s just unheard of. Plus, the place is clean, the staff is friendly and the pedis are actually good.
Best Yuppie Marketplace: Eataly
200 5th Ave., at W. 23rd St., 646-398-5100
Once upon a time, the whole idea of grocery shopping was that you could buy and make food that would cost less than eating at a restaurant. That notion, dear reader, is completely outdated—but that’s not entirely a bad thing. At Eataly, the mammoth Italian grocery store and restaurant Deathstar in the shadow of the Flatiron building, owners Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich stock the shelves with pricey pastas, sauces, meats and more, all designed for you to make a perfect meal at home, at only slightly less than it might cost to dine at a nice-ish Italian restaurant. While it’s not in our nature to pay upwards of $10 for a pound of fresh pasta or almost the same amount for a jar of sauce, there’s something about the store and what it promises that makes it seem (almost) OK. Perhaps it’s the bustling, authentic Italian feeling of what’s happening inside or maybe just the way that perfect-pasta guy grins while you try to decide if one portion of spinach ravioli is worth a night’s drinking money (it is), but spending too much on groceries here actually feels good. If you’re aching for the experience but don’t want to drop the cash, try going in for veggies—on a recent trip, they weren’t any more expensive than at the Associated.
Best Food Delivery: New York CSA & Organic Food Delivery
The locavore movement has annoyed us enough to yell at people who are perfectly nice—but want to keep us from eating our morning banana. But then there’s the idea of Community Supported Agriculture: cutting out the middleman and just buying fruit and veggies directly from the people making it. What could be wrong with that? It works by CSA members paying for an entire season of produce upfront as either “shares” or “half shares” and then showing up at a designated location and day to pick up your produce. Yes, it’s a little like hoity-toity peasantry, but it’s also a way to figure out how to experiment with strange tubers and other legumes you may never get up the courage to purchase on your own. And in the process of your 21st-century dietary explorations, you get to support people trying to make a living from the land.
Best Place to Buy CDs by Belgian Punk Bands: Generation Record
210 Thompson St., betw. Bleecker & 3rd Sts.
In an era when the definition of an album—does a download count?—is very much in dispute and even CDs are a vestige of the pre-Internet past, it’s nice to have a place where you can actually pick up music and hold it. While no record store—and Generation is not an exception—can compete with the encyclopedic variety (and low prices) of the Internet, its staff does an excellent job of culling through the new and old of obscure genres (Third Wave Ska, Psychobilly, Norwegian Death Metal), and you’re guaranteed to stumble on a record you didn’t know you needed.
Best Bespoke Bike Boutique: Adeline Adeline
147 Reade St., betw. Greenwich & Hudson Sts., 212-227-1150
Have bicycles really won the war of the city’s streets? While we still hate when they go the wrong way on the new bike paths, it has been great to see more and more people take to the roads and not end up roadkill. Now that we have bike-T-shirt collaborations and even cycle shops with coffee bars, it seems the trend may be here to stay. The cycle studs can have their testosterone-fueled havens; we’re throwing our support behind Adeline Adeline, a pleasant boite dedicated to bikes. Owner Julie Hirschfeld is in tune with what women want from bicycles. And it seems to be the cute accessories, along with the retro models (from $380 to $2,000—or more).
Best Place to Kick Your Tires: Downtown Auto Center
348 Bowery, at Great Jones St., 212-777-4848
What with always-heavy traffic, recessionary potholes, ever-diminishing free parking, battalions of quick-triggered meter maids and now floating bike lanes, Manhattan has become a little less friendly toward car owners—especially if they’re not blessed with a robber baron’s-size bank account. If you have been keeping a car anywhere near the East Village, however, at least you’ve been able to score quick and convenient servicing. Downtown Auto Center—which offers tire changes, inspections and minor repairs—has been operating from the same location, on Great Jones Street and the Bowery, for the last 50 years. But this charming patch of nostalgia has been reportedly purchased by a Miami-based luxury hotel chain—another victim of the Bowery’s super-gentrification. So you better get your oil changed quick.
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