Block Party: Orchard Street, Manhattan

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Hey, the more you know. In the early 19th century, trees were traded in for tenements, where a host of hardships awaited hundreds of thousands of immigrants over the next hundred some-odd years. That is, of course, until gentrification eventually crept in around the early aughts and slammed into this area like a Mack truck. The LES is now known less for struggles and more for shops, luxury condos, and everything we’re recommending in our Block Party: Orchard Street Edition.

Let’s get exploring, shall we?

A Gift Store So Cool It Doesn’t Care If You Find It

Calling your shop “Coming Soon” ensures for a SEO nightmare, requiring a person to type in all sorts of addendums to a Google search query in the hopes of merely finding an address. Perhaps this is truly a testament to just how cool Coming Soon actually is, a store willing to brave possible Internet obscurity, confident in its presence in the real world. A sparsely populated, expertly curated concept store, Coming Soon is the aesthete’s answer to SoHo’s overblown MOMA gift shop. Here, you can find gifts for your most discerning friend, someone who appreciates beautiful (if not slightly itchy) rough-hewn textiles, the misshapen artistry of handmade dishware and charcoal toothbrushes from Japan.

37 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Fresh to Death

“Oh, come on, man! I had this!” It seems all too perfect that the man next to me is yelling this gleefully when I step into La Petite Mort (LPM, for short), a vintage store that specializes in duds from the ‘80s and ‘90s. It is a well-curated, well-dry-cleaned selection, where you’ll find neon windbreakers silkscreened with Larry Bird and that Batman shirt from your childhood you so regrettably got rid of twenty years ago, now rife with perfectly chic moth nibbles. Don’t forget to grab the original vinyl edition of Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing on your way out.

37 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Coffee and Then Some

The smell of bacon greets you as you enter the doors of Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, which, unlike many other shops where you can simply hope to stop by for a midday pick-me-up before being sent merrily on your way, you can actually get food here. Real food. With a variety of egg options in the morning and salad/sandwich selections for lunch, this place is a smart choice for easy daytime snacks on the go. International travelers beware: If you want to mooch some free WiFi, you’ll have to journey towards the Starbucks on Delancey.

88 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

A Better Basement

With a limited bar menu provided by eternal culinary darling (and owner) Fat Radish, The Leadbelly can focus firmly on oysters and cocktails. On that note, we suggest the Nice & Stormy, made with rum, lime, and ginger beer. And oysters? Leadbelly has options from both coasts. As far as interiors are concerned, the space culls inspiration from comfortably familiar Americana and simplistic midcentury accents, creating a the bar feels almost like your best friend’s basement, where they’re serving up excellent drinks and spinning vintage records, natch.

14 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Perfecting Hip for the Last 100 Years

The yellow façade of the MOSCOT eyewear store practically screams at you from the street, its sign in giant, bold letters, a marquis as iconic as their frames themselves. Established in 1915, the store—which has expanded to multiple outposts throughout the city—has been cultivating a downtown aesthetic, outfitting the preternaturally hip for nearly a century. If you needed any proof, MOSCOT gamely provides it, covering their walls with photographic evidence of their conquests, which include everyone from Johnny Depp, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Woody Allen—pretty much anyone who’s been relevant to pop culture over the last century.

108 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Better than Willy Wonka

Entering the aptly named Sweet Life candy store is like sticking your face plum into a birthday cake. The pungent smell of sugar in all forms nearly bowls you over, infusing all available air with the very nostalgic whiff of childhood. Sweet Life basically has everything you’ve ever sugar crashed on over the last few decades, from nonpareils to strawberry sour belts to gummy fried eggs. Yes, gummy fried eggs. For those who find modern packaging a bit too sterile for their liking, there are stacks of unwrapped chocolate covered pretzels, marshmallow soft pops, and buckets of serve-yourself confectionary nuts. The place has been here since 1982. The proof is in the pudding. In this case, nearly literally. (PS: You’ll notice we’ve skipped down the street to Hester. You’ll thank us later for straying from our intended path.)

63 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.