Only a few blocks long, MacDougal Street may be Greenwich Village’s most famous thoroughfare. It has been home to an astonishing number of artists, writers, musicians, and just plain bohemians over the years, who lingered in its clubs and coffee houses. It was also the center of the city’s LGBTQ community long before Christopher Street stole the show.
A stroll down the MacDougal reveals its fascinating history. A total of nearly 60 restaurants — 40 between West 3rd and Bleecker alone – make it one of the best dining destinations in the city. Skirting Washington Square and its stunning architecture, MacDougal is one of the best places in the city to linger for a visit.
The street was named after Alexander McDougall, who was born in Scotland but emigrated to New York City with his family in the mid-18th century. He worked on a Manhattan farm delivering milk and later was a general in the Continental Army under George Washington, pal of Alexander Hamilton’s, and one of the first presidents of the Bank of New York. For such a prominent wealthy figure it is ironic that one of the most anti-establishment streets in the city should bear his name.
From West 8th Street to West 3rd Street
179 MacDougal – At the corner of 8th Street and MacDougal, but recently torn down to make way for a modern apartment building, this address was successively a fortune-telling tearoom, music venue where Barbra Streisand sang, and elite gay nightclub called Le Jardin.
MacDougal Alley – This private street was built as stables in 1833 serving the townhouses that line the north end of Washington Square. Jackson Pollock and the founder of the Whitney Museum, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney were residents.
North Square (103 Waverly Place) – The restaurant occupying a corner on the edge of Washington Square has long been a favorite place for NYU kids to dine with their parents. Norah Jones was a waitress, who started her career singing at the restaurant’s jazz brunches.
Washington Square – This one-time marsh became a potter’s field during an early yellow fever epidemic. Eventually, it transitioned into a public park with distinguished architecture, such as the row of Federal townhouses on its northern verge, and the Washington Square Arch itself, designed by Stanford White. Public bathrooms on the south end of the park.
West 3rd Street to Minetta Lane
Pommes Frites (128 MacDougal) – Belgian-style French fries served in paper cones are the province of this single-minded eatery, and you can choose from among dozens of toppings.
Munchiez (126 MacDougal) – A recently opened offshoot of a Chinatown snack shop, Munchiez is open late into the night serving dumplings and stuffed bao.
Café Reggio (119 MacDougal) – This ornate coffee house was founded in 1927 when the neighborhood was largely Italian. It claims to have served the first cappuccino in America, and movies filmed here include Godfather II, Shaft, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Next Stop Greenwich Village.
Mamoun’s Falafel (119 MacDougal) – This was the first place to popularize falafel pita sandwiches in the city, beginning in 1971.
Café Wha? (115 MacDougal) – Opened in 1959 sporting a logo showing a cartoon character wearing a beret and sunglasses, this downstairs nightclub has remained one of MacDougal’s best examples of the beatnik ethos. Bob Dylan played his first New York show here after hitchhiking from Minnesota; Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen performed here, too.
Minetta Lane to Bleecker Street
Tiny Minetta Lane, which branches off MacDougal at this point, follows the course of Minetta Brook, a small stream long ago buried underground (though you can still see it flowing along the tracks of the F line at the West 4th Street subway station).
Minetta Tavern (113 MacDougal) – Dating to 1937, this quaint corner tavern hosted too many literary and theater celebs to count, including Ernest Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, Matthew Broderick, and Mathew McConaughey – before being taken over by Keith McNally and turned into a well-regarded steakhouse, with a pair of delicious – if expensive – burgers.
7th Street Burger (110 MacDougal) – Great smash burgers and fries late into the night.
Taco Village (106 MacDougal) – A new taco stand shows how MacDougal Street is continuously evolving, also serving tortas and quesadillas, with a life-size Day of the Dead figure in front, inviting selfies.
Thelewalla (112 MacDougal) – Kolkata (the former Calcutta) street food, many items involving eggs wrapped in flatbreads, is the focus of this excellent walk-up spot, but don’t expect much in the way of seating.
Saigon Shack (114 MacDougal) – Wildly popular at lunchtime, this pho and banh mi parlor is famous for its sweet potato fries.
Berlin Doner (104 MacDougal) – Doner-kebab sandwiches of lamb or chicken (get a combination) made on a variety of breads are the specialty of this Turkish café.
Monte’s (97 MacDougal) — Open since 1918, this subterranean red sauce restaurant offers value and charm. Start with baked artichokes oreganata and consider pasta made in-house, shrimp scampi, or scungilli. Wines are reasonably priced, from $8 to $12 a glass. The bar is tiny but a great perch for people-watching.
Denino’s (93 MacDougal Street) – A Staten Island longshoremen’s bar that served pizza is the parent of this pizza restaurant, and don’t miss the clam pie.
From Bleecker Street to Prince Street
The restaurants along this stretch of MacDougal are upscale compared to their counterparts to the north so be forewarned.
Mermaid Inn (89 MacDougal) – This rollicking seafood spot right on the corner of Bleecker also owns Mermaid Mexicana (79 MacDougal) specializing in ceviches and aguachiles.
Tiro E Segno (77 MacDougal) – Here’s a private rifle club considered the oldest Italian American society in the United States. Across the street is a famous row of townhouses with a common courtyard in back. Celebrity occupants have included Bob Dylan (92-94 MacDougal) when it was slummy in the late ‘60’s.
Emmet’s (50 MacDougal) – This temple of Chicago cuisine turns out deep-dish pizzas and other Windy City culinary oddities.
Niche Niche (43 MacDougal) – The wine bar offers a fixed-price menu with two seatings per evening and a distinguished list of natural wines.