Scratching the nightlife itch in Greenwich Village
October 31, 2010
NEW YORK, USA – When my friend Dariana and I arrived in New York City for the weekend from Los Angeles, we had high hopes for the nightlife. Both fervent salsa dancers, we were excited to dance in the birthplace of salsa itself (Havana deserves some credit, too, of course, but New York’s urban melting pot made those tropical rhythms bubble and coalesce into something singular). We expected to find a sizzling scene in the city that never sleeps.
Instead, when we headed to Iguana–a Mexican restaurant/nightclub near Times Square recommended by a friend–on Friday night, we found a scene that was barely lukewarm. The DJ favored bachata and merengue over salsa, and we were dismayed that the crowd lacked seriously skilled salseros. To add to the disappointment, Dariana had developed a raging case of poison ivy from a hiking expedition the previous weekend, and her legs were too itchy and swollen for her to join in the (admittedly tepid) fun!
So for Saturday night, we surrendered our dance fantasies in favor of just finding some really good music to listen to. Our initial plan was to see a live Brazilian band at the famed Sounds of Brazil (SOBs) nightclub in SoHo (we’re also big samba lovers). Alas, our desires were thwarted once again as the evening’s entertainment was a reggae party, not Brazilian tunes.
At this point, we let go of all plans and just decided to let fate be our guide. We would plant ourselves in a cool neighborhood in search of music and food and let New York work its magic. Just blocks away from SOBs, we stumbled into Greenwich Village, the answer to our nightlife prayers.
It was close to midnight, but the sidewalks teemed with young revelers ducking in and out of bars, restaurants, and clubs (if we’d been home in Los Angeles, the streets would have been empty at this hour!). Boutiques hawking jewelry and trendy fashions still had their doors flung open to late-night shoppers. A party bus of enthusiastic Columbians rumbled by, spilling salsa music into the street. We thrilled to the glowing, pulsing nightlife feel shoehorned into a set of quaint, historic streets.
We were feeling hungry but wanted something light. With so many adorable sidewalk cafés to choose from, it was hard to pick, but we ultimately settled upon a little wine/food bar called Ciao West. I had perhaps the yummiest plate of grilled vegetables I’ve ever tasted, and Dariana enjoyed her fresh salad. “That scratched the itch,” I told her. “Don’t mention anything about scratching itches!” she said, still battling the urge to claw at her poison ivy rash.
Next, in search of music, we found just what we were looking for. A sign outside the below-ground Zinc Bar announced a Brazilian music festival. Inside the sultry bar-cum-jazz joint, we caught the last set of Monika Oliveira, a chanteuse hailing from Rio. Perfect! When we emerged from the bar after 2 am, we marveled that the streets were still alive with after-hours adventurers. LA may beat out NYC on the salsa tip, we concluded, but it can’t hold a candle to this neo-bohemian nightlife utopia.