shopping downtown, chapter 1: Soho (including exercise and a little food)

After some thought, I didn't put together a long list of cute eccentric little stores, for the very good reason that in today's peculiar economy, stores are closing and opening like shutters in a hurricane, and the Soho area is no exception. Last week I needed a perk-up, and the place I was looking for simply wasn't there. Something else was, but ... So anyway, here are some well known starting points for your expedition, and some suggestions for walking around.

Guess what? There is a J.Crew in Soho, and we can start shopping in earnest after Getting There. You do not want to drive. Repeat, you do not want to drive. If your car is already in the city, leave it midtown or uptown. Take the subway, either the 4 or the 6 to Spring Street or the N, R, or W to Prince Street. This is the exercise part: climbing the stairs down and up from and to the street. The city has kindly provided little street maps in the subway stations to help you get oriented, along with some directional signs. So at Prince Street, head for the northwest corner, and walk west on Prince Street a block or two. If you've come via the Spring Street station, walk west a block or two to Broadway, turn right on Crosby Street, go north one block to Prince Street, and head west. Please bear in mind that although many people view their shopping expeditions as spiritual pilgrimages, this store is clean but unimpressive from outside. Inside: nice shoe/accessory area, usual JC merch on the ground floor, and the sale section and Crewcuts and its sale section are downstairs. See? more stairs, you lucky girl! The salespeople are just delightful here, including the ones in the Crewcuts area, which I'm told is unusual.

There's also an Anthropologie store on West Broadway, which is west of Broadway. Exit J.Crew, pass the Apple store, cross Greene Street, cross Wooster Street, and you'll come to West Broadway, where you turn left. You're heading downtown, and Anthro is towards the end of the block. In the other direction, Madewell is at 486 Broadway, at Broome Street. This is where I should mention the aerobic part of the exercise program, where you gallop briskly between destinations and fling your arms in the air as you try on and remove outfits.

If you were to draw kind of an irregular pentagon, with the Spring Street subway stop at one point and the Anthro store at another, you would realize that you are in a very enjoyable playground for shoppers. Stay around here long enough and your shopping bags will serve as free weights. Behind just about every doorway is a store worth checking out. There's a jeweler called Reinstein/Ross on Prince Street which will make you rethink your standards for ornamentation (no mystery metal here!), there are shoe stores of every variety (have a look at Robert Clergerie), and there are places to have lunch. C.Wonder, the emporium of Tory Burch's husband Chris, is at 72 Spring Street, close to the subway, probably worth a look. Also fun: Zadig & Voltaire, at 143 Mercer Street. So stroll around, feast your eyes on original creations, and as long as you remember where the subway stations are, you can't get lost. I haven't been more specific about shops because (see above), but you'll find plenty. Use your map-reading skills to stroll to the J.Crew Men's locations, because the men's hats and some of the scarves should be tried on.

Assuming you're not up for a fancy lunch with waiters dressed like a stage crew, here are some suggestions for nearby quick bites where you won't waste precious shopping time.

Hampton Chutney, at 68 Prince Street, just east of Broadway, has dosas. A dosa is an Indian crepe, they have 9 or 10 different fillings, some vegan, some not. You eat standing up or perched, the food is well seasoned but not hotly or oddly spiced. Inexpensive (because the money is for the shopping, right?)

You could go to Balthazar, on Spring Street, between the subway exit and Broadway. It's crowded at mealtimes, fine at other hours, like if you want to sit down for a glass of wine and a plate or two around 5:30. Or for an earlier break, try for lunch on the early side. I've never been seated at the time of my reservation, so I just walk in and take my chances. Me, I avoid the bar, each time I've agreed to wait there someone has spilled wine on me. Food's nice, I would not call this inexpensive.

Dean & DeLuca is a fancy food store on the southeast corner of Broadway and Prince. They also sell sandwiches and beverages right where you walk in, to be eaten at a small counter. But take a minute or two first to admire the beautiful veggies and flowers, the fancy cakes and breads, the fine meat counter.

There's a good burger at the Broome Street Bar, and good beers, if you're shopping with a guy. Also perfectly fine for a couple of women to go in, sit down, have lunch, rest feet. Child-friendly.

And this is Soho, even though of recent years it's more a shopping precinct than an arts district, don't forget the people-watching!

Hint: if shopping with child, have child hold a compass and tell you whether you're going south (downtown), north (uptown), east, west...  Not advised if child has wicked sense of humor... Alternatively, deposit husband and child in Apple store, note where it is or take a picture, and pick them up later.


  1. I'm totally jonesing for Chutney now!

    Okay, people, don't make the mistake I did and not realise West Broadway is a completely different street than Broadway! I was supposed to meet someone at that Anthropologie and couldn't find it for ages (the shopkeepers on Broadway were of no help...)

    A great place to visit is also the Prada store which is just around there- an absolutely amazing space, and once when I was there there were waiters handing out truffles and lemon water...

  2. Hey, I just randomly stumbled on your blog this morning, by way of Effortless Anthropologie. I live in NYC and if you are still here, I highly recommend a shopping tour of the Lower East Side! You can get 500% RDA of Small Boutiques there. My favorite is probably Mint Julep, though I also adore Stella Filante, Miks, Pixie Market, and Kaight (I'll stop now, I promise, though I could go on for days), but if you just walk around using Rivington as a locus you'll hit a lot of cute little places. Edith Machinist is a great vintage store in the area, too.

    There's some great places to eat and good bars in the area, too. Freeman's is probably my favorite place for brunch, but it's hard to recommend it because it can come with a wait on weekends. Really there are tons of little places to eat in the area. And lots of live music at night, if you're there later in the day.

    Take the F to Delancey or 2nd Ave and just wander.

  3. I love shopping in SoHo but haven't been there since my BIL took a stint in Hong Kong. He will be back next year and then so will we. He lives by the Patagonia store on Wooster, just south of Houston. It's a perfect location to start a day of walking, shopping and eating. I wonder how many of the shops you mention will still be there when we go back... Thanks for the tour.

  4. You made me miss walking around in New York! I haven't been back in ages. Sigh.

  5. Southern Belle Ph.D.February 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    I was last there ages ago. I did the sightseeing thing, ate for the first time standing up, and took taxis...walked...shopped...took taxi...walked...shopped. My husband wants to return so perhaps I need to think about the subway. Is shopping by taxi not such a great idea?

  6. Hi, thatdamngreendress, I enjoy a "museum-like" visit (walk-through) to the Prada store, but find it very difficult to spend money there. Not because I don't like the merchandise, but the prices give me chills.

  7. Hi, Alexandra, thanks for stopping by! I love LES shopping, too, but thought I'd start with a less edgy area.

  8. Hi, xoxo, what a neat location! and how nice to have a place to stop, rest, recharge!

  9. Hi, Cris, someone once said you can never step twice in the same river, and I feel the same about walking, shopping, browsing in New York.

  10. Hi, SouthernBellePhD, shopping by taxi is easy on the feet, but hard on the purse. To compare: a taxi costs $2.50 when you get in, plus .50 for each additional "unit." A unit is one-fifth of a mile, when the taxicab is traveling at 6 MPH or more; or 60 seconds when not in motion or traveling at less than 6 MPH. And there are “surcharges:” a mandatory 50ȼ for the State of New York, a $1.00 surcharge for “peak hour” (4 p.m to 8 p.m., weekdays M-F), and a night surcharge of 50ȼ (8 p.m. to 6 a.m.) It can add up very fast. A subway or bus ride costs $2.50, but less if you use a multi-ride card, which you buy at a machine in almost any subway station. If a particular station doesn't sell the cards, it says so before you go in. The cards work on the buses, too, which is good, because otherwise you'd be hauling 9 quarters per ride per person around with you – busses only take change. Pick up a free map at the clerk's office in a subway station, sometimes there's a little box of them on a bus, too.

    My thought would be, use public transportation, it's cheaper and generally faster than a taxi, but if you're worn out and loaded down with (success!) bags, take the cab back to your hotel.

  11. Thanks for the guided tour, WFF! I am definitely planning to be in this vicinity at some point.

  12. Southern Belle Ph.D.February 27, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    WOW!! Thanks for the headsup! I knew we would have to plan things ahead but we Really have to plan ahead. I will be following all of your series about visiting NYC. Thank you so much! Maps here I come...

  13. Hi, Southern Belle, I was just thinking that visitors to NYC usually have a long listofthings they want to fit in to a limited amount of time, so I thought I'd take a stab at streamlining the shopping.

  14. Thanks for all the info, esp about the dosa place-- never had these. I haven't been to NYC for a year now that my daughter has graduated and is no longer on UWS. My nephew is an architect in Soho so that could be a good excuse.

    I have never spent a dime in Prada, but I recall the store before the Recession when the goons would follow you around as though you were about to pinch a pair of shoes.

  15. Hi, Lane, yes, Prada is noteworthy for well-dressed thugs, although the real criminals are the ones who write the price tags.


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