Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bohemian Oasis

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I had no idea what falafel was before I tried it at Mamoun's Falafel in Greenwich Village this year (see black arrow in photo above). I knew it was a type of food with origins in the Middle East, but that's about it. I've never been a fan of chickpea byproducts, but it tasted much better to me than the only other chickpea byproduct I know, hummus.

But I wasn't really there for the falafel. I was there to have an espresso at Caffe Reggio, the little green establishment directly next door.

Now, I had heard a lot of things about the place. Words like beatnik and bohemian were always thrown around and finding their way into people descriptions of the place. From what I had read, it’s the city's oldest coffee house, serving up java since 1927. Apparently, many iconic figures have patronized the place, such as: Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Joseph Brodsky, and William Burroughs to name a few.

I'd read much of this stuff from online reviews of the place, which often point out that it "has harbored bohemians for decades, most notably beat generation poets like Kerouac and Corso." That's pretty much all that my ears, and my curiosity, needed for both to perk up, pay attention, and put it on my To-Do List. And when I finally made it there, it was exactly what I thought it would be.

I went inside to check the place out, at first. It's a cozy little place with an old-world feel to it. The staff were genuinely nice, and as expected, the patrons were quite a diverse group of people. But, as inviting as the inside was, it was a cool, breezy day -- so I sat outside at the table just stage-right of the door (the one with the red seat in front of the green door--see photo above, or large version, here).

I was actually somewhat surprised that I enjoyed the food as much as I enjoyed their double espresso. I will definitely return next time I'm in the neighborhood.

In case you're wondering, it's less than a minute south of Washington Square Park on MacDougal Street, if you ever want to check it out.

Tourist: "So what the difference between hummus and falafel?"
Guy at counter: "Well...one is hummus, and the other is falafel."

**Overheard at Mamoun's Falafel on MacDougal St., Greenwich Village (see black arrow in photo above)**

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