On the Spot: SoHo

Many folks grumble that nowadays SoHo, the Lower Manhattan neighborhood comprising 26 blocks and some 500 buildings, is little more than an overpopulated, overpriced outdoor malla sad shell of its former self. On the whole, it might be difficult to argue otherwise. But the historic, hyper-gentrified area still retains most of its great character. And that's thanks in large part to its cast iron buildings, cobblestone streets and a few businesses that have managed to stick around since their patrons were mostly struggling artists squatting in drafty factory-cum-studio spaces. (Of course, those are now “lofts” that sell for seven and eight-figure sums.)

When Jack was a puppy, he lived for two years in SoHo, in a bright pink building on Prince Street. And though it had its share of unfortunate aspects—what neighborhood in New York City, or anywhere for that matter, doesn’t?—he just adored it. So, in honor of Jack's SoHo salad days, herewith a few of his favorite spots…

Gourmet grocer Dean & DeLuca (pictured above), which first opened on the corner of Broadway and Prince in the fall of 1977, is among SoHo’s better known and oldest surviving businesses. It also happens to arguably be the only business worth visiting along the insufferably crowded blocks on Broadway between Houston and Canal. Fun fact: Giorgione, a fabulous Italian restaurant located relatively nearby at 307 Spring St., was opened in 2001 by Dean & DeLuca co-founder Giorgio G. DeLuca. Their Macellaio pizza (sausage, mozzarella, tomato) is insanely delicious.

Fanelli's Cafe, whose 1922 est. makes Dean & DeLuca look like a neighborhood newcomer—actually, for the sake of accuracy, the location that Fanelli now occupies, on the southwest corner of Prince and Mercer, first opened for business in 1847—is still a great place for a burger and beer late at night, when the crowds have thinned.

The Judd Foundation building on Mercer and Spring opened to the public as a museum in 2013, following a meticulous $23 million renovation. Visitors book well in advance to tour the cast iron building, where the artist Donald Judd variously worked and lived after buying the property in 1968, in intimate groups with a conversant guide. Early evening, when twilight floods the rooms, is the best time to visit. Just don’t try to take photos inside or touch anything—including the walls and even some of the floors.

Since it opened on Wooster in the 1980s, Gourmet Garage has sold neighborhood chefs and foodies a winning selection of fine and imported foods.

Milady’s, a longtime favorite watering hole for blue-collar workers and bankers alike, closed its doors to the vocal dismay of many in January. Jack was known to stop in for a Stoli O and soda from time to time...

About a block west down Prince from the now-shuttered Milady’s sits Raoul’s, which is still very much open and has been since the mid-1970s. Many people flock to the "pioneering" bistro for its deliciously buttery steak au poivre with crispy French fries. Others have their fortunes told by a woman who can be found on many nights stationed just outside the upstairs bathrooms.

159 Prince, whose exterior has been bright pink for as long as we can remember and where Jack spent much of his happy puppyhood, was being painted white on the day we visited. Another visible sign of SoHo’s continuing evolution.

M&O Market—Jack’s onetime favorite local deli.

Jack’s favorite SoHo fountain. Kidding! Fun fact: This fountain, while lovely and very fountain-y, is not actually located in SoHo.

To read more about SoHo in its grimier glory days—and from someone who actually lived there then—visit The SoHo Memory Project, a terrific blog written by longtime neighborhood resident Yukie Ohta.