SoHo’s picturesque cobblestone streets, cast-iron buildings, and designer boutiques draw quite a crowd. Literally. The narrow streets are so packed that most city folk (and even SoHo residents themselves) tend to avoid the area, especially on weekends and around the holidays. But don’t swear off the SoHo neighborhood – visitors who check out the Manhattan district’s many quality stores, restaurants, and sidewalk vendors during off-peak hours are rarely disappointed.
SoHo stretches from Canal Street to Houston Street and lies between the Hudson River and Lafayette Street. While many of central SoHo’s expansive loft spaces are now reserved for the millionaires who can afford to live high above the shopping crowds, the pre-war brick walk-ups in western SoHo have seen renovations and an influx of upper-middle-class residents. Head further west towards the Hudson and find new condos and luxury apartment buildings.
Roll with the high-brow, martini-sipping crowd at Grand Bar & Lounge at the SoHo Grand Hotel. For a more laid-back scene, Kenn’s Broome Street Bar is a neighborhood favorite, along with SoHo Park, an outdoor restaurant/garden perfect for downing a few beers with old friends. If dancing is your thing, bring your friends to S.O.B.’s and break it down to live Brazilian, reggae, R&B and, hip-hop tunes.
SoHo is home to celebrity hot-spots like The Mercer Kitchen. Those looking for an equally delicious experience sans paparazzi should head to Balthazar for exceptional French cuisine, The Cub Room for superior American fare, and Dos Caminos SoHo for a sampling of contemporary Mexican dishes.
If all you’re looking for is a good cup of java and a slice of pie, selections from Once Upon a Tart and Ceci-Cela should curb your sweet tooth. SoHo is known for its mid-19th Century cast-iron architecture and to this day, it is the largest surviving cast-iron district in the world. Many commercial buildings along Broadway and Spring Street feature this type of construction, which is an elaborately molded cast-iron exterior bolted to brick walls. The Haughwout Building at 488 Broadway and the Gunther Building at 469 Broome Street display classic examples of cast-iron façades.
SoHo is also famous for its loft-style apartments. In the 1970s, many of SoHo’s abandoned commercial and manufacturing buildings offered the perfect spaces for artists seeking large, well-lit interiors for their studios. As artists moved in, the district became populated with galleries and eventually, SoHo became the center of the lower Manhattan art scene. By the 1980s, the neighborhood rose in socioeconomic status and became the new trendy Manhattan neighborhood.