Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 05:46 pm est

Weekend Roam: Little Germany

Posted on May 5, 2013 | by Helen Holmes

Helen Holmes for WSN


So, we all know what the East Village is now: a sprawling grotto of coffee joints, tattoo parlors, leafy green trees and tortured-soul type undergrads stomping around with multiple chips on their shoulders. However, I bet you anything you didn’t know (unless you’re some kind of NYC history whiz, in which case, bravo) that in the mid-1800s, the East Village was home to as many as 400,000 Germans, so many that the area was referred to as Little Germany. Thanks to an article from East Village blog The Local, I was enlightened by this fascinating nugget of information this morning, and so I set out to find any and all remnants of the long-gone days when the streets were teeming with barrels of freshly pickled sauerkraut. Additionally, sauerkraut may just be the greatest word of all time.

My first stop was at the authentic German eatery Wechsler’s — although it has been here since 2009 and not 1850, it certainly provided what it advesrtised: delicious, definitively Deutschland fare and atmosphere. The small space was appropriately dark and wood-paneled, complete with chandeliers and old photographs of impressively mustachioed men pouring massive flagons of beer. I ordered the only thing that you really can order at a German retaurant — bratwurst. Essentially a German hot dog but way better, bratwurst is a sausage comprised of either veal, pork or beef, served with a white bread bun and hot mustard.

I went to Munich in seventh grade with my parents and I basically lived on this sausage for a week and a half. It is infinitely better than the American mystery meat we’re usually treated to by dining halls and street vendors, so if you’ve never had it then get yourself over to First Avenue and Seventh Street right this minute. Bring your friends — they’ll think you’re super-cultured.

Also, because this column has basically disintegrated into a space where I talk about stuff I ate, I also found myself at Butter Lane, where I devoured the most deliciously spongy, light, moist vanilla cupcake with coconut frosting ever to grace my taste buds. How I didn’t know about this place before is beyond me, but for real, cupcakes are a surprisingly fitting palate cleanser after a rich and meaty bratwurst. Or maybe that’s gross. I’m not really sure. Back to Germany.

The most surprising evidence of the remnants of a once German-packed area was to be found in a place both familiar and striking — St. Marks Place. Thought it was just a haven for gaggles of drunk bros and trucks hawking suspicious cannabis lollipops? Well, you’re right, but it also turns out that a building between Third and Second avenues still — amazingly — boasts the words “Deutsch-Amerikanische Schützen-Gesellschaft Halle” and “Einigkeit macht Stark” (“unity is strength”) on the awning. Specifically, this is the building that now houses Yoga to the People. As intellectually and very personally involved college students, it’s hard to think of areas that we traipse every day as anything other than that place where we got that regrettable tramp stamp or spilled broth on our jeans during a first date. It’s lovely and transformative to remember that history is all around us. Sometimes all we need to do to see it is look up.

Helen Holmes is a deputy features editor. Email her at


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Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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