I have always had a fascination with the West Village (which is still New York’s coolest neighborhood in my opinion), trying out new restaurants and scavenger hunts, so when I had the opportunity to do all three at one time, I jumped on the opportunity. Watson Adventures has many different themes for their scavenger hunts which are about 2 1/2 hours and are all on foot–so they keep you within six or seven blocks of the starting point (which also serves as the finish mark).
The Munch Around The Village scavenger hunt starts on Father Demo Square on Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue. The hunt has a capacity of 20 and this one was sold out. You purchase your tickets on their site ahead of time for $24 per person and every guest is responsible for paying for their own snacks out of pockets. You have to visit six restaurants, buy a snack at each one (which are generally between $1 and $5 each) and text them to the tour guide during the hunt. You also get a map with 17 different restaurants and bars on it and have to answer a question on each (there is an answer fill in sheet handed to each guest that they give to the tour guide at the end). The questions are fairly tough and you cannot Google the answers. You really have to go to each and observe something going on inside or outside of it to answer the given question! I admit, I was stumped on quite a few!
I was thrilled to discover eateries I had never had the opportunity to go to before the way and get up close and personal with many West Village landmarks like The Stonewall Inn that I have long adored. I was mesmerized by the fact that I spent only $22 on enough great eats to nearly make me explode in a neighborhood with some of the most expensive real estate in the world, too.
I stopped into Mamoun’s Falafel on MacDougal Street for their legendary falafel first. At $4.50, it was the freshest tasting felafel that I have ever had. I love the family feel and the real local community atmosphere. I actually received my change from a cute six or seven year old kid behind the counter who must be the son of someone who works there.
I then went to Joe’s Pizzeria on Carmine Street–a West Village legend with a line of 25 people pouring out of it. A regular slice is $3 and it is real classic NYC thin crust pizza. I sprang for the a fresh mozzarella slice because it simply was calling my name. This place is crawling with people from everywhere and anywhere thanks to it being a local legend and having outstanding Yelp reviews. Thankfully the line moves fast and there is room for about 25 people to eat “in”! I hope to go back to try their calzone in the near future.
I also wanted to go to The Taco Shop directly across from Bob Dylan’s most famous NYC apartment circa 1961-1963 (located at 161 West 4th Street). You walk down a set of stairs in front of 166 West 4th Street to a basement-level “cute and casual” Mexican dining room where all tacos are $3 to $4 and sides are three for $8 or $3.50 each. I got the juicy marinated skirt steak taco which had delicious soft onion and lime juice on a fresh soft flour tortilla and a small side of sweet plantains. It was a truly authentic Mexican food experience.
I also visited Patisserie Claude up the way on West 4th Street where mini quiches come out of the oven on a regular basis. There are a few different kinds including mushroom and classic ham and cheese but I had the mushroom. The crust was golden and flakey and the inside soft, warm and cheesy. If I closed my eyes, I could believe that I was in Paris. They are worth more than the $3.80 charged for them and are very filling. I will go back on a rainy day so I can sit at a front table and people watch while I eat another mini quiche.
Now I have to come clean and say that I did not actually eat at six places as required by the scavenger hunt because I was too full after my steak taco, plaintains, falafel, pizza and mini quiche. Because I was required to go to six places to eat, I bought some parmigiana reggiano to go at Murray’s Cheese and fresh Italian hot sausage to go from behind the counter on the most legendary of downtown’s old school Italian grocery stores/delis, Faicco’s.
There are only a few old school Italian delia left in Manhattan because of the shifts in nationalities of different downtown neighborhoods–I don’t have to tell you that all of the boroughs have become total melting pots in recent decades (that is a great thing but it made most of the ethnic grocery stores disappear). My trip to Faicco’s was very first and my eyes were like saucers as I checked out all sorts of homemade pasta, cheeses, sauces, rice balls and more. The Munch Around The Village scavenger hunt paperwork suggests going into Faicco’s for one of their legendary $1 rice balls, and I plan to go back and have one in the very near future.
I was actually very sad when the scavenger hunt was over. Affable host Andy Redeker (seen above on the right) collected our answer sheets in Father Demo Square once everyone gathered back together and he kindly gave us two bonus points for any photos we shared on social media and tagged #watsonadventures. I did not get the name of the hunt’s winner and I am not supposed to say what the prize was, but surprisingly it was something to wear and not to eat.
Let me add that as a special bonus I got to meet a few local Villagers as I roamed the streets looking for the eateries recommended by the Munch Around The Village paperwork. Check out this “Borzoi with attitude” who is currently one of Cornelia Street’s most famous residents and is out on the stoop most of the day.
I can’t wait to try another Watson Adventures scavenger hunt. I think I am going to try a family scavenger hunt–their “wizard hunt” through the Met looks both educational and fun. Watson Adventures are held in both NYC and LA and have age recommendations (some are considered family hunts and some are considered 18+ hunts). You can get all the details on their numerous offerings on www.watsonadventures.com. You might just get addicted to doing one every weekend–and if you are so inclined, you can even set up a private scavenger hunt just for yourself and friends.