Many opposites coexist peacefully in the East Village: dive bars and craft-cocktail dens, Ukrainian diners and the latest chef-driven restaurants, stylish boutiques and tattoo parlors. Famous for its nightlife, the East Village has become increasingly more upscale in recent years, with St. Marks Place trading in some of its grit for a hodgepodge of students, well-earning postgrads, and international expats. At its roots, the neighborhood is a community of artists, activists, and social dissenters—and though this is still the essential vibe here, the finish is much more polished these days.
The north–south avenues east of 1st Avenue, from Houston Street to 14th Street, have letters, not numbers, which gives this area its nickname: Alphabet City. Avenues A, B, and C are full of restaurants, cafés, stores, and bars that run from the inexpensive and divey to the pricey and polished, sometimes right next to each other. Parts of Avenues A and B run along Tompkins Square Park. A close-knit Puerto Rican community makes its home around Avenue C, also called "Loisaida" (a Spanglish creation for "Lower East Side"), which is still home to many Latino shops and bodegas but also a growing number of trendy restaurants and bars. Avenue D remains a bit rough around the edges—in part because of the uninterrupted row of housing projects that run along its east side.