Manhattan, even the West Village is imo not as fertile as Paris when looking for outdoor terrace cafes,
but this is my favorite place in Manhattan to hang out & pass the time.
Cornelia Street Cafe has it all: good food, wine & coffee, a scenic street abundant with restaurants & shops, eye candy(warning: travel-cliche alert), colorful foot traffic, and a shaded terrace - everything I need to survive.
Talented local artists get to exhibit their latest on the walls inside, and there is even a small cabaret downstairs for poetry readings and live music.
(point of trivia):
The first performance of the play Vagina Monologues (if you're into vaginas) was in the basement of the Cornelia Street Café in 1996. Famous Movie Quote: " I LUV the scent of vaginas in the morning, washed down with a nicely chilled, chewy & fruity glass of Zin ..."
Cornelia's staff is usually very friendly & helpful to me with no attitude.
I think you can always judge a "scene" or hangout by the quality & originality of the people you end up watching or bumping into & chatting with, and I give this place a 9+.
Can get crowded during peak lunch / dinner hours and sometimes this puts a slight strain on service. Try to hit Cornelia (and the sun will be just right) sometime between 3 and 4 pm to catch it at what I think is its best time.
Cornelia Street Cafe may not be for everybody but anytime I'm in Manhattan and want to do some high-quality "nothing" time, more often than not this is where I'll be.
Favorite Dish: Some mags call it a "nouveau - bistro" (barf).
Check out the Menu and call it what you want.
Everything I've tried here is good, from soup to burgers to steak frites, but last time I had the Boudin Blanc and it was tasty also.
Damn good winelist for a cafe.
since this tip is about some of my fave restaurants on Cornelia Street, I put this under "restaurants" as well. There are so many good places to eat on this block.
If you're walking around the village
(and if you get tired or hungry)
here is a good street
Cornelia between W 4th and Bleecker.
On one block:
good & affordable Cuban at the Little Havana, trattoria Po, Palma (Italian with a little indoor terrace); Gigot (a little NY/french bistro); Home (good specials & upscale comfort food);
there's good sushi / japanese on the corner at Bleecker (Sushi Mam Bo), and my fave hangout, Cornelia Cafe in the middle of the block.
There's a really good oyster bar too, (Pearl Oyster Bar).
Cornelia Cafe has an outdoor terrace w/tables, Palma more of an indoor but it is open/no windows in good weather.
I doubt many blocks in the village or even Manhattan have a concentration of good places to eat delicious food & hang out.
Killer people-watching and a great variety of places to chow and pass the time.
Here's a MAP
Favorite Dish: My fave place to just cafe, lunch & people-watch is Cornelia St. Cafe terrace (weather permitting);
Home serves a unique variety of good upscale comfort food. Here is the Home menu
& it's hard to top a lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar.