Best late-night shopping
At this friendly sex-toy boutique—run by women and skewed toward women—browsers are encouraged to handle all manner of buzzing, wriggling and bendable playthings, including the famed Rabbit Pearl vibrator. The shop also stocks a huge variety of condoms and hosts frank sex-ed classes on a variety of subjects.
- 43 Mercer St, (between Broome and Grand Sts)
This laid-back boutique manages to meld the Wild West with ‘60s rock, as does its swaggering owner, who spins vinyl while hawking classic menswear in punched-up colors and prints. The store carries James’s own label, which includes beautifully tailored outerwear ($250–$1,000), hand-sewn shirts ($128–$210) and graphic tees ($48–$58). A selection of manly Leo Kraft jewelry ($60–$195) and vintage accessories ($35–$60) round out the collection.
- 72 Orchard St, (between Broome and Grand Sts)
- Critics choice
It’s hard not to love a spot that combines our two favorite pastimes—drinking and shopping—and that’s exactly what this Lower East Side bar-boutique does. On the street level of the two-floor emporium (which stays open late to encourage boozing and browsing), you’ll find a co-op boutique for emerging local designers. Among the brief but varied collection of men’s and women’s clothing, highlights include Alissa Chapman corset dresses ($245), Out of Print graphic tees ($28), and uniquely gorgeous Heather Benjamin agate rings ($175–$285). The top floor is where you’ll also find the charming dark oak bar, where a hip, young crowd orders bottled Brooklyn Lager ($5), wine by the glass ($8–$9) and specialty cocktails ($10–$12) such as the gin-and-OJ drink Sundress ($12), and takes in classic movies projected on the back wall of the bar’s cozy, pillow-laden nook. If you’d rather drop dough on designer duds than your bar tab, check out the basement level clothing exchange, which features a maze of secondhand and vintage pieces at seriously good prices. We recently uncovered an on-trend tie-front silk blouse ($16), recent-season Calypso shift dress ($22) and just-like-new Marc by Marc Jacobs striped tunic ($32).
- 75A Orchard St, (between Broome and Grand Sts)
You have no excuse for buying graphic novels at Barnes & Noble when a store like this exists. Offering about 50,000 volumes, the shop boasts one of the world’s largest selections of manga and graphic novels. The ground floor is devoted to new comics, ranging from big-ticket publishers like Marvel and D.C. to one-off indie series. And there’s no need to feel intimidated. If you’ve never heard of Neil Gaiman, the helpful staff is more than happy to give you a crash course. In the upstairs loft, get lost amid the manga DVDs and books; other shelves and cases are packed with anime and sci-fi toys and action figures, offbeat horror and imported magazines like Gothic Beauty, role-playing games and quirky character T-shirts. Be sure to check the store’s Twitter feed (@fpnyc) for updates on when artists and writers will be stopping by.
- 840 Broadway, (at 12th St)
Students, academics and arty types gravitate to this East Village bookseller, which maintains strong inventories on cultural theory, graphic design, poetry and film, as well as numerous avant-garde journals and zines. The fiction section is one of the finest in the city.
- 31 Third Ave, (between 8th and 9th Sts)
- Critics choice
Boasting 18 miles of books, the Strand has a mammoth collection of more than 2 million discount volumes, and the store is made all the more daunting by its chaotic, towering shelves and surly staff. Reviewer discounts are in the basement, while rare volumes lurk upstairs. If you spend enough time here you can find just about anything, from that out-of-print Victorian book on manners to the kitschiest of sci-fi pulp.
- 828 Broadway, (at 12th St)
Wendy Barrett-Fleming’s 15-year-old store stocks handmade Village Scandal–label hats, as well as pieces by other designers (New York Hat Company, San Diego Hat Company, Bronner Hats and Cha-Cha’s House of Ill Repute). American standards, jazz and show tunes invite passers-by into the cozy shop, where dapper men and women can score the best-selling Village Scandal Newsboy cap—available in distressed leather, linen/cotton and varying weights of wool—for just $78–$82.
- 19 E 7th St, (between Second and Third Aves)