Minetta Street is a tiny Greenwich Village lane laid out atop Minetta Brook, which formerly flowed on the surface but was subsumed into a sewer generations ago. Along with its partner, Minetta Lane, it formed one of New York City’s original black neighborhoods, called Little Africa, in the 1820s and 1830s. The nation’s first black theater, the African Grove, opened nearby as well as NYC’s first Catholic church where services were attended primarily by African Americans.
Toward the latter part of the 19th Century, the Minettas degenerated into pure slumhood, as described in essays by Stephen Crane, but the area retained a patina of respectability with a French and Latin Quarter where taverns, playhouses and later speakeasies operated. Some of this atmosphere has been retained in the Minettas and on nearby Macdougal Street.
In the Swingin’ Sixties, the Fat Black Pussycat theater opened on Minetta Street, attracting performers like Richie Havens and Cass Elliott, who would ring up hits later in the decade, and Bob Dylan, who gave one of the first readings of “Blowin’ In The Wind” there. In 1972, Panchito’s Mexican Restaurant opened in the old Pussycat space, but retained the painted sign on the wall above the awning, and a piece of the old Villlage in the process.
Until the summer of 2011, when Panchito’s owners summarily painted over the sign.