by Kevin Walsh

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.


Mike Olshan October 14, 2011 - 1:11 pm

I remember this place very well, I hung out here in the 60s when I was in High School. A favorite cafe for folk-music fans. One of the gals I was hot for back then was a folkie and my pursuit of her led me to the Pussycat. I do not remember seeing Richie Havens but I do remember then-unknown Bob Dylan and Cass Elliott. And if I recall correctly, Roger McGuinn, too. Another interesting place with a feline name, the Figaro, was nearby.

Florian Westerdahl November 10, 2012 - 5:13 pm

Check out the Al Pacino movie Serpico from 1973 and you will see its outside 24 min into the movie. Enjoy.

Mary Oleske November 6, 2017 - 10:49 am

This place has such nostalgia for me. I remember walking down MInetta Lane when i was 18 and being so intrigued by it…everything was so cool and it was the sixties and everything was new and alive.

Chris Day September 26, 2018 - 2:46 pm

I spent my teen years being a “little baby beatnik” at the Pussycat. I remember Dylan sitting on the steps and stepping past him and someone I think was Joan Baez.
We drank gallons of coffee during the day and discussed the books in the Times Book section.
Thank you for the Black history portion of this post as I was unaware of that.
I loved that place and those days.


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