Norman Reedus has built a career on playing instantly memorable characters beloved by fans. First there was Murphy McManus in the cult classic The Boondock Saints, memorialized on college dorm room walls from coast to coast as an unimpeachably badass, gun-waving Catholic warrior. But it’s his role as the hotheaded Daryl Dixon—the one with the crossbow—on AMC’s hit zombie show The Walking Dead that has garnered the most attention. Initially introduced as a virulent redneck, Reedus’s Daryl slowly came into his own over the show’s first two seasons, evolving into the type of rough-edged antihero that thrives in a post-apocalyptic world. Though his character was written for the show, Reedus’s portrayal has been so immensely popular that he’s soon to be introduced in the long-running comic book, giving him an even more permanent place in the hearts of zombie-loving fans.
His stomping ground is downtown Manhattan. We catch up with him after his appearance at New York Comic Con, where hundreds of fans turned out to absorb tidbits about the show’s current season. The sweetest part, though, was the moment when those hundreds joined in on a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for his son, Mingus, who had just turned 13. Listening to him proudly talk about his son—he says, “he’s directly on the path of being taller than me, which sucks”—it becomes clear that, in comparison to the brash characters he’s famous for, Reedus is more reserved and congenial—both appreciative and down-to-earth about his success. It’s an attitude that informs this roundup of his favorite shops and restaurants in New York’s Chinatown and Little Italy neighborhoods.
20 Spring St., New York, NY, 212-334-1015
Reedus has been going to Bread, a chic yet homey bistro, for years. He orders coffee and nothing else. “I’m a creature of habit,” he says. “I go to the same places.” He takes a sharp left to a story about being given a breast implant by a devout Walking Dead fan. “Things have definitely gotten weirder over the last six months,” he dryly notes.
121 Baxter St., New York, NY, 212-966-4646
Reedus is greeted warmly by the owner of this Little Italy cafe and gladly poses for photos with the enthusiastic staff, most of whom grab knives in deference to his bloody fictional life. Asked what first drew him here, his answer is simple: “It’s right across the street from my house.”
Aqua Star Pet Shop
172 Mulberry St., New York, NY, 212-431-4311
We get a little waylaid in between locations as Reedus gets a shoeshine from a wizened Chinese man, then befriends one of the cats roaming the streets. When we get to this hole-in-the-wall pet store, the first thing we see are crickets, and lots of them. “My son has two bearded dragon lizards, so I buy the crickets for them,” he proudly announces.
21 Crosby Deli Grocery
21 Crosby St., New York, NY, 212-966-2020
This pint-sized deli is decidedly unglamorous, but that’s the point: it’s a local grocery, one that Reedus only frequents in order to buy cat food for the black cat he found for his son a number of years ago. “He would only eat the shittiest cat food,” Reedus says with a shrug.
385 Broome St., New York, NY, 212-226-8413
“Coffee, cats, and cigarettes. That’s all I do.” Indeed, we’re at another low-key Little Italy cafe where he seems to know the entire staff. He even claims to have met some of the directors of his movies here. “I just get coffee, and that’s it,” he says. “Even with the tourists up and down the street it’s very comfortable, you know what I mean?”
Photography by Janira Martinez.