Mother's Ruin for bracing drinks, a good-looking crowd, and first-rate food! 

Mother's Ruin for bracing drinks, a good-looking crowd, and first-rate food!

SSPNY enjoyed the loud, rowdy crowd at Mother's Ruin!

Mother's Ruin for bracing drinks, a good-looking crowd, and first-rate food!

Mother's Ruin on Spring and Elizabeth is so perfect for so many different types of casual food-and-drink occasions that it's tempting to classify it as a great local bar. But, really, this place is too electric, too alive with possibility to really qualify as a cozy neighborhood spot. On most nights--say, Wednesday through Saturday--and all through the night, Mother's Ruin is loud, rowdy and crowded. And yet somehow the scene energizes rather than irritates, and you can usually find a seat even if that idea seemed hopeless when you first walked in, and you will be so happy if you order any number of the many snacks and sandwiches on the menu, to go with all those gin cocktails you've been knocking back.      

 SSPNY had comfort food with a twist at Mother's Ruin restaurant!

The Mother's Ruin food menu is both appealingly ambitious and comfortably familiar. It's bar food with a twist, and the twist usually works. And whoever's back there in the kitchen is putting enough attention and love into each dish that what could have been straight-up booze-sopping fare is made into something memorable. Take the French Onion Soup-Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which qualifies as some sort of masterpiece of its kind. Everything's working hard here: gooey cheddar, good bread, sweet caramelized onions, a magnificent, chewy "burnt"-cheese coating surrounding the whole package, with a bowl of "jus" in which to dip. I ate this more than two weeks ago, and have not stopped thinking about it since. 

 At Mother's Ruin, SSPNY had good drinks and food, as well as good service!

Also much better than you'd expect, much better than it really needs to be, are the Mother's Ruin Duck Wings, spiced-up and sticky with a black peppercorn and ginger glaze, the meat tender enough to fall off the bone. And the ridiculously addictive Spicy Fried Chickpeas, a big bowl for only five bucks, will be gone in seconds if you're not careful. Have I oversold the food? Maybe a bit. But in lesser, uncaring hands, this would all be mediocre at best, because look at the all money we're making at the bar! Instead, a small miracle: a fun bar, reasonable prices, well-crafted drinks, great food, all in one place. I hear brunch is pretty killer, too.   

 A local hangout full of good-looking people, SSPNY felt at home at Mother's Ruin.

Mother's Ruin is located on Spring Street between Elizabeth and Mott, and is open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. For more information a look at the Mother's Ruin food and drinks menus, see here. 

SSPNY visited Mother's Ruin, which is located on Spring Street between Elizabeth and Mott

Let's all appreciate the Essex Street Market BEFORE it's gone! 

Let's all appreciate the Essex Street Market BEFORE it's gone!

SSPNY headed down to the crowded and popular Essex Street Market--a downtown staple!

 

Let's all appreciate the Essex Street Marketing BEFORE it's gone!

Ok, sorry, I didn't mean to alarm you: there have been no updates about the great Essex Street Market moving across the street or shutting down entirely or whatever they plan on doing once the city's massive redevelopment project--nicknamed SPURA, for Seward Park Urban Renewal Area--kicks in. But at some point soon, something WILL finally happen to the Essex Street Market, one of my favorite indoor markets in the city in which to wander around and eat snacks and discover new and usually awesome food to bring home. And with the recent rash of closings of venerable, beloved institutions around town, I've decided to make a point of visiting these old-school spots on a more regular basis.  
We doesn't love cheese? There are a few cheesemongers at the Essex Street Market that SSPNY recommends!

SSPNY checked out the two butchers at Essex Street Market--Heritage and LuLu's

Anyway, I like the Essex Street Market for a lot of reasons. It never gets ridiculously crowded--rarely are there lines at individual booths, and you can almost always find a seat in the back--but there's still a good energy to the place, a bustle-y feel. The variety and quality of the food here, whether meat, fish, sweets, bread, cheese, groceries, ice cream, tacos, on and on, is excellent, on par with any of the larger, more heavily-hyped markets around the city. And the Essex Street Market is committed to independent, locally-owned businesses, which means that not only are you supporting your neighbors, but also that everyone is reliably friendly (or charmingly grumpy, ahem Shopsin's), and, because it's always the same folks working the counters, you can become a "regular" pretty quickly. You know, like a neighborhood spot should be.   
SSPNY loved these croissant donuts at Davidovich Bakery are a favorite at Essex Street Market!

The fresh and local products at the Essex Street Market are what makes it an SSPNY favorite.

I have lots of favorites at Essex Street Market, too many to get into here, but any list would have to include Boubouki, Rona Economoum's tiny Greek pastry shop at which this lawyer-turned-baker serves up amazing cookies (the Chocolate Chip, with hits of orange and walnut, and the Butter Almond crescent dusted with powered sugar are particularly craveable), as well as first-rate baklava and a wonderfully satisfying spanakopida. Also terrific: Saxelby Cheesemongers, Ni Japanese Delicacies, BOTH butchers (and upscale Heritage; the cheap Luis's), the lovely loaves at Pain D'Avignon, the Porchetta tacos at Brooklyn Tacos, the fake cronuts at Davidovich Bakery, and the gourmet goods at Formaggio Essex. And don't forget to check out the usually-fun art installation at Cuchifritos Gallery. The Essex Street Market is a true neighborhood treasure that, so far, even as it evolves, has lost none of its character. 
SSPNY loved the porchetta tacos at Brooklyn Taco at the Essex Street Market!
The Essex Street Market is located on the corner of Essex and Delancey Streets, and is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 10:00 to 6:00. For more information and a complete list of vendors, see here.  

SSPNY's Downtown Taco Tour! 

SSPNY's Downtown Taco Tour!

SSPNY gets ready to eat with our hands on our downtown taco tour!

SSPNY'S DOWNTOWN TACO TOUR!

No question, we're living through some sort of Golden Age of Tacos these days in the East Village/Lower East Side/Nolita part of town. Yes, it's been pretty great around here for tacos lovers (eg, me) for some time now, with the likes of Tacombi at Fonda Nolita, the two Pinche Taquerias, Hecho en Dumbo, and Alex Stupak's marvelous Empellon Cocina, among other spots. But in the last few months a whole slew of new taco joints have opened in SSPNY territory down here, five of which I've been able to try so far. Here's the report from the field, in order of excellence.  

SSPNY enjoyed the chicken liver tacos at Chef Danny Bowiens hotspot Mission Cantina!
Mission Cantina 
Chef Danny Bowien's joint has been slammed every night since it opened in November, and rightly so: not only is this place a total blast (the crowd, the music, the decor), but the tacos are terrific, generously portioned, and come in a wide variety of classic and creative combos. The Chicken Liver is awesome, for example, but so is the pork-and-pineapple Al Pastor. And the rest of the Mission Cantina menu--the non-taco sections--may be even better. Located on Orchard and Stanton. More info here. 

According to SSPNY, the tortillas at Otto's Tacos were not something to miss!

Otto's Tacos 
Two things make the newish Otto's Tacos exciting: excellent, well-but-not-overly marinated toppings (the shrimp and carne asada are personal favorites); and even more excellent tortillas. The tortillas are unique in that they're made from masa flour (and they're made right there up front, which is fun to watch), which makes them thicker, and more chewy, than your usual corn jobbers. Filling, too! Also good: the masa fries, with spicy dipping sauce. Located on Second Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. More info here.       

  
Tacos Morelos new shop served up excellent fare, according to SSPNY!
Tacos Morelos 
Even though this modest spot has only been open since the fall, Tacos Morelos is no stranger to the neighborhood; the Taco Morelos cart has been a fixture on 2nd Street and Avenue A for years. But now the crew has gone brick-and-mortar, albeit on a small scale (there are maybe 10 seats here), and the results are more than a little satisfying. I tried two of their tacos just the other night, a spicy Mexican Sausage and a lively Shrimp, and both were first-rate. I was less delighted by the Cemita sandwich, which I thought too bready, but others have said only good things about these, and the rest of the extensive Tacos Morelos menu. Located on 9th Street near Avenue A. More info here. 
      
Tacquitoria's creations were smothered in delicious cheese and sauce. SSPNY loved 'em!
 
Tacquitoria 
This narrow, ramshackle spot on Ludlow has late-night drunk food written all over it--and it definitely does the job, if that's what you're looking for--but Tacquitoria is also surprisingly successful at delivering high-quality ingredients in smartly-balanced bursts of favor. Think snack-sized tortilla tubes, filled with your choice of meat, smothered in cheese and sauce. Maybe it's not so surprising, actually: Tacquitoria is run by a trio of Marc Forgione vets, and they clearly know their way around the kitchen. Anyway, these are good, and fun to eat. Located on Ludlow Street, just north of Stanton. More info here. 
         
Sadly, SSPNY thought Sembrado did not live up to the hype!
Sembrado 
Finally, I had high hopes for Sembrado, opened last summer by Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo renown, but unless things have changed since my day one dinner, I'd say skip it. Not that Sembrado is an unpleasant place to be--in fact, this is by far the prettiest of the bunch--but the tacos are so meagerly fortified, that even if you spend $25 to get the necessary five to fill you up, each bite leaves you wanting. One interesting thing here: the spectacularly chewy Chicharron de Queso, which is like a fruit roll-up made from grilled edam. Located on 13th Street between 1st and A. More info here.

A SSPNY Mexican fiesta! Chef Danny Bowien opens the excellent new Mission Cantina on Orchard Street 

A SSPNY Mexican fiesta! Chef Danny Bowien opens the excellent new Mission Cantina on Orchard Street

SSPNY visits Mission Cantina located at 172 Orchard Street

A SSPNY Mexican fiesta! Chef Danny Bowien opens the excellent new Mission Cantina on Orchard Street

Some of my favorite meals of 2012 were at Chef Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese Food, the San Francisco import that brought fantastically spicy Sichuan (with a twist... always with a twist) to a packed house nightly on Orchard Street. So when Bowien announced that, for his NYC encore, he was going to be bringing his amped-up take on classic Mexican dishes, opening up Mission Cantina just up the street in the old Noodle Bar spot, well... I guess you could say this was maybe the most eagerly anticipated new fall restaurant on my list. And, as it turns out, my excitement was not misguided. The Mission Cantina crew is cooking up some of the best, most interesting (and generously portioned!) tacos in town.                  

SSPNY loved Mission Cantina's generously portioned tacos! 

I went to Mission Cantina on a freezing night during its opening weekend, and, no surprise, the place was jumping. The Mission Cantina menu is appealing from start to finish, but I pretty much stuck with the appetizers and tacos. Mission Cantina tacos are all priced at $4 or $5, which is standard these days, especially when you go to any of the new "California-style" joints that are popping up all the over the place. The difference at Mission Cantina: Chef Bowien piles on the meat (or veggie, as the case may be), and, crucially, doesn't skimp on the ancillary ingredients either. For example, the Chicken Liver Taco features fat chunks of the rich, creamy offal, but also boasts a major schmear of sweet-ish white bean puree and a tangle of pickled chilis, carrots, and crunchy slaw. This is a major party for your mouth. 

 The crispy beef and pork belly tacos were a hit with SSPNY!

The same formula holds true in all four tacos I tried. The first-rate Crispy Beef Tripe delivered plenty of its star ingredient (cooked perfectly, I might add), but came equipped with more of those pickled veggies, as did the Al Pastor (pork belly, wickedly fermented pineapple). Despite my love of all things meaty, the Bitter Greens and Roasted Corn Taco was just as explosively flavored and satisfying as the rest of my tortilla-delivered feast. And the rest of Mission Cantina menu is just a great! I loved my ceviche starter, a relatively huge bowl of raw Hokkaido scallops and tender beef hearts swimming with capers and olives for a sweet, briny, acidic, earthy, mineral-y, rich festival of flavors and textures. The only semi-dud of the night was the overly-vinegary Charred Cauliflower Escabeche side, which I only panic-ordered because they were out of the amazing-sounding Scrambled Egg, Uni, and Trout Roe dish. Next time.

 SSPNY tried Mission Cantina's chared cauliflower side dish!

Mission Cantina is located on the corner of Stanton and Orchard Streets, and is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner at 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 midnight. Closed Monday. Mission Cantina doesn't take reservations, and the colorful lively space is small, so expect a wait. More information and the complete Mission Cantina menu can be found here. 

SSPNY will definitely be back to Mission Cantina, which is open for lunch and dinner!

 

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a neighborhood Italian spot that earned three stars from the Times  

SSPNY checks out Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a neighborhood Italian spot that earned three stars from the Times

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria is a neighborhood joint located near SSPNY's Elizabeth Street buildings!

SSPNY checks out Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a neighborhood Italian spot that earned three stars from the Times 

What sort of neighborhood has a local Italian place--open all day, not outrageously priced (though admittedly not cheap), lively and welcoming--that's also one of the best restaurants in the city? Well, if you live in SSPNY's Elizabeth Street buildings, the answer would be YOUR sort of neighborhood. Because just a few blocks away on cobblestoned Great Jones Street sits the excellent Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, Donna Lennard's glorious Italian sandwich shop/grocery/bakery/wine bar/trattoria/three-star restaurant. If you live nearby, and have a bit of money is your pocket, you'll want to eat some sort of something here about once a week. 

 SSPNY had a great time at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. Good food, good wine, and good company!

I went to Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria (Lennard's Il Buco proper is a block away, on Bond Street) for a lovely late-night dinner right before Christmas, and, as is the case on nights such as these, was reminded how much I love this city. The crowd is always pretty sparkly here, and the place is packed with locals, destination eaters from far-flung NYC precincts, as well as plenty of Euro-tourists. It's a good mix, and people tend to be in a good mood from all the wine. And, of course, from Chef Justin Smillie's superb food.

SSPNY loved the fresh pasta at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, especially the orecchiette with sausage and parmesan!

You can't really go wrong with the Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria menu. We loved our starters, which included Crispy (and salty, and lemony) Artichokes, and especially Smillie's sweetbreads, seared to perfection--charred to caramelization on the outside, meltingly tender within--and placed upon a schmear of intense apricot "jam" with bits of crunchy Spanish corn-nuts scattered about. One of the best dishes I ate all year. The pastas were no let down, either, neither the excellent Orecchiette with crumbled sausage and parmesan shavings, nor the thick Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, a first-rate version of this cheese-and-peppercorn classic. I'd get both again in a heartbeat... except that there's so many other good things here, it's better to have some sort rotation system going.  

 SSPNY will definitely be coming back for the Bucatini Cacio e pepe!

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria is located on Great Jones Street between Bowery and Lafayette, and is open every day for breakfast, lunch (weekdays), brunch (on weekends) and dinner. More information and complete Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria menus can be found here.  

SSPNY loved the relaxing ambiance at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village! 

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village!

SSPNY visited Giano restaurant in the East Village.

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village

 

It's always exciting to check out a hot new restaurant--the infectious enthusiasm of the crowd, the untried menu of potential delights--especially when it lives up to the hype. But really, it's places such as Giano that make a neighborhood. Opened in early 2008 by a duo from Milan, Paolo Rossi and Chef Matteo Niccoli (both of whom also, by the way, designed the space), Giano has been steadily keeping locals satisfied with its amiable atmosphere, reasonable prices, and an appealing menu of contemporary Italian cuisine. 
SSPNY thought the meatballs in tomato sauce at Giano were fantastic!
I was invited to a complimentary, multiple-course dinner at Giano on a raw and freezing night a couple of weeks ago, and the whole experience--the friendly service, the created-with-love food--reminded me how good this place can be. To start things off I was presented with a trio of samples from the appetizer section of the Giano menu, two of which I would definitely order again: the big, dense meatball (the texture was perfect) served in a bright, lively tomato sauce; and the thick stalk of asparagus (again, perfectly cooked) wrapped in melted fontina cheese, studded with chewy speck, drizzled with an intense balsamic vinegar reduction. 
Giano's pasta lived up to the hype. SSPNY enjoyed the gnocchi in four-cheese sauce!
The heart of any local Italian spot is the pasta--if the kitchen falls down here, there's really no point in returning--and I'm happy to say that all three of the dishes I tried were first rate. The soft (not gummy) gnocchi in a thick four-cheese sauce; the earthy, funky chestnut tagliatelle in a sausage ragout, studded with mushrooms and walnuts; the just-on-the-right-side-of-sweet risotto, made with butternut squash, gorgonzola and (this next part was the secret, surprisingly successful ingredient), finely crumbled amaretti cookies.
SSPNY tried the salmon filet, which was full of textures and flavors. Nice job, Giano!
At this point in any "real-life" Italian restaurant meal I'm usually done, but on this night the food kept on coming. The balsamic-glazed beef filet was terrific, accompanied with mashed potatoes, and pancetta, but the real winner from Secondi territory was the wonderful salmon filet, served unashamedly rare on a pile of peas and fava beans. This was lovely, a well-composed dish of complementary textures and flavors. Nice job, Giano. 

Giano is located on East 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 11:00, or 11:30 on Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. More info and the complete Giano menu can found here.  

Just in time for chocolate-eating season (oh... also chocolate-giving): SSPNY pigs out at the new Roni-Sue's 

SSPNY Heads to Chocolate Heaven at Roni-Sue's!

SSPNY heads down to sample the chocolates and other treats at Roni-Sue's-located on Forsyth Street between Delancey and Rivington.

 

SSPNY heads to chocolate heaven at Roni-Sue's!

 

It's long been established, in my mind at least, that Rhoda Kave's Roni-Sue's makes the best chocolate, slightly sophisticated division, in town. Yes, the super-sweet creations at Li-Lac's West Village emporium are all pretty irresistible (get the chocolate-covered-oreos, or the chocolate-covered caramels, or the chocolate-covered anythings), and Soho's one-two punch of Vosges (get the goji berry ones) and Mariebelle (get the bark) will always make me happy. But even among these first-rate options, Roni-Sue's stands out, both just because the sweet treats here are amazing, but also because many of them have an added little something special, by which I mean: liquor.  
SSPNY found out that Roni-Sue's handmade chocolates all have something special in them-including liquor!
Backing up just a bit, the reason we're right now excited here at SSPNY about Roni-Sue's is that they've opened a brand-new chocolate shop/cafe/kitchen on Forsyth Street. Not to worry, Essex Street Market shoppers: Roni-Sue's will still be at their little counter over there. But now not only are there two spots to get these desserty delights, but at the new place on Forsyth Rhonda Kave and her crew are selling coffee and, even more exciting, hot chocolate. There are a few stools by the window at which to enjoy your warming beverage of choice, and be sure to add to your pleasure with one of Kave's muffins, brownies, biscotti or, as I did, with a excellent, chewy, chocolate chip cookie.
SSPNY loved the variety of sweet treats at Roni-Sue, especially the chewy chocolate chip cookies!
But the real star at Roni-Sue's operation are the truffles, with dozens of flavors (boozy or non-) from which to choose. It had been a while between Roni-Sue binges, so I decided to do a full six-pack: Pecan Pie, Sour Cherry, Raspberry, "Frida" (named after Kahlo, and featuring espresso), Pumpkin Spice, and, best of the bunch Beer and Pretzel Caramel, which really nailed the crunchy/chewy/creamy texture trifecta. And as delicious as any of the above is Roni-Sue's signature Butter Crunch, sweet and smooth, available in small bags or large tins. The new Roni-Sue's will also be a pick-up spot for all of the baked wonders from the great Butter and Scotch duo, including their amazing S'mores Pie.     
 SSPNY loved Roni-Sue's truffles! Flavors include pecan pie, sour cherry, raspberry, and even beer!
Roni-Sue Chocolates is located on Forsyth Street between Rivington and Delancey, and is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. More info about Roni-Sue, here. And if you want to orders pies--or anything else--from Butter and Scotch, see here.   

Can adored Philly Sichaun spot Han Dynasty cut it here in NYC? SSPNY finds out! 

SSPNY got the chance to try out popular Philadelphia spot Han Dynasty's new NYC location!

wants to know if Philly hot spot Han Dynasty can make it here in New York!

Down in Philadelphia, which is home to at least five Han Dynasty Sichuan restaurants, folks apparently go a little crazy for Han Chiang's fiery creations. Praised for their authenticity, swooned over for their addictive garlic/chili oil/peppercorn flavors, the dishes at Han Dynasty have Philly food-lovers in a continual state of spiced-up, numbed-out bliss. Which is all well and good for a city like Philadelphia.... but the real question is, can Han Dynasty cut it here in the big town? The happy answer, based on one memorable dinner at the new Han Dynasty in the East Village, is a most definite "yes".    

Han Dynasty's Dan Dan noodles are a menu favorite. SSPNY sampled the spicy, sweet, and savory dish and agrees that it lives up to the hype!

The East Village Han Dynasty has been in "soft opening" mode for almost two months now--which is another way of saying "don't blame us if the service is erratic"--but you don't come here to marvel about a brisk, impeccable staff (they are fine, if forgetful), nor to be transported to a heavenly realm by the decor and ambiance, which is stark and utilitarian at best. No, you come Han Dynasty to throw a party for your mouth, and believe you me these guys KNOW how to rock your world.      

 SSPNY loved Han Dynasty's spicy crispy cucumbers, which had a wonderful touch of garlic thrown in the mix.

Everyone will tell you to get the Dan Dan Noodles at Han Dynasty, and everyone is correct: these table-tossed beauties--slightly sweet, way more than slightly spicy, meaty and rich, just gloppy enough but still with plenty of bite--are incredible. One of my favorite dishes of the year. I also tried the Spicy Crispy Cucumbers, which were certainly both, but I also would have added "Garlicky" to the listing for even greater accuracy. Like most things here at Han Dynasty, it's not for the timid, or for, say, a second date. My entree was excellent, a platter of Dry Pepper Style Chicken, the bird bits "triple flash fried" into a pleasantly chewy/crisp consistency, the chili peppers (and everything else) incendiary. 

 Han Dynasty is not for the timid! SSPNY enjoyed the Dry Pepper Style Chicken that had just the right amount of kick!

Han Dynasty East Village is located on Third Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, and is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. No surprise, there can be a wait for tables during prime eating times, but this stuff travels well, so take-out is definitely a solid option. For more information and a look at the Han Dynasty menu, see here.    

Above all, SSPNY was greatly impressed with the decor, ambiance, and service at Han Dynasty. It is definitely a great addition to the neighborhood!

An Opening Night of Drinks, Fun, and "Hair" Combing at Misaki Kawai's Fantastic New Show at The Hole 

SSPNY Heads Over The Hole on Bowery for an Opening Night of Drinks, and a Dynamic New Exhibit at Misaki Kawai's Hair Show!

SSPNY visits the awesome new exhibit at The Hole gallery on Bowery, for one of the best opening-night parties, celebrating with good beverages, and even better art from Misaki Kawai's Hair Show, up through November 2.

Putting aside for a moment whatever the actual art might be, let me just first say that The Hole gallery always throws the best opening-night parties. The space rambles nicely, the beverages are plentiful, the crowd tends toward the stylish without being annoying. And because it's a bit of island there on Bowery, gallery-wise (unlike, for instance, Chelsea, where you might have 30 openings on any given Thursday night) the parties--sorry, the openings--at the Hole never get TOO too packed. My suggestion: get put on the mailing list, and go. And when the art itself is as terrific as it is right now at the Hole, with Misaki Kawai's Hair Show, up through November 2? Everybody's a winner! 

SSPNY falls in love with the "hair"iest pieces at Hair Show including Kawai's dog portraits, with the massive sculpture of Max standing in the back room, which the artist named after a black Scottish terrier she sees on her block. 
Anyway, in addition to being a great party (plus the new Patagonia had ITS opening right across the street at the same time, and they were giving out Roberta's pizzas!), I loved pretty much everything in Misaki Kawai's Hair Show exhibition, and plan on returning soon to see it all again, minus the revelers. Kawai has been pretty visible at art fairs and group shows in the past decade or so, but this is her first solo exhibition in NYC in six years. What's especially nice is that, even though everything in Hair Show is unmistakably "hers", there are several different styles and mediums at play, adding an additional level of dynamism--as well as a retrospective feel--to the proceedings. 
 SSPNY takes a rest at Misaki Kawai's first solo exhibition in NYC in 6 years, introducing her cute furniture into the display, where people can sit and relax in between exploring different works at her exhibit.
The "hair"iest pieces at Hair Show are Kawai's dog portraits, foremost the massive sculpture of Max standing in the back room, which the artist named after a black Scottish terrier she sees regularly on her block. Surrounding Max are a dozen or so wall sculptures of different dogs, some colored in fabulous neon pink and yellow, all accompanied with a oversized comb which you can use to brush their fur. Totally fun. Also great are Kawai's colorful collages and paintings (and collage-paintings); her cute furniture; her wonderfully simple and scribbly drawings. 
SSPNY also checks out dozens of wall sculptures of different dogs, some colored in fabulous neon pink and yellow, all accompanied with an oversized comb which you can use to brush their fur in this interactive exhibit.
 
Misaki Kawai: Hair Show will be at The Hole through November 2. The Hole is locatyed on Bowery between Houston and Bleecker Streets, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 noon to 7:00 p.m. More information here. 
 
SSPNY lastly checks out Kawai's colorful collages, paintings, and collage-paintings with her wonderfully simple and scribbly drawings. Misaki Kawai: Hair Show will be at The Hole through November 2. The Hole is locatyed on Bowery between Houston and Bleecker Streets, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7pm.

SSPNY Welcomes Wisconsin to the West Village! The Dairy-licious 5oz. Factory Opens on 8th Street. 

SSPNY Welcomes Wisconsin Cheesemongers to the West Village, for Dairy-licious Options Available at 5oz. Factory on 8th Street!

SSPNY hangs out in the West Village, where more and more casual spots are opening up all the time in the West Village offering creative menus riffing off a single item,. Now 5oz. Factory is no exception, opening up on the bustling stretch of 8th Street with rich, delicious Wisconsin cheese melts and frozen custards.

There's been a slew of casual spots opening in the West Village of late with menus creatively riffing off a single item. Potatopia, for example, on 6th Avenue near Waverly Place, offers spuds in every imaginable guise, with toppings galore. Los Angeles cult-favorite Umami Burger, also on 6th Avenue, has been packing them in since day one, and rightly so: all of the burger varieties here are excellent. Bantam Bagels on Bleecker near 7th Avenue specializes in "mini bagel balls" stuffed with the expected (cream cheese and lox) and the less so (cheddar cheese, bacon, maple syrup). And most recently, on an increasingly bustling stretch of 8th Street, we have the incredibly rich (and quite delicious) Wisconsin cheese melts and frozen custards of 5oz. Factory. 

SSPNY checks out all the massive portions on the menu at 5oz. including this "From WI to NY With LOVE" melt, pictured here with oozing aged white and orange cheddar, with "PBR-soaked" bratwurt on piles of fennel, horseradish sauerkraut, and mustard on a hero roll.  
I had dinner at 5oz. Factory the other night and am still kind of full. In a good a way. I mean, my (massive) sandwich and (massive) bowl of custard were terrific, but MAN they do not skimp on the dairy here. Take my "From WI to NY With LOVE" melt. Actually don't take it: get your own. This is a supremely satisfying sandwich with about six pounds of oozing, aged cheddar cheese (white and orange, both with bite); a fat, juicy "PBR-soaked" bratwurst; piles of fennel and horseradish sauerkraut, a generous spurt of mustard, all crammed into a "trencher" which is like a hero roll. It was everything you could hope for in such a beast, and it's only one of about a dozen equally-appealing options on the 5oz Factory menu. 
SSPNY next orders a massive bowl of custard, offering huge portions of delectably dense and rich Wisconsin-style Frozen Custard that comes in four flavors including chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and espresso, with some seasonal specials on rotation.
But even if you're not in a grilled-cheese sort of mood (which would be weird, but you never know), you should definitely stop into 5oz. Factory for their toppi. Because this stuff is nuts. So dense (unlike ice cream, there's no air to lighten the load), so rich (due to the egg yolks), so intensely flavored (they use all-natural ingredients), the 5oz. Factory's custard instantly makes my list of best frozen treats in town. There are four flavors now available--chocolate, vanilla, caramel, espresso--with "seasonal specials" to be rotated in (expect pumpkin, candy cane, etc), and all four are terrific. You can get toppings, from fresh fruit fruit and nuts to birthday cake crumbles to gummi bears and M&Ms, but this custard packs such a wallop, I'm not sure that's necessary. 
SSPNY even checks out the toppings bar for everything from fresh fruit, to nuts, to birthday cake crumbles and gummi bears!
5oz Factory is located on 8th Street bettwen 5th Avenue and MacDougal Street, and is open on Monday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., on Thursday and Friday from 11:30 to 12:00 midnight, on Saturdays from noon to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 10:00 p.m. For more information and the complete 5oz. Factory menu, please see here.  
5oz. Factory is located on 8th Street between 5th Avenue and MacDougal Street, open Monday through Wednesday, 11:30am to 11pm, on Thursday and Friday from 11:30am to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 10pm.

For SSPNY Nolita Residents, New Destination Restaurant Estela is Yet Another Great Neighborhood Spot 

SSPNY Eats at Great New Destination Restaurant and Neighborhood Hotspot, Estela

SSPNY checks out Chef Ignacio Matto’s new restaurant Estela, an awesome destination restaurant on East Houston above dive bar Botanica, for great food and an incredibly difficult reservation to get. Matto opened this narrow 2nd-floor restaurant just months after leaving his wildly inventive and explosively flavored menu at Isa in Williamsburg.

One of my favorite meals of 2012 was at Isa in Williamsburg, during that brief period when Ignacio Matto ran the kitchen and the sparse menu featured tricky, explosively-flavored dishes that all landed on the correct side of inventive and weird. Not everyone was a fan, however, and Chef Matto left Brooklyn after only a few months. The good news: early this summer Chef Matto opened Estela on East Houston, an attractive, narrow (and, at peak hours, insanely loud) second-story room above the classic dive bar Botanica. I finally made it to Estela for a recent early dinner (it's been a tough seat there, slammed just about every night), and am happy to report that, in most cases, Matto is whipping up some awesome, only slightly odd, dishes. 

SSPNY looks at the short menu at Estela, easy for creating an appetizer/entrée combination meal, or just for ordering a bunch of smaller items to share. Pictured here, is one of the least pricey meals on the menu, a spectacular egg salad “snack” covered in bottarga and with crackling bits of grainy matzo. 
The Estela menu is short, and though you can create a standard appetizer/entree-ish sort of meal, sharing a bunch of items seems to be the way to go. I had four of Matto's creations and, to varying degrees, thoroughly enjoyed them all. Estela can be an expensive place to eat, but if you order carefully you can eat some really interesting, skillfully crafted food at mid-level prices. In fact, my favorite dish of the night may been the least expensive, a $9 spectacular egg salad "snack" covered in bottarga and accompanied with the crackling bits of grainy matzo. Which reminds me: another way to check out Chef Matto's Estela is to go for cocktail-hour drinks and snacks, sitting at the broad, comfortable bar. 
 
Next on the menu at Estela, SSPNY tries out the excellent Raw Scallop dish, for a massive and tender thinly cut crustacean, in a punchy yuzu sauce, topped with crunchy squash. Next, Chef Matto's Beef Tartare offers a nice and chunky mix with sunchokes and pieces of crunchy chips.
 
Also excellent at Estela was my Raw Scallop dish, the massive crustacean cut meltingly thin, swimming in a punchy yuzu sauce, topped with crunchy slices of squash. I could eat this all night long. Same goes for Chef Matto's Beef Tartare, which he leaves nice and chunky (as opposed to doing the grinding thing) and mixes with sunchokes and pieces of some sort of crunchy chips. Finally, for the salad part of my feast, the plate of Kohlrabi was first-rate, tossed with hazelnuts, mint and shavings of capra sarda cheese. Just a couple away from SSPNY's Elizabeth Street buildings in Nolita, Estela is a terrific addition to the neighborhood. 
 
Finally, for the salad SSPNY tried out a plate of Kohlrabi that was first-rate, tossed with hazelnuts, mint and shavings of capra sarda cheese.
 
Estela is located on Houston Street between Mott and Mulberry, and is open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 12:00 midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 1:00 a.m. Closed Sunday. For more information and a look at a sample Estela menu, please see here. 
 

FRONT OFFICE COORDINATOR POSITION 

Seeking qualified candidate for Front Office Coordinator

Front Office Coordinator

Company Description: Stone Street Properties is a full service real estate firm that owns, operates and manages multi-family properties in New York City. Stone Street owns a diverse portfolio of properties in some of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods including Greenwich Village, West Village, East Village, Nolita, Murray Hill, Upper East Side, and Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill.

Job Description: • Responding to lead inquiries - including phone, email and mail

• Assist in updating internet/website postings as directed

• Manage the submission of daily/weekly leasing reports

• Must be open to the possibility of expanded duties as knowledge increases and interests become more focused

• Receptionist or Administrative Assistant experience a plus

• Real-Estate or Leasing experience a plus

• Support VP of Leasing with ad hoc requests

• Work as part of a cross-functional team and be exposed to NYC commercial real estate

• Potential for advancement within the firm

This is a paid full-time position located just north of Madison Square Park in Manhattan. Regular business hours are 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.

Qualifications:

• Welcoming and professional appearance and demeanor

• Reliable, dependable and dedicated

• Happy to greet incoming clients with a smile/ great first impression

• Excellent phone skills and etiquette - able to answer, screen and transfer incoming calls

• Positive attitude is a must

• Know your way around excel/data entry of various forms and applications

• Eager to assist with administrative tasks as needed

• Ability to multitask and prioritize schedules

• Knowledge of all MS Office applications and YARDI Experience a Plus

IMMEDIATE OPENING. Please email resume and cover letter to info@sspny.com

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE). We are committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity. Applications are considered for all positions without regard to race, sex, sexual orientation, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or any other status protected by applicable law. Stone Street Properties encourages all qualified applicants to apply.

SSPNY Gorges on Bird at the New Neighborhood Hotspot, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken 

SSPNY Overindulges on Bird at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, East Village's New Neighborhood Hotspot!

SSPNY tries out Eric and Bruce Bromberg's excellent Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, where on more than one occasion the pair have given everything on their entire menu away for free!

The first time I ate at Eric and Bruce Bromberg's excellent Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, they gave me my entire meal for free. Not because I'm special or anything... on Days One and Two of their spanking new East Village joint they gave away everything on the menu--all the food, all the beverages (including beer!), all the ice cream, and even take-out--to anyone who showed up. I happened to show up for that first dinner service, and, like most people that night, didn't even know what was going on until after I ordered $30 worth of food. What a great surprise, to get it all for free! Nice move, Bromberg Brothers. 

 SSPNY tries out fried thighs, wings, legs, and breasts at the Blue Ribbon restaurants proper (there's one in Soho, another in Park Slope, and at Brooklyn Bowl), where it's by far the most popular thing on the menu, fresh and full-flavored, with crispy, moist and well-seasoned breading. You can order the fried chicken by the piece or in an array of ways including a bucket, and then just add any one of the (mostly honey-based) sauces that sit at every table.
Here's the thing, too. Even after getting treated to a massive meal here--the comfortable, counter-service spot is located, by the way, just three blocks from SSPNY's Elizabeth Street apartments--I was back just a few nights later for more, totally willing to pay for some of that Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken goodness. Which will come as no surprise to anyone who's tried these fried thighs, wings, legs, and breasts at the Blue Ribbon restaurants proper (there's one in Soho, another in Park Slope), or at Brooklyn Bowl, where it's by far the most popular thing on the menu. And it's just as good if not better here: the bird is fresh and full-flavored, the breading well-seasoned, the whole thing the exact right combination of crispy and moist. Add any one of the (mostly honey-based) sauces that sit at every table for any extra layer of oomph. You can order the fried chicken by the piece or in an array of dinners and buckets and such. 
Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken also serves up some mean chicken burgers filled with ground chicken patties and made into a half-dozen or so different sandwiches. Both I tried were fantastic, including The Pit, topped with cheddar, bacon, and BBQ sauce,  and the Big Wave, pictured here, which comes with roasted red peppers, arugula and goat cheese,  both made super juicy and exploding with flavor. 
 
SSPNY even loads on the sides, trying Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken's Fried Dilly Beans, which come as a huge portion of these somewhat sweet, green bean-ish munchies, as well as an order of the thin, salty, potato Fries.
So the fried chicken is first-rate, as it needs to be at a restaurant called Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, but the sleeper hit here, I think, are the chicken burgers. Not the fried cutlet affairs you might expect, these are ground chicken patties made into a half-dozen or so different sandwiches. I've had two, and they were fantastic. The Pit is topped with cheddar, bacon, and BBQ sauce, the Big Wave with roasted red peppers, arugula and goat cheese, and both were unbelievably juicy, exploding with flavor, but balanced enough to not just be a glop-fest. And they're all priced ten bucks. The sides, too, are good here at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, including the thin, salty, potato Fries and the Fried Dilly Beans, which come in a huge portion of these somewhat sweet, green bean-ish munchies. Welcome to the neighborhood, Brombergs. 
This new East Village joint  has a comfortable layout, and offers a counter-service spot located just three blocks from SSPNY's Elizabeth Street apartments.
 
Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken is located on Second Avenue and First Street and is open daily at 12:00 noon, and until 10:00 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and until 12:00 midnight on Friday and Saturday. Lots more info, including the full Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken menu, can be found here. 
Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken is located on Second Avenue and First Street and is open daily at 12:00 noon, and until 10:00 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and until 12:00 midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Great News For SSPNY's Nolita Residents: The Best New Gelato Spot in Town, A.B. Biagi, is Right There on Elizabeth Street 

SSPNY Gets the Best New Gelato Spot in Town, A.B. Biagi, Right Here on Elizabeth Street!

SSPNY tries a lighter, fluffier, frozen gelato concoction at A.B. Biagi, for a new modified gelato from creator Antionio Barros Biagi at his namesake parlor in Nolita, right across the street from us and worth a visit no matter where you live in NYC.

If you could pick the ideal sorts of places to open in your neighborhood, what would they be? Good restaurants suitable for lots of different occasions, certainly, as well as a few solid local bars. A big grocery store like Whole Foods within a couple of blocks is always a plus, and it's important to have a couple of cafes where you can sit and work or chat or just chill for as long as you like while sipping coffee. Throw in a bunch of culture, some interesting boutiques, lots of good-looking neighbors, and ready access to public transportation, and you've got... well, you've got Nolita. In fact, the only thing missing from this part of town was a truly world-class ice cream parlor. Which, as of this summer and the opening of A.B. Biagi, is missing no more.

SSPNY's neighbor Biagi offers a core group of flavors everyday that all taste amazing, refreshing, and exactly like the flavor they are supposed to. However, due to a small kitchen Biagi's can only produce about 8 gelatos and 2 sorbets at a time, rotating a few specials flavors each day to keep things interesting.  
A.B. Biagi is the creation of Antonio Barros Biagi, who grew up with his big Italian family in the countryside of Brazil, where ex-pats had to modify their traditional gelato recipes somewhat, to take the tropical environment (the fruit, the moisture, the heat) into account. The result is a lighter, even slightly fluffy frozen concoction that they would have made back home. Whatever: the stuff that Biagi's scooping at his pretty little namesake parlor is awesome. Worth a visit no matter where you live in the city; worth a visit a few times a week if you live right across the street in Nolita. 
 
A.B. Biagi's is located in Nolita on Elizabeth Street between Houston and Price, open every Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 10pm, and offering a noteworthy coffee program at parlor/cafe.
I've been to A.B. Biagi a couple of times and, because I'm partial to double scoops and Biagi's generous with his samples, have managed to try at least a dozen different flavors. All of them, every single one, have been excellent: intense, refreshing, and what I call honest, in that they taste like the thing they're supposed taste like--chocolate, hazelnut, strawberry, pistachio, acai, peanut butter, whatever--not just "cold and sweet". The small kitchen limits Biagi to about eight gelatos and two sorbets at a time, so while there's a core group of flavors here every day, there are also a few rotating specials to keep things fresh. And so it was that Nolita became the perfect NYC neighborhood.
 
 
A.B. Biagi is located on Elizabeth Street between Houston and Prince and is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Biagi also has a noteworthy coffee program at his tiny parlor/cafe. For more information, click here.  

Great Art, Cool Books, Comfy Chairs: The Best Group Show of the Season is Summer Reading at The Hole 

SSPNY Checks Out the Best Group Show of the Season, Summer Reading at the Hole, for Great Art, Cool Books, and Comfy Chairs!

SSPNY checks out the new Summer Reading exhibition at The Hole for tons of engaging art in a variety of mediums for a kind of interactive installation!

Now THIS is how you do a group show. Start with a theme... not too hokey, but not too abstruse, or metaphysical, either. Then gather together lots of engaging art that hits on chosen theme in interesting ways (either explicitly or tangentially), and preferably in a variety of both mediums and basic aesthetic styles. Finally, trick out your whole gallery so that the place becomes a kind of interactive installation tying the whole thing together, And that is exactly what you'll find at the delightful Summer Reading exhibition at The Hole gallery on Bowery, just a few few blocks away from SSPNY's Elizabeth Street buildings. 

SSPNY loves Harland Miller's "Penguin Classic", Death: What's in it for me?, as we explore all manners of printed materials, with an ensemble of 37 terrific artists.   
 
The theme of The Hole's Summer Reading is, obviously, reading, though it's also about our relationship with all manner of printed material. The Hole's crack curators have assembled some terrific artists--37 in all!--many of whom, in addition to being super creative, are also quite funny. I like most everything at Summer Reading, but a list of absolute favorites would include both David Shrigley pieces; Harland Miller's fantastic "Penguin Classic", Death: What's In It For Me?; Hollie Chastain's precious, collage-y book covers; Long Bin Chen's amazing "great author" busts made entirely of stacked up magazines; and Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber's vast Library, featuring hilariously horrible books like A Magic Pumpkin Makes a Magic Pie, This Is What I Care About: Vol. 2, and I'm Still Not Very Happy.   
 
SSPNY enjoys the show at The Hole, which was put together with help from Printed Matter, powerHouse books and Bright Lyons. 
 
But it's what The Hole has done to the entire space that, at least for this book-lover, elevates Summer Reading into something sublime. Calling upon
friends, stores like Chelsea's Printed Matter and DUMBO's powerHouse books, and raiding their own home libraries, the curators of Summer Reading have filled the gallery with some 5,000 actual books, shelved on the walls surrounding the art, and available for anyone to pull down, take a seat, and read. Novels, art and photography books, zines: as you can imagine if you know anything about The Hole, there's a pretty cool collection of titles here at the "reading room". And it's not like they slacked off in the furniture department either! The chairs are all on loan from Brooklyn's Bright Lyons, and they are comfy as can be. 
 
SSPNY loves the Summer Reading show for its non-hokey theme and variety of mediums!
 
The Summer Reading show at The Hole through August 24. The Hole is located on Bowery between Houston and Bleecker, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 noon to 7:00 p.m.  For more info, see here.
   
SSPNY hopes to see you at the Summer Reading show at The Hole, located on Bowery between Houston and Bleecker, showing Tuesday-Saturday noon-7 PM until August 24th.

The New Nolita Cocoron Soba is Just as Great as the Lower East Side Original 

SSPNY Tries Tasty Treats at the New Nolita Cocoron Soba and Discovers it's Just as Great as the Lower East Side Original

SSPNY checks out one of its favorite restaurants, Cocoron Soba noodle shop, at its new location on Kenmare in Nolita.

One of SSPNY's favorite bits of restaurant news last year was the opening of a second Cocoron Soba noodle shop, right on Kenmare, just a couple of blocks from our Nolita Elizabeth Street buildings. Not that the newer Cocoron is really all that far away from the original one over on Delancey. It's just that two Cocorons means more seats (the second is small by normal restaurant standards, but seems palatial when compared to the first); more chef's specials (the two have almost identical menus, but with key differences); more opportunity to dip and slurp what I think are the best soba noodles in town. And it's all super-healthy! If you want to eat food that makes you feel good about yourself, Cocoron does the trick every time. 

SSPNY enjoys the buck-wheat based soba noodles where it is available either hot or cold and with a variety of different preparations that are all more delicious than the last. 
Soba noodles, as you probably know, are the buckwheat-based cousins of the far-more common ramen. They're tough to pull off--sometimes too gummy, other times sadly bland--but the Cocoron chefs know what they're doing: in multiple visits to both locations I've never had anything but a perfect pile of noodles. And for place that's so focussed on a single item, there are a remarkable number of options on the Cocoron Soba menu, so much so that it can even be a bit overwhelming. Do you want your noodles cold (yes please, it's summer), or warm (oh, wait, these are really good too)? Do you want to dip your soba, or pour sauce on top? Are you a vegetarian? Feel like meat? Fish? In the mood to grind your own sesame seeds before eating? If it sometimes seems like each dish needs its own instruction manual, it's because it kind of does... but the friendly, patient staff and goofy, manga-illustrated menu are there to help. It's fun rather than frustrating, and because the Cocoron prices are low you can try a lot of different things with little risk. 
SSPNY decides on cold noodles on a steamy summer evening and gets the Cold Sukiyaki Soba special with a broth of sea kelp, smoking bonito, beef, tempura better and spicy sesame oil.  
 
My most recent visit to Cocoron Soba in Nolita was on a steamy, sticky evening, so I headed straight for the "cold" section of the menu, getting the Cold Sukiyaki Soba special. This was a fantastic dish, the noodles as good as ever, dipped into a broth of, apparently, sea kelp and smoked bonito, filled with chewy strips of beef, tempura butter and spicy sesame oil. A $1.50 surcharge got me a huge poached egg, which I promptly stirred into the mixture. And when you're done with your noodles, the Cocoron folks bring over a watering can of warm water, which your pour into the remains of your dipping sauce for a bonus bowl of soup! 
 
SSPNY wishes they had more sake while enjoying the Raw Octopus appetizer. 
My starters on this night included Cocoron's superb Homemade Silky Tofu, which is somehow equally exciting eaten plain (the texture is just amazing) or spooned into a bowl of soy sauce, grated ginger, flecks of salty seaweed and bonito flakes. The Raw Octopus with wasabi chunks was less pleasurable, not because it was prepared incorrectly, but rather because, as my server warned me, it's a dish best nibbled on when "drinking lots of sake". 
SSPNY hangs out with other Cocoron customers at the new location on the North side of Kenmare Street between Elizabeth and Mott.  
 
The Nolita Cocoron Soba is located in a basically unmarked spot on the north side of Kenmare Street between Elizabeth and Mott. It is open for lunch on Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00. Closed Mondays. Cash only. The Cocoron website only talks about their Delancey shop, and the online menu isn't nearly complete, but here's the link anyway.    
 
SSPNY plans on more meals at Cocoron during its business hours: Tuesday-Sunday noon-3:00 PM and 6:00 PM-11:00 PM. 

Liu Bolin is "Hiding" Again, Now at Soho's Eli Klein Gallery 

SSPNY Explores Eli Klein's Fine Arts Gallery, Showing Liu Bolin's Hiding Exhibition and Other Chinese Artists

SSPNY checks out one of the many jaw dropping pieces of Liu Bolin’s Hiding series exhibit. As seen here, an individual is overwhelmed and pushed behind consumerist society represented by a bunch of cereal boxes.

Unlike what you'll find in Nolita's energetic gallery scene, a Soho gallery-going adventure is generally a fool's quest. With only a few exceptions--the excellent Swiss Institute on lower Wooster comes to mind, and sometimes Opera Gallery has good solo shows--galleries in Soho function mainly as stores, selling brand name artists and trendy styles to tourists. Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't exactly make for a particularly compelling art-viewing experience for us locals. 

SSPNY first looks at an artwork from Hiding in California, where  an individual is hidden in front of the iconic Hollywood sign.
 
SSPNY next takes a look at the rapid growth of technology that has consumed many individuals in today’s media culture. This one is not so obvious but if one looks carefully, a person is camouflaged behind the sea of cell phones.
 
That said, the always-interesting Liu Bolin just opened a solo exhibition at usually-interesting Eli Klein on West Broadway, featuring a handful of his delightful "Hiding" photographs as well as works from a new series, Mask, that uses the form of traditional Chinese opera masks, now plastered with the labels of that country's most popular junk food and sugary drinks. It's all instantly engaging and provocative--the theme of the individual overwhelmed by contemporary, consumerist society is pretty obvious, but well stated--and well worth stopping in to see the next time you're in Soho.                    
 
SSPNY heads to the piece Hiding in New York, where an individual is blended in with the mighty USS Intrepid.
 
The large-scale, high-definition photographs in Liu Bolin's Hiding series (pictured throughout this post) are technically amazing, forceful and clear in their message, and just plain fun to look at. As you can probably tell, to create these photos Bolin (or one of his friends, like the great French street artist JR, below, photos by Rhiannon Platt) stands in front of something iconic, or silly, or beautiful, and assistants paint his entire body to exactly match the background. In addition to the photographs at Eli Klein, the exhibition also has the complete remnants of one of Liu Bolin's Hiding shoots, a "set" of cereal boxes and the clothing Bolin was wearing, post-painting. Very cool. 
 
French street artist JR is being painted by Bolin’s assistants in order to exactly match the background.
 
JR Through the Eye of Liu Bolin features JR as part of the artwork itself, located on West Broadway between Houston and Prince Street, open every day from 1 AM to 7 PM, along with Chinese artists Shen Shaomin and Li Hui.
 
Liu Bolin's Mask exhibition will be on display at the Eli Klein Gallery through July 21. Liu Bolin is located on West Broadway between Houston and Prince and is open every day from 1:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Oh and don't skip the pieces in the downstairs space by two other Chinese artists Shen Shaomin and Li HuiMore info about everything can be found here.  

Does Andrew Carmellini's Glittering "Grand Cafe" Lafayette Live Up to the Hype? 

SSPNY Hangs Out at the Glittering "Grand Cafe" at Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette to See if the Food Lives Up to the Hype. And it Does!

SSPNY tries out the new, much hyped Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette restaurant in NoHo for a taste of excellent food, a lively, good-looking crowd, and a marvelous time at this instant success, which is the third restaurant Carmellini's opened, after The Dutch in SoHo, and Locanda Verde in Tribeca.

It's not really a surprise that Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette landed in NoHo last month with an explosion of excitement and hype. After all, Carmellini's previous restaurants, including The Dutch in SoHo, and Locanda Verde in Tribeca, are among the most popular, consistently celeb-studded spots in town. They also happen to be quite excellent, food-wise. But although Lafayette was a guaranteed instant success--and it has been, packed and lively every night with good-looking folks having a marvelous time--I was wondering if the food was good enough, and the scene genuine and convivial enough, to be considered a neighborhood spot for SSPNY Nolita residents.    

 SSPNY had a terrific supper at Lafayette with a huge list of things to try on their appealing menu, starting with a hefty hillock of chewy and bright Spring Lentils, with chunks of tender tongue and infused with the Indian-food-spice vadouvan for only $8.

The answer, in a word: absolutely. Lafayette not only delivers on its promise of a glittering night on the town--really, the room here is so pretty, the service so effortlessly friendly, your fellow diners so beautiful and smiley, that you can't help but feel like.... ah, yes, THIS is why I love New York--but it also functions quite well as a local favorite, where generous portions and reasonable prices make it easy (and desireable) to become a regular. And it's open all day, with a comfortable, fully-laden bakery and coffee area up front, and a lunchtime-only Brisket Burger that's been getting raves. Basically? Lafayette is perfect, the type of place every neighborhood wants, but only a few receive.   
 
SSPNY next opts out of the entrees and tries one of Lafayette's half-dozen handmade pastas, ordering the Black Fettuccine, chopped full of squid, lobster, scallops, clams and more, on top of ground chorizo, which tastes like eating a big bowl of summer.
 
I had a terrific supper at Lafayette the other night, and can't wait to return to try more things on Carmellini's lengthy and appealing menu. First up was a hefty hillock of chewy and bright Spring Lentils, studded with chunks of tender, well-seasoned tongue (which went nicely with the mustard sauce) and infused with the Indian-food-ish spice blend, vadouvan. For only $8. I loved this. And if you really want to fill up before your entrees, get Lafayette's Frisee Salad, prepared as you'd expect--bacon, croutons, runny poached egg, lots of vinegar--which is huge and addictive and delicious.   
 
SSPNY had an absolutely epic meal at Lafayette complete with a pretty room, effortlessly friendly service, and fellow smiley and beautiful diners, as well as generous portions, and reasonable prices. Not to mention it's also open all day, and has a full bakery and coffee area in front to make this the absolute perfect neighborhood spot.
 
Already sated, I skipped the entrees proper and opted to try one of Lafayette's half-dozen handmade pastas, and was rewarded with a tremendous Black Fettuccine, heavily populated with all manner of crustaceans and cephalopods--squid, lobster, scallops, clams--as well as enough ground chorizo to have an impact. Redolent of sea, it's like eating a big bowl of summer. But even if you already have dinner plans for next five months or whatever, don't skip the Lafayette bakery. Everything looks amazing here, and I can tell you from personal experience that the rich Butterscotch-Coffee Eclair and the gooey, nut-and-fruit-studded Florentine Cookie live up to their appearances. 

SSPNY also makes sure that you try Lafayette's Grand Cafe bakery where everything looks delicious,  and the Butterscotch-Coffee Eclair and the gooey, nut-and-fruit-studded Florentine Cookie, as pictured here, are both as good as they look!

 
Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery is located on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets, and is open for breakfast (at the bakery), lunch and dinner, which starts at 5:30. More info and the complete Lafayette menu, here. 
 
SSPNY declares Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery to be a perfect neighborhood spot for SSPNY Nolita residents, located on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets, now open for [bakery] breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Uncle Boons: A Fun, Friendly Neighborhood Place Serving up Traditional Thai Delights 

SSPNY Heads to Nolita for a Taste of Uncle Boons' Traditional Thai Delights

SSPNY heads over to Nolita to check out Uncle Boon’s authentic thai restaurant Located on 7 Spring Street in NYC for a friendly, cozy, and vintage restaurant that serves up traditional Thai cuisine.

I'm always a bit wary of new, easy-on-the-eyes restaurants in so-called trendy neighborhoods like Nolita. Is it just a money grab, an "all-concept, no-feeling" type of place trying to be the next hot spot for weekend scenesters? Or is there real love in the kitchen, and warmth up front? The very good news for Nolita locals: Uncle Boons, opened in April by Per Se alumns Matt Danzer and Ann Redding, falls firmly into the latter category. This is a convivial, comfortable restaurant, with an amusingly over-the-top design sensibility and some seriously good, traditional-leaning Thai food. 

SSPNY first tries out the Mee Krob : a generously-portioned spicy sweetbread dish in which the offal is perfectly cooked, and where the sawtooth herbs and tamarind sauce added exotica, and the crispy noodles which made the dish great and crunchy. 
 
The subterranean Uncle Boons has a cozy feel to it, with three smallish areas all done up with a million old-school photographs and oddball knickknacks. There's the dim, welcoming bar area right as you climb down the entranceway stairs, where you can get beer, wine, Thai snacks and, now that it's summer so why not, a Singhai Beer Slushie for only seven bucks. There's the front dining room, casually outfitted in brick and wood. And there's the Sanuk Sanuk room in the back, which means "fun" in Thai and definitely lives up to its name. 
 
SSPNY next tries out the Khao Soi Kaa Kai: a borderline-fiery, "northern style golden curry" casserole with egg noodles, meat-falling-off-the-bone chicken legs, pickled mustard greens and coconut milk.
 
The Uncle Boons menu is a little pricier than you're used to in this genre--appetizers and "drinking food" priced in the mid-teens; entrees in the low- to mid-20s--but rest assured, this is skillful, creative cooking, using fresh, interesting ingredients. I tried a couple of dishes the other evening, and will certainly be back for more. My starter, for example, was excellent, a generously-portioned spicy sweetbread dish called Mee Krob in which the offal was cooked perfectly, the sawtooth herbs and tamarind sauce added exotica, and the crispy noodles brought a whole lot of crackle to the party. 
 
SSPNY heads to the back of Uncle Boons, which features the Sanuk Sanuk room that means “fun” in Thai. It is perfect for private parties; outfitted with Thai patterned wood walls, mirrored ceilings and provides views of a lush outdoor garden in the middle of the busy Nolita neighborhood.
 
My main dish at Uncle Boons was just as good, the Khao Soi Kaa Kai, a borderline-fiery, "northern style golden curry" casserole with egg noodles, meat-falling-off-the-bone chicken legs, pickled mustard greens and coconut milk. Great stuff. And the staffers were all friendly and helpful, with no trendy-restaurant attitude in the house. A very pleasant experience all around. Uncle Boons is located on Spring Street between Elizabeth and Bowery, and is open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; on Friday and Saturday until 12:00 midnight, and on Sunday until 10:00. For more info and the complete Uncle Boons menu, click here. 
 
As you enter Uncle Boon’s, you are immediately greeted with a pub that features a 10-seat bar with views of the rotisserie and charcoal grill. This dimly-lit welcoming area consists of exposed brick walls, which are full of framed prints and photographs illuminated by mismatched chandeliers.



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