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.  

NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, at the New Museum on Bowery 

SSPNY Heads Over to Nolita's New Museum on Bowery for NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star

SSPNY checks out the New Museum right now as they hold a giant time-capsule of a show called NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. The proper exhibition is on display in every available space inside the New Museum gallery from the lobby to a soaring room on third floor, where rude skateboard decks, stickers, and Daniel Joseph Martinez's Museum Tags hang. Here an Untitled work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres features a string of light bulbs, and deep orange carpeting, a billboard of a lone bird flying through a grey sky with a haunting soundtrack playing in the background.

For culture lovers who enjoy a little edge in their art, downtown New York City is definitely the place to be. Take the pretty, intimate neighborhood of Nolita, for example, where Stone Street Properties has recently added a lovely, historic building right on Elizabeth. True, that part of town is probably better known for its great boutique shopping and casual, happening restaurants, but in the past decade or so Nolita has been the site of an art-scene explosion, with a dozen terrific new little galleries, all anchored by the world-class contemporary art exhibition and event space, the great New Museum. Although the New Museum, the institution, has been around since 1977, the current site (on Bowery across from Prince) and striking building (designed by Tokyo-based Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA) only opened about five years ago, in December of 2007, and has quickly become a cultural hub for the community. And, as it happens, right now at the New Museum there's an amazing, giant-time-capsule of a show, NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.

SSPNY checks out all five floors of the New Museum's gallery, named after a Sonic Youth album, and even spills over into the annex next door Studio 231, which now holds an installation by Nari's Ward called Amazing Grace that consists of dozens of discarded and filthy baby strollers strapped together fire hoses and assembled into the shape of a ship with Mahalla Jackson's version of Amazing Grace playing in the background.

Named after the influential Sonic Youth album recorded that year (though released in May of 1994), NYC 1993 fills all five floors-worth of the New Museum's galleries, and even spills over into the annex next door, Studio 231. In fact, the installation that takes over Studio 231 may be my favorite piece in the whole exhibition, Nari Ward's jaw-dropping Amazing Grace, which consists of dozens of discarded, often-filthy baby strollers, strapped together by old lengths of fire hose and assembled into the shape of ship, Mahalia Jackson's rendition of the classic spiritual of the same name playing softly in the background. It's an extraordinary work, designed to be discomfiting, and succeeded brilliantly.

SSPNY even checks out Jessica Diamond's massive Tributes to Kusama: Infinity billboard, as well as other disturbing works of art such as Pepon Osario's crime scene installation, Nayland Blake's amusingly titled Equipment for a Shameful Epic, and more.

Inside the New Museum proper the NYC 1993 exhibition takes over every available gallery, from the lobby space (love the rude skateboard decks, there, and the stickers, and Daniel Joseph Martinez's Museum Tags); to the soaring room on three, which houses my OTHER favorite piece in the show, an as-usual Untitled work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres featuring a string of light bulbs, deep orange carpeting, "billboards" of a lone bird flying through a grim sky, and a haunting, repetitive soundtrack; to the small nook off the stairwell between floors three and two. There are lots of big names here at NYC 1993, and plenty of familiar, iconic pieces, including Charles Ray (his creepy Family Romance), Lorna Simpson, Paul McCarthy (his even more creepy Cultural Gothic), David Hammons, John Currin (a pair from his Girl in Bed series, below) and Matthew Barney. There are also lots of things that I had never seen before, such as Pepon Osario's elaborate and disturbing crime scene installation, Nayland Blake's amusingly titled Equipment for a Shameful Epic, and Jessica Diamond's massive Tributes to Kusama: Infinity (above).

SSPNY also checks out the iconic works of John Currin from his Girl in Bed series, and other creepy Cultural Gothic works from acclaimed artists such as Charles Ray, Lorna Simpson, and Paul McCarthy. The New Museum is located on Bowery between Rivington and Stanton Streets open from Wednesday through Sunday and free on Thursdays!

NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star will be at the New Museum May 26. The New Museum is located on Bowery between Rivington and Stanton Streets, and is open from Wednesday through Sunday at 11:00 a.m., and until 6:00 p.m. each of those days except Thursday, when it's open until 9:00 p.m. The New Museum is free on Thursdays from 7:00 until 9:00. Lots more info about the New Museum and the NYC 1993 show, here.

SSPNY has recently added a new building in Nolita right on Elizabeth Street, near great boutique shopping and restaurants, and what has become over the last decade an art-scene explosion with a dozen terrific new little galleries all anchored by the contemporary art exhibition and event space, the great New Museum. Here, Stone Street explores the New Museum, an institution since 1977, whose new location opened in December 2007 on Bowery across from Prince Street, in a striking building designed by Tokyo-based Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, which has quickly been named a cultural hub for the community.

 

written on 04/10/2013

Posted in: Nolita


Nolita Neighborhood History: Home to Tenements, Def Jam, and a Kid Named Marty Scorsese 

SSPNY Looks Back at the Historic Nolita Neighborhood: Home to Tenements, Def Jam and Martin Scorsese!

SSPNY first looks back at the once, less than safe, streets of Nolita down by Elizabeth Street, just a block away from the Bowery, which used to be one of the notorious skid rows housing only tenements for more than a century, and now home to some of the most beautiful old restored tenements anywhere in NYC.

There's no shortage of juicy history here in Manhattan, especially downtown, where almost every block has seen its share of heydeys, hard times, revitalizations, repeat. This is not news, by the way. In fact, New York City's defining characteristic has ALWAYS been constant change (and commerce, though the two tend to travel through time together), even as far back as the days when the Dutch were running things. That said, some neighborhoods, and some blocks, are a tad bit more interesting than most. For example: the stretch of Nolita's Elizabeth Street from Bleecker down to Prince, which happens to be the home of the newest addition to the Stone Street Properties family, The Leo, which runs from 260 to 268.

SSPNY even checks out what some called "Crack Alley" until the 1980s, referring to the part of Elizabeth Street between Bleecker and Houston that is said to have inspired Public Enemy's song, Night of the Living Baseheads, under Def Jam's label.

It's hard to imagine Elizabeth Street, which today boasts more trendy, spendy boutiques per square inch than just about anywhere in town, as being anything but wonderfully safe and stroll-worthy, but that's a surprisingly recent development in this part of town. Being a block away from the Bowery, once one of the world's most notorious skid rows, didn't help prettify things, and all of these beautiful old restored tenements in Nolita, which give this coveted neighborhood so much of its character, spent much of their century-plus history as, well... just tenements. Also of note: as recently as the 1980s Elizabeth between Bleecker and Houston was not-so-affectionately known as "Crack Alley", and was said to have been the inspiration for Public Enemy's seminal song, Night of the Living Baseheads. Public Enemy's label at the time, Def Jam, was headquartered on the block back then, so the rumor makes sense.

SSPNY next visits the most colorful era in the 40s and '50s, when Elizabeth Street was still home of Little Italy in a lively and slightly dangerous neighborhood where Martin Scorsese settled in 1950, where both of this parents grew up and where much of his early works were inspired, including his 1973 masterpiece Mean Streets.

But perhaps the block's most colorful era came in the 1940s and '50s, when Elizabeth Street was still solidly Little Italy all up and down its length, alive with stoop-sitters, street kids and wise guys. It was this lively, slightly-dangerous (if you weren't a local) setting into which moved one Martin Scorsese in 1950. Both of Scorsese's parents grew up on the block--his mom in 232 Elizabeth, which was filled with families from the Sicilian town of Cirmina; his dad across the street in 241, which is where everyone from the nearby town of Pulizi had settled in--and, after a stint in Corona, Queens, they moved back with wide-eyed, eight-year-old Marty. For 15 years Scorsese lived at 253 Elizabeth, the family of four squeezed into three-and-a-half rooms, sometimes sleeping on the fire escape in the pre-AC summer. The scene that played out before him as he roamed the neighborhood and watched the drama of Little Italy life unfold before him from his third-story bedroom window informed much of Scorsese's early works, including his 1973 masterpiece Mean Streets, some of which he filmed right on the block.

SSPNY lastly visits one of the most interesting blocks in NYC's downtown Manhattan as they check out the historic stretch of Nolita's Elizabeth Street from Bleecker down to Prince famous for commerce and constant change even when the Dutch ran things. The stretch of Elizabeth Street from Bleecker down to Prince, is now the newest addition to the Stone Street Properties family, The Leo, which runs from 260 to 268.

written on 04/10/2013

Posted in: Nolita




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