Lower East Side/East Village
Best place to people watch?
It’s not exactly “legal,” but the playground across the street is really fun. The kids wake me up every day at 8:30, and sometimes my girlfriend and I will just sit in there and make up names and stories for each kid. It’s fun to live vicariously through them.
Best place to drink?
Hi-Fi is on A and 11 far and away the best place to drink. The jukebox has about 100,000 songs and the photo-hunt is always overrun with intense competition. I used to be a regular at Essex Street Ale House because you could eat peanuts and leave your empty shells strewn all over the floor, but it closed down a few months ago.
Punjabi, on 1st St. between A and 1st Aves. Perfect, cheap, authentic, vegetarian Indian food. You know it’s authentic because nearly all the cabbies in NYC go there to hang and look for off-hours driving jobs.
Best bookstore or record store?
Turntable Lab on A and 7th. It’s a tiny shop with lots of dub and hip-hop, neither of which I collect or am that keen on. A few months ago I went to peruse the discount bin and stumbled upon Icy Demons, a band my friend from Chicago had recommended and played for me years ago. I was impressed, and the clerk at the store was even more impressed that the record had even made it to the discount bin in the first place.
Best grocery store/farmer's market?
The Sunday farmer’s market on Avenue A between 7th and 8th is perfect. It’s only a block long, but has a solid variety of produce and meats and baked goods to choose from. It’s like an abridged, more navigable version of the Union Square Green Market.
One of the perks to my apartment was that we have our own washer/dryer. So I’m proud to say that since moving out of Jersey City over a year ago, I haven’t been to a Laundromat.
Best outdoor spot?
Our fire escape (aka — balcony) is a nice escape sometimes. We have a great view of Houston Street, the playground at PS-20, and the south-East Village/northern-Lower East Side. It’s also perfect for guitar playing, wine drinking, and year-round plant-growing.
Best place to attend a show/view a piece of art/see a movie?
It’s not the most original answer, but I think Pianos on Ludlow and Stanton is a great place to see a show. There’s the 200-cap venue downstairs where there are the quintessential five nightly bands, and there’s the more laid back atmosphere upstairs. The lineups are rarely curated carefully, but the result is that you usually get to see some amazing bands with absolutely nothing in common.
Best coffee shop?
Remedy Diner. It’s just downstairs, so it’s the perfect place to meet people for lunch when I just want to roll out of bed and head somewhere in my Superman boxers and T-shirt. Amazing, bottomless coffee. Nothing gourmet, nothing expensive…just good ol’ coffee.
Best subway line?
Best is a hard word when you’re talking about the subway. Does best mean cleanest? Does best mean most interesting people? Best view? Most convenient stops? I’m overwhelmed, clearly. I like the J train for the view while crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. For all other benefits, including but not limited to cleanliness, people-watching, convenience to locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and timeliness, the F train is definitely the way to go.
Best date spot?
Fondue at Bourgeois Pig on A and 9th. It’s dark and plush. There are chandeliers and a massive wine selection. And there are vats of melted cheese flying every which way. What could be more romantic than that?
Best person whose name you don't know?
The friendly goateed Hispanic dude who loiters outside my building all day, every day. He doesn’t creep me out… he’s always smiling and greeting everyone. But what is he doing there? How long has he been there? Is he even real?
According to neighborhood folklore, are there any celebrities living in the area?
I’m sure someone famous is lurking around the LES and/or the East Village, but I haven’t seen any yet. Before I moved in I walked by Mike Myers (wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey) in Little Italy, but that’s about as close as I’ve gotten to a brush with fame.
Which are there more of: dogs, bodega cats, strollers, American Apparel ads, or old men on stoops?
Dogs. So many dogs. I don’t understand how people can fit a dog into an LES apartment, but it seems like almost everyone does. There’s a huge one in the building across the alley from mine that barks like the dog from “The Sand Lot” at all hours of the night. Scares the crap outta me, and I love dogs.
What's missing from your neighborhood?
A good drum store. There’s nowhere to really get any gear anywhere near me, which is unfortunate because I’m pretty gluttonous when it comes to collecting anything drum-related.
What's been the biggest change since you've moved in?
A few days before this tour started, my girlfriend and I noticed a smell on the first floor of our building that can only be described as… well, uriney. It got worse and worse and then, one day after a bunch of errands, I came back to see two firetrucks outside the building. First thought: I left the oven on. Second thought: I don’t bake. Third thought (later confirmed): that “uriney” smell was actually a dead guy on the first floor.
It's a Saturday night in October. You don't feel like traveling very far but are antsy for a night out. Where do you go?
- The Angel Orensanz Foundation. It’s next door to my building, and is an old synagogue that’s been renovated and can be rented out for private parties at a rate of about $15,000. There are always weddings and corporate launch parties (i.e. Verizon’s “Droid” last year) that I fantasize about sneaking into. One of these days I’ll be antsy enough to go for it.