Monthly Archives: December 2003

2003 Lower East Side Awards (Part II)

We type these words with heavy heart and heavier hangover, reminiscing of the glory that was 2003. Oh, sweet siren of ages past, bring us peace, and ever-increasing real estate prices! And so, as the last rays of this epochal epoch fade to black, we present Part II of the Second Annual Lower East Side Awards, following the awarding of Part I yesterday. Here we go…


The George Orwell Award for Information Transparency
2003_12_surface.jpgTo the Surface Hotel, whose embrace by mainstream media as the hippest downtown spot going was undermined just the weeist li’l bit by the fact that the place still isn’t anywhere close to freaking finished. Originally scheduled for a September 2003 debut, the management fell back on promising a “soft opening” in November. Once they realized something that was clear to anyone with eyes—namely, that getting this place open by the end of 2004 is going to be a miracle of Biblical proportions—they released a new projected opening date… tucked quietly at the bottom of a press release titled “Surface Magazine Presents the Sixth Annual Avant Guardian(TM) Photography Exhibit & Gala Reception.” If the place is run with this kind of skill, it’s gonna be bigger than Jesus.

The UnSurface Award
To Blue Moon, a new eight-story, 22-suite hotel (Orchard @ Delancey/ Broome) which trumpeted its near-completion with a splashy article in The Villager.

It’s Not Paranoia if They’re Really Out to Get You Award
LES last neighborhood in city to have power restored after Great Blackout of 2003
2. FreshDirect refuses delivery to wide swath of LES residents
3. Community activists tempt God and Keith McNally; attempt to revoke Schiller’s liquor license
4. Community board denies our petition to change name of our stretch of Rivington Street to “Dunehampton.”

The Yaakov Spiegel Award for Neighborhood Improvement

Given annually to that citizen residing on the three-block stretch of Rivington between Allen and Essex Streets who has contributed in the most meaningful way to the improvement of our neighborhood, bless his/her soul… To Gizmodo’s Pete Rojas, who installed WiFi in his apartment and in so doing unleased the magical powers of wireless internet to the patrons of Teany.

Remind Me Why I’m Renting Again? Award
Top LES real estate stories of 2003
1. 11 Spring Street sells for $5.5 million
2. Vacant LES Lot sells for $2.2 million
3. Craptacular sprawl-a-thon Avalon Chrystie Place disfigures Houston

Who Do You Trust? Award

Selected critical response to the New Museum to be built on Bowery:
1. Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times: “Sanaa’s design encodes that history in urban space. Little lofts. Little SoHo lofts that died and went to heaven. That is one entrancing image that the museum’s exterior brings to mind. The contemporary city is a search for the philosopher’s stone capable of transforming rust into the life of the mind.”
2. Felix Salmon, “This building would be equally ugly anywhere.”

The Inaugural Surface Magazine Award for Innovation in Interior Design on the Lower East Side
To those frisky, fun-loving kids at 39 Eldridge Street, who constructed trendy sliding bookcases to conceal an enormous marijuana farm.

Dark Side of LES Gentrification
1. Dwindling local theater scene in the wake of Surf Reality closing, and the Present Company decamping from its longtime home on Stanton Street (and taking most of the Fringe Festival with it). Of course, the hood did score every performance of Buddy Cianci: The Musical. (Take that, Providence!)
2. Misrahi Realty’s plan to deep-six Ludlow Street stalwarts Barramundi and Collective Unconscious. Bastards.
3. The dawning realization that there are few residents left around here who don’t blog.

Hints of a Gentrification Backlash
Graffiti on a Citibank “Live Wisely” ad on Bowery: “Nice Try. Go Die.”


Favorite LES Trend/Event in 2003
In which local area bloggers again opine on topics of paramount import, namely: what trend or event on the Lower East Side most moved you this past year?
Catherine: Gotta be the blackout.
Joey: Blackout 2k3 on Ludlow St. Who knew that there were so many bongo-playing hippies on the LES? Who WANTED to know?
Felix: Gourmet coffee shops. One on Norfolk (Del/Riv), one on Delancey (Lud/Ess), one on Grand (Cli), and still not a Starbucks or even a Pain Quotidien in sight. Unfortunately, none of the above has really managed to get it right yet—the last two aren’t nearly cozy enough, while the first has way too much attitude. Bizarre parallel trend: coffee shops with really, really bad coffee. Eg Loisaida, Clinton St Bakery. And of course Teany, which has really bad tea.
Ian: Buildings that will never be completed: The Surface_Hotel, the Jewish Forward Building (wrapped in its little burka, it was supposed to be luxury condos years ago), 7 Essex (is that done yet?)
Your Humble Proprietor: Emergence of the BelDel (Below Delancey) scene. Put a fork in the Upper Lower East Side, kiddles—it’s done.

LES Photo-Op of the Year
Howard Dean hangs at a Meetup at Essex (Rivington @ Essex)

Runner up:
Rick Ocasic drops by 71 Clinton Fresh Food (Clinton @ Stanton/Rivington)

Catch-Phrase of the Year
The guy on the roof of my building, banging on the door: “Let me in or I’ll jump off this roof and commit suicide!”

With the Lights Out, It’s Less Dangerous Award
To the police officer who allegedly told the owner of Rivington Street’s Alife Rivington Club during its blackout looting, “You should be a man and watch your own place.”


Fond LES Wish for 2004
Catherine: That someone drops a really, really smart bomb on the future surface* hotel—one that will destroy it but not my apartment building directly next door.
Joey: For Congee Village to close down, so their garbage will stop making my apartment smell like shit.
Felix: Seward Park and East River Park to get makeovers. I want the library reopened in the former, and the riverfront bike/walking path reopened in the latter. A good supermarket—ie something better than Key Food and Fine Fare. Failing that, Fresh Direct finally delivering. Oh, and one more thing: That I win my bet with L. Steele about the hotel!
Ian: a) Sushi, damnit. I need sushi!
b) The reopening of the Grand Street subway station for B + D trains in February.
c) A travel/fashion magazine without an article describing Schiller’s as New York’s Hot New Restaurant and a newspaper article about the
economic effects of smoking that doesn’t quote somebody from The Whiskey Ward.
d) A real go-to bar, a la Olde Towne, Half King, WXOU Radio Bar, Galapagos before they had too many “events” and installed the “Welcome, Tourist” ATM.

Three Things We’d Like to See on the LES in 2004
1) Actual rejuvenation of the long-neglected LES waterfront
2) Fresh Direct delivery trucks heading south to Seward Park swallowed up by giant, smoking crevasse on Delancey Street
3) One (1) great new bar.

Three Things We’ll Probably See Instead
1) Avalon-Chrystie Place granted permission to cantalever apartments over Houston Street, increasing square footage by 30,000 square feet.
2) Our no-apology hopping on the Fresh Direct bandwagon whenever they finally deign to serve us.
3) 13 Little Devils II: Electric Boogaloo.

Thanks to all who stopped by the Web Presence in this calendar year. We’ll catch you on the flip side. Happy New Year!

2003 Lower East Side Awards (Part I)

From the debut of WD-50 to the arrest of the Dell Dude in a drug buy gone awry, the Lower East Side seized the spotlight and refused to leave the stage in 2003. (Whether or not that was a good thing, we leave for you to decide.) Politics aside, the end of this storied 12-month window leaves us little choice but to regurgitate acres of agate for your year-end digestive pleasure. And so: the Second Annual Lower East Side Awards.

For the purposes of this little production, the Lower East Side is casually defined as “the area near my apartment,” essentially comprising the traditional LES plus a chunk of the East Village and the fringes of Nolita and Chinatown.

Today: Food and Drink
Tomorrow: Neighborhood, Miscellaneous & The Future
Bottoms up!

## FOOD ##

Newcomers of the Year
1. Mermaid Inn… From the people who brought the Red Cat to the far-off land of Chelsea comes this homey seafood haven. Jaw-dropping queues (hey, at least you can grab a drink with friends waiting at Frank) prove worth the wait for snazzy shellfish, imaginative main courses, and, of course, free pudding. (2nd Ave. @ 5th/6th St.)
2. WD-50… Probably deserves top billing, but frankly, we can’t afford to eat here often enough to truly fall in love with All Things Wylie. Regrets, chef. (Clinton @ Stanton/Rivington)
3. Hearth… Like that final present tucked so far under the tree you don’t find it until January, the late November opening of Hearth (in the remade Tappo space) closed out the East Village dining scene with a bang. (1st Ave @ 12th St.)
Honorable Mention (West Village): Otto… Outside of the purview of these awards, but nowhere did we have such enjoyable meals this year. The vongole pizza (with clams in shells) is a singular delight. (5th Ave. @ 8th St.)

Meal of the Year
“The Pass” at Hearth…
We stumble in soon after sunset on the Winter Solstice, a quiet Sunday night when it feels like everyone has already split town for the holidays. Table for two, perchance? No: fully booked until 10 (!). But, we’re informed after we turn down a seat at the bar, there’s a small counter overlooking the open kitchen that can’t be reserved. Would we like to dine there? We would. Twenty minute wait until the chef’s friends are done with their food, then we settle in for a feast—an ersatz tasting menu, sans supplemental charges, served by the chatty chef himself. “We call it ‘the Pass,’” the hostess tells us on the way out, “because, you know, the chef can pass you things.”

Dish of the Year
Focaccino at Li’l Frankies.
Not on the menu per se, but always offered as a special. Life-altering, especially when enjoyed hot from the oven in-restaurant. (1st Ave. @ 1st. St.)

Opening of the Year
Rice to Riches…
Opening an architecturally incoherent establishment dedicated solely to rice pudding is one thing. Going about it with this kind of panache, however—well, that’s fucking awesome. (Spring @ Mulberry)

Best Kept Secret (That No One Kept)

Kuma Inn… Opened in nearly impossible-to-find digs on the second floor of the building that houses the grotesque grottos of Suba—yet always draws big crowds because of tasty, cheap Philippine cuisine. (Ludlow @ Rivington/Delancey)
Runner-up: Mojo (5th St @ 1st/2nd Aves.)

Biggest Disappointment
‘intoteca… Maybe it was the first night mobscene that rivaled an opening at Rivington Arms… Or maybe it was the breathless write-up as the cool downtown boite du moment in Gourmet… Or maybe it was the fact we got suckered into a $15 ham sandwich… but somewhere in the hype, what should have been a simple, enjoyable neighborhood panino joint became just a little too too for our tastes. Pushing through the sidewalk mobs, we find religion: People, these are sandwiches you’re eating! Stop the insanity!!! We’re looking forward to eating here in 2006, when the roving bands of foodies will have decamped for the “up-and-coming” dining scene in Portland, Maine. (Rivington @ Ludlow)

Edward Gibbon Award

Old favorites that seemed to lose a step this year
1. Lavagna (5th St. @ Ave B)
2. Café Lebowitz (Elizabeth @ Spring)
3. Lucien (1st Ave. @ 1st St.)

Tumbleweed City
Restaurants that couldn’t seem to draw a crowd to save their lives in 2003
1. Tenement… And all the Pianos kiddles so tantalizingly close at hand! (Ludlow @ Stanton/Rivington)
2. Dish… Solid food pedigree, but the room has never warmed up (Allen @ Stanton/Rivington)
3. Petrosino… A charming little spot to wildly overpay for Italian home cooking. We’ll stick to the Olive Garden (Norfolk @ Houston)

Truth in Advertising Award
Les Enfants Terribles (Ludlow @ Canal)

Abbastanza! Abbastanza!
Random new Italian restaurants that saturated our universe—and sent us running to Chinatown
1. Basso Est (Orchard @ Houston/Stanton)
2. Cantinella (Ave. A @ 2nd St.)
3. Cicciolino (4th St. @ 1st/2nd Aves.)

Names Keith Didn’t Name Schiller’s (But We Did!)

1. Schneider’s
2. Prague
3. That Place with the Wack Bathrooms, Yo

Short KKD! Award
The one flavor, one-dollar donuts at Schiller’s.

Rebranding Of the Year
Mooza becomes Café Lika. No worries: it still sucks absolute, total ass. Zeitgeist Report
Restaurant names showing up most often in this site’s referrer logs since September (e.g., people at Google searched for…)
1. Rice to Riches
2. Schiller’s Liquor Bar
3. ‘inoteca
4. Congee Village
5. Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar

Go-To LES Restaurant 2003
In which we solicit the opinions of a quartet of seminal LES bloggers on questions affecting our world, and offer one final correct answer ourselves. Query: What was your go-to Lower East Side restaurant in 2003?
Catherine of Catherine’s Pita: I hate to encourage you, but you are not fooling anyone with this question. You know it’s Schiller’s. (Side note: I hear, surprisingly enough, that the Mexi place on Essex and Stanton is total yums.)
Felix of Memefirst and Go-to as in where people in general go to, objectively? Schiller’s. Go-to as in where LES people go to, as opposed to UES tourists? ‘inoteca. Go-to as in where they SHOULD go to? Tasting Room, if it counts as LES. Chubo, if it doesn’t.
Ian of Congee Village or Good World. They’re both cheap and reliable, and during the black out Good World had a DJ with a battery powered turntable rig. Oh, and then how can you forget the karaoke rooms at Congee?
Joey of Tale of Two Cities: Kate’s Joint, even though the 4th&B location makes its LES location debatable. This greasy-spoon vegetarian diner is like nothing else around. The unbuffalo wings could convert Ted Nugent.
Your Humble Proprietor: Sch—, er, uh, well, we love the Alias/AKA hive mind, they’re always tasty, and—oh fuck it, we’re not fooling anyone—Schiller’s! Schiller’s!! Now and forever!!!

## DRINK ##

God Bless The Fourth Estate Award
Tantalizing, if bizarre, media coverage of Lower East Side nightlife in 2003
1. In May, New York Post names the Surface Hotel the hottest downtown party scene. “It’s not even open yet, but the hype surrounding the 120-room, 22-story compound venue created by the main players in the hipster magazine Surface continues to build.” Nine months later, it’s still, uh, building.
2. In September, Time Out New York gives the Surface Hotel pride of place in its Fall Preview Issue, noting the monolith is “scheduled to partially open in November.” Indeed, come November, the hotel remains partially open—to wind and snow whipping through the incomplete front façade.
3. In May, a nightlife reporter from the New York Post is kind enough to give us a buzz. “I just spoke with Wylie Dufresne,” he intones, “and you probably should know that that’s not him posting on your website

Go-To LES Bar 2003
Again, we turn to our panel of blogistas…
Catherine: Iggy’s. You cannot beat $2 Bud drafts. You just can’t. But when it’s a night out that you need, with pretense, that go-to bar is going to be Pianos (sorry), for the good music (be it live or DJ-provided) and the cute boys. I like it in spite of myself.
Felix: No doubt that the UES Scenesters have moved from Salt Bar to Schiller’s, while LES Scenesters have moved from Adultworld to 151.
Joey: Welcome to the Johnson’s. It’s so subtle that it’s more like a bar with a theme, rather than a theme bar. There’s a difference. This also has to be one of the best happy hours in the city: Lasts till 9 p.m., and everything in the place is $1-$3.
YHP: Lolita. We’re creatures of habit. So shoot us.

Best East Side Bars For Red Sox Fans
Tile Bar
and The Magician (tie). We’d watched Game 7 of the Sox-Yanks series at West Village Sox fan haven Riviera Cafe, then slipped into the streets when things went horribly wrong sometime after midnight. Walking across the village, car horns and cheering throngs shattering our already delicate sensibilties, we sought refuge. Pulling up stools at the end of Tile Bar on First Ave., the kind bartendress greeted us, told us that her boyfriend is also a Sox fan, and poured us a brew on the house. We’ve seen her since at Tile Bar sister bar The Magician. Come spring 2004, we know where we’ll be doing our ballgame watching.

Catch-All Award
The Magician… As above. Seemingly the default LES bar for just about everyone we know. (Rivington @ Essex)

Random Moral Dilemma We Didn’t Need
Local 138… We’d always liked this bar, so when word came last spring that the place was closing down, we were sad. Two months later, when it magically re-opened with the same name and no apparent changes, we were glad. Then the other shoe dropped: we learned that the owners of the space had refused to renew the lease on the space to the gents who created Local 138, forcing them to decamp to Williamsburg (oh, the humanity!)—while reopening the place themselves. We’re left wondering whether we can continue to frequent this once-gentle bar. Paging Randy Cohen… (Ludlow @ Stanton/Rivington)

Thank God We Live In New York Award
Walking down Rivington with two friends in town for the weekend from Boston, we point out Teany. “That’s Moby’s teashop,” we note. One friend cocks us a glance. “Who’s Moby?”

Poster Child for Smoking Ban Detractors
Whiskey Ward… Journalists seeking quotes on the horrors of the smoking ban need go no further than Whiskey Ward owner Sandee Wright. Back in the pre-ban days of March, she tempted fate by telling the Post, “I can’t afford to be known as the bar that calls the police on its patrons.” In June, she griped to the Washington Post, “I have a great relationship with my neighbors. But I can’t expect that to last.” Then, last week, the bar surfaced in an A1 Times story: “Happy-hour sales on Friday nights at the Whiskey Ward on the Lower East Side have dropped to barely $100, from $600, a co-owner says.” Sandee, darling—no one likes a whiner. [with a tip o’ the cap to ebway] (Essex @ Rivington/Delancey)

Smoking Ban Silver Lining Award
Kush… Whose cheesy Moroccan theme paid off bigtime when it was one of the few in Manhattan allowed to let its patrons smoke indoors. Fire up the hookah! (Orchard @ Houston/Stanton)

Ignominious Closing Award

Swim (Orchard @ Stanton/Rivington)

Bowery, We Hardly Knew Ye Award
Horrible clubs disfiguring a once-proud Lower Manhattan boulevard
1. Capitale (@ Grand)
2. Mission (@ Rivington)
3. Crash Mansion (@ Spring)

It Ain’t Rocket Science Award
Kraziest Bar Koncepts!!! that hit the scene in 2003
1. You know what the Lower East Side needs? A really posh comedy club! (Laugh Lounge nyc, Essex @ Stanton/Rivington)
2. You know what the Lower East Side needs? A German beer hall! (Loreley, Rivington @ Bowery)
3. You know what the Lower East Side needs? A horizontal bar with an interior depth of four feet! (Maradona, Allen @ Houston/Stanton)

New Bar That Will Forever Be Known as the Place Where that “Person” Lost That “Thing” in the Bathroom
Barrio Chino (Broome @ Orchard)

Location, Location, Location Award
1. Café Luise (across the street from Schiller’s)
2. The Living Room (a few doors down from Pianos)
3. Verlaine (downstairs from my apartment)

Favorite LES Newcomer in 2003
Catherine: Sin-é. There can never be too many live-music venues in the hood. (Attorney @ Houston/Stanton)
Felix: Chibitini. (Clinton @ Stanton/Rivington)
Ian: Thank god we have a real cafe on the lower LES. Full City has the basics—you know, coffee, freelancers, leftist reading groups—as well as free and unlimited WiFi access. (Grand @ Clinton)
Joey: Alchemy. Lord, thy name is 16-ounces of “Icing On the Cake.” Identity-crises design, but the best coffee anywhere. This even beats my obsession/curse, Tiny’s Angels. (Delancey @ Ludlow/Essex)

Sawaryn’s Forces Are Massing! Award
Named in honor of East Village activist Anna Sawaryn and her quixotic campaign to put an end to new bars in the neighborhood, this final Food & Drink award is presented this year to the community troops attempting to revoke the liquor license of Schiller’s Liquor Bar, which would necessitate much more than a new name (and some new neon). It is in this battle that we will come at last to define who we truly are—and, indeed, perhaps even discover what our generation stands for. (Our guess: gentrification.) Comrades, remember this: we bow to no one!

(Don’t miss Part II of the 2003 LES Awards tomorrow.)

Christmas Holiday

With this post, is officially on Christmas holiday. We’ll return on December 30th and 31st with the Second Annual Lower East Side Awards to close out 2003. Until then, we bid ye glad tidings and as much joy as you can cram down your stockings.

Guerilla Book Tour Update

Guerilla Book TourReports on the first two days of the Book of Ages 30 Guerilla Book Tour are up at (The final stop has been rescheduled for Monday in Chelsea.) Special thanks to special guests Eliot from, Jesse from, Jen from Gothamist and (oh, what could have been!) Aaron from 601am. Folks, it’s been real. Probably too real, now that I think about it. (Next up: the Virtual Book Tour!)
· Guerilla Book Tour Day 1: A Great Kickoff! []
· Guerilla Book Tour Day 2: Always Be Closing! []

Book of Ages Update

Yesterday’s Guerilla Book Tour event at the Union Square Barnes & Noble was a smashing, er, rousing, er, interesting affair. Check out JVG’s report for all the sordid details (and thanks to Eliot for the snaps). Meantime, here’s our favorite moment from yesterday’s CNNfn interview:

Caption: Steele’s earpiece comes loose as a “Caller from Texas” asks a question about whether one must give up “going to nightlife and clubs” after age 30. (Truly, MUTE was the only way to survive this one.)

Can’t get enough? More self-serving shit served up piping hot at!
· Guerilla Book Tour Day 1 []
· CNNFN Update: Grinning Idiots Go National []

Guerilla Book Tour

Guerilla Book TourAnyone can go on a regular old book tour, but what happens when one pens a book that doesn’t lend itself to dramatic in-store readings, yet one yearns for the soothing embrace of Barnes & Noble shoppers? For the next three days, we’ll find out as the Book of Ages 30 Guerilla Book Tour takes Manhattan by storm. Stop by, say hi, watch as we’re arrested, and perhaps even take home a delightful holiday gift for you and yours. Schedule and other details accessible by following this handy link…
· Announcing the Guerilla Book Tour []

The Business of Emotion

Two years ago, ownership of the Red Sox changed hands for the first time since 1933. The leader of the cadre of new buyers, John W. Henry, made his fortune on Wall Street not by betting on stocks but by betting on people. That is, Henry saw that people tend to react in predictable ways on Wall Street when news breaks. He realized that if you could predict their actions—which you could—then you could bet the other way, and beat the market. The insight made him a billionaire.

Henry arrived in Boston and set out to remake the Red Sox in his image: by taking emotion out of the decision-making equation. Ok, so what? Well, at some point in the next 48 hours, the Sox and Rangers will complete one of the biggest trades in baseball history, a swap of Sox outfielder Manny Ramierez for Rangers’ shortstop Alex Rodridguez. In the same breath, the Sox will deal their homegrown shortstop and bona fide Boston superstar Nomar Garciaparra to the Dodgers (perhaps via Chicago). So is it the right move? Those who crunch numbers looking for value generally agree it is. But what of those who won’t—or can’t? Or, to put the question another way, is the core of sports fandom rooting for favorite players, or the team? Two posts at the Sons of Sam Horn message board this week draw opposite conclusions:

> When they make it into October next year there will be a large amount of dissapointment that it wasn’t our Nomar bringing us to the promised lands, but the hired guns. Yes, I realize this is baseball… but baseball is the players not the shirts… and Nomar was the player that should have been immortalized in Sox lore for bringing us the trophy.

> If you guys love these stars that much, then go root for them. Buy a Dodgers jersey and a Texas Rangers baseball cap. I want a winning team. This trade will make us BETTER! Think about it….

So which side do you fall on? Us, well… we’ll take the trade. But that doesn’t mean our heart isn’t a little heavier than usual this morning.
· Manny Who? []