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Oh I love this neighborhood. There is nowhere else I know that has as much to explore as the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Little Italy and NoLiTa are like sweet little cake toppers on this delicious smorgasbord of visual and cultural delight. I went to the Lower East Side for these pictures on February 7, and then I went back today for a spontaneous detour from groceries to Doughnut Plant (if you’re wondering, I got one tres leches in tribute to Spanish Harlem, and one crystallized ginger in tribute to their Chinese New Year special) and I discovered even more here that I didn’t capture weeks ago. Add to this the fact that any neighborhood has a completely different character when covered in mounds of snow, and it was like seeing the LES through new eyes.

On the eve of the Chinese New Year, some sights on my route to the Lower East Side.

Of course on my way to the LES proper, I took a detour down Grand St. to Quickly for my favorite snack, almond bubble tea and those little cream cakes shaped like whatever they’re shaped like (?). The LES is such a fantastical mishmash of cultures – I once toured an old tenement house there from the early days of Ellis Island immigration, and although history isn’t my favorite thing, it was really interesting to learn about poor immigrants’ lives.

Cogs and wheels in public art on the LES.

This neighborhood also has some great public art, notably in the Hispanic area. Avenue C was even given a second name, Loisaida Ave., for the Hispanic pronunciation of “Lower East Side.” I believe the display at left was at ABC No Rio, whose website says, “ABC No Rio is a collectively-run center for art and activism. We are known internationally as a venue for oppositional culture.”

Some other stuff I came across down there were the housing projects mentioned in a book called Small Victories, about a teacher in the slums of the LES in the 80s, which really impacted me; I recommend it to any aspiring teacher. I also came across the Clinton St. Baking Co. (they had a Pancake Month for February, with amazing dishes like the one my suitemate and I got: pancakes with fresh blackberries, pecan streusel and maple butter… HEAVEN), Les Enfants Terribles restaurant (a little pricey but had a great name – “The Terrible Children“), and this fascinating blue building (below).

Bernard Tschumi's blue tower

You can read about the blue tower here; it is an apartment complex (!) designed by Bernard Tschumi, and some of the pictures at that link show some amazing views from the inside looking out. Some people hate it, because it’s a symbol if the gentrification in the LES. But I am really over whining about gentrification, so I like it. Those windows look just as amazing from inside! I saw this work of art from several different vantage points and finally got this amazing shot from Rivington St. and Essex St., or so. I stood on a corner where the building behind me had a neon light saying, “NEVER SLEEP.” It was so New York.

One of the greatest things I happened upon the LES was Café Charbon, which I stumbled upon two years ago on a leisurely walk and adored. But I had never gone back. This is one place I vow to return to even after my appointed Lower East Side day, because it is so adorable and French. I mean, look at this window of (fake) cheese!

Café Charbon's tribute to French cheeses.

But I didn’t stop to eat at Café Charbon because I had already had both lunch and bubble tea/cream cakes, and my mind was set on the highly-anticipated end note of the trip: Rice to Riches. Rice pudding and snark bundled together like you and your favorite blanket on a cold day. I got the hazelnut (tasted a little like plain chocolate, but still good), with whipped cream, but the flavors and topping possibilities are endless (Cinnamon Sling? Fluent in French Toast? Good thing this place is 3 blocks away from my dorm…). I leave you with this delightful image from the inside of Rice to Riches. Now… did I miss anything? 😉

"Eat all you want... you're already fat."



July 2018
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