Ever wanted a New Yorker’s opinion on something? Where to go? How to avoid everyone? Where to find hidden places? This week in the New York on My Mind interview series, My New York, writer and blogger, Eva, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to unearthing new finds in her Lower East Side neighbourhood, like a clandestine cocktail bar and where to eat out with kids.
Are you a native New Yorker?
Yes and no. I came to the US when I was nine, then lived in Suffolk County, Long Island until I went away to college in Cambridge, MA. I then went to Graduate School at Columbia and haven’t really left the city since 2005.
What neighbourhood do you live in and why?
Lower East Side, absolutely love it. I love the gamine spirit, the energy, the fabulous food and drinks, the eclectic and edgy fashion sense, the street art and graffiti. My husband and I love strolling around with our baby and taking in all of the local vibes. In fact, I started blogging three years ago to feature street styles that inspired me.
Where do you pick up your morning coffee?
Living on the Lower East Side is coffee central! I mean, there are great coffee shops on every corner but I think my favourite is this teeny tiny place close by in the East Village called, Abraço. The coffee has a real kick and the staff are warm and friendly. It’s a nice place to start the day.
Best brunch spot?
It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite, though my personal preference is something relaxed and delicious since brunch is something we always do with our munchkin in tow. We love the easy-going nature of DBGB (a fan favourite). We also love Barrio Chino, Prune (get there early and make sure you have your own portable baby-seater as they don’t have high-chairs!), Dinner on Ludlow, Narcissa, and the Butcher’s Daughter, a great downtown vegetarian restaurant.
Just last night my friends and I went to Bar Centrale uptown in the theater district. It’s usually so hard for me to find good dining spots in that part of town, but Bar Centrale is like a slice of downtown in the heart of midtown! It reminded me of a favourite neighbourhood speakeasy called Attaboy on Eldridge – much like Bar Centrale, it doesn’t have any signs outside so you really need to know what it is that you’re looking for!
Favourite date night spot?
It’s pretty difficult to narrow down to just one place. I personally love going to restaurants that prepare food that’s both a work of art and a culinary experience. Classics like Per Se and Daniel are nice, but I also like innovative and experimental spots like Atera, Contra, The Musket Room, and the like.
I love window-shopping on Prince Street in Soho and I love local children’s boutiques where I can snag fun pieces for my son. My favourite is Sweet William and Lucky Wang, where they make these adorable baby kimonos!
City’s most overlooked site?
I probably shouldn’t share this, and it’s not really a landmark site, but I do love the Scandinavia House, a centre that celebrates Nordic art and history in Uptown Manhattan on Park Avenue. It’s in a very quiet part of town, and inside the design is sleek and simplistic. There’s a nice little restaurant/café inside called Smörgås Chef which is great for meeting up with friends and colleagues, and some fantastic programs for young families – even a fun and stylish playroom for kiddos.
What’s your favourite museum?
Nearby Morgan Library and Museum with its mesmerising interior is a gem too!
The city’s best-kept secret?
I don’t think these are secrets, necessarily – but two places that I love which may not be on your average visitors’ radars are the Asia Society on 70th and Park, and the Harney & Sons tea rooms on Broome Street. They’re very different, but both have this soothing and calming effect. The Asia Society has some fantastic exhibits, an excellent gift shop and café (it also occupies a beautiful space). Harney & Sons, on the other hand, is literally Soho’s best kept secret – fantastic tea, macaroons and treats, never crowded, and the ambience is lovely.
Favourite time of year in the city?
I love spring when everyone is just coming out of the slumber of winter, and the city simply blooms with beauty, sunshine, and flowers. This is when streets are flooded with wonderful fashion styles and emerging trends, and everything just has a new-found optimistic shimmer to it.
What would you do as Mayor?
I’d devote more funding and resources to public art, installations, and street art in general. I’m a big proponent for art to be enjoyed by the masses. My father’s an artist, so I grew up with this passion running through my veins.
How would you spend a spare afternoon?
Ideally, I’d catch up on writing at my local café TeaNY on Rivington. I’d head over to McNally Jackson Books to do some reading and flip through my favourite books. If there is time, I’d take my son to the playground or Citibabes on Mercer.
Best thing a taxi driver has said to you?
I was once asked by a cab driver where I was from. When I told him that my origins stem from Mongolia, he retorted with “I love your cupcakes!!” I think he was speaking about Magnolia Bakery.
What inspires you about New York City?
It truly is an amalgamation of everything and anything. You have access to the height of theatre, culture, style, power, and knowledge all at your finger-tips (literally just an Uber ride away). It’s not for everyone. My personal motto is, if you’re going to pay a premium to live here, you should try and optimise that experience as much as possible.
Craziest thing about living in the City?
One minute you’re eating a $500 tasting menu, and the next minute, you’re sipping instant cup of noodles that you’ve just grabbed at the local bodega whilst binge-watching House of Cards. Both are thoroughly enjoyable experiences, but dramatically different! That’s just one example of the nutty juxtaposition of life in the city… believe me the combinations are endless.
A word of advice for tourists…
Try to avoid Times Square, there’s so much more that you can be doing! Also, I highly recommend going to a local bookstore or café and scope out fun, bespoke dining guides. My personal favourite is McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street in Soho.