Category Archives: Speakeasies & Hideaways

Secret (Beer) Garden.

Looking back through the pictures I’ve taken over the course of the past few weeks, I realize I’ve been on two subconscious kicks: The Asian-food thing I’m attributing, in retrospect, to the weather, but I can’t really explain the speakeasy thing. It’s unintentional, really.

I’d read about Bia Garden—Michael “Bao” Huynh’s take on the Vietnamese beer garden—back when it opened last year, but somehow I missed the part about the not-so-stealthy entrance. I have to say, though, that any establishment that touts itself as “secret” and advertises its entryway with a sidewalk sandwich board really isn’t very clandestine at all, and I kind of like it that way.

My visit to Bia was the result of disparate elements conveniently colliding. On this particular day, I skipped out of work at exactly 5:00 p.m. to watch the Showdown in Chinatown, Steve Nash’s annual charity event featuring a mashup of basketball and soccer players, coming together on the pitch for an exhibition game. The Carnivore and I stood in the glare of the sun and watched a first half that included more recognizable NBA stars than footballers (this coming from someone who doesn’t follow professional basketball in the slightest), and decided at halftime that we’d had more than enough. Beer was sorely needed. A friend had mentioned this Vietnamese beer garden a few weeks earlier; she was in the neighborhood and came to meet us. And, in yet another act of serendipity, Jill had introduced me, via email, to a friend of hers in town for the week, staying on the Lower East Side; she, also, agreed to hang out. An IF-NY-OH crossover event!

Not only did I get to meet one of Jill’s food-oriented Columbus people, but, with five diners at our table, I got to order a whole lot of dishes. As we’ve mentioned, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

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Speak Easy and Carry a Big Punchbowl.

So. You may have noticed a dearth of New York-related posts lately, and there’s a good reason for that, I swear: I’ve been sans camera since the last few days of our Philippines trip, when my trusty Panasonic went on strike. It’s currently being repaired, but I finally got around to picking up a cheap little replacement to use in the meantime. The other night, with my new toy in hand, I headed down to the East Village to check out the latest speakeasy-style joint to grace the neighborhood.

Cienfuegos, the Cuban sister of nearby Mayahuel, is only accessible via the back staircase of Carteles, a tiny café and sandwich shop on East 6th Street; the street level’s cheery blue-and-yellow decor belies nothing of the space revealed at the top of the stairs.

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Will Stalk for Food.

So, there’s this guy. Who makes lobster rolls in his tiny basement apartment in Greenpoint and offers them, stealth-like, to anyone willing to track him down.

My feelings on this particular foodstuff aren’t exactly a secret, so it should shock absolutely no one to learn that when this Food Curated video surfaced a few weeks ago, I immediately jumped into stalker mode to get a taste of the action. Persistent text messaging and email paid off a few days later, when I was finally gifted with the “secret location” and given permission to drop by.

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