Tag Archives: LES

On a Mission.

As has been well-established by now, I am not one to jump on the sceney-restaurant bandwagon. It’s not that I don’t want to try the latest and the greatest; I do. But a combination of minor social anxiety (does anyone ever feel skinny and well-dressed enough for trendy new restaurants? Please say no), a growing dislike of crowds (not at all caused by an inherent lack of personal space here in New York—why do you ask?), and a low tolerance for two-hour wait times at tiny spots that don’t take reservations for parties of less than five means that I just don’t tend to enjoy evenings out at this city’s hot spots.

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One solution to this problem? Brunch.

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Brunch Bonanza.

The Lower East Side’s Clinton Street Baking Co. isn’t exactly a well-kept secret. Lauded for its baked goods—the buttermilk biscuits are particularly renowned—and notoriously popular brunch, I’d recommended it to visiting friends who had weekday mornings free for leisurely breakfasts; they always reported back in the positive, but then, the lines are shorter Monday to Friday, and I’d always been too put off by the crazy weekend waits to give the place a shot myself.


A few weeks ago, though, some friends and I found ourselves with a Sunday at our disposal. One got there early and put our name on the list; the rest of us met her at the café across the street, settled in with our iced coffees and commenced with the waiting. As a reward for surviving the epic lines, we were served, as promised, “no-fuss-just-plain good food.”

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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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