I acknowledge upfront that this Thoroughly Flambéed Neighborhood Guide comes in reaction to Brian Poirot’s Spicy Hot Neighborhood Guide. Last week, in this very publication, Brian Poirot publicly disparaged my work as puerile and clueless. Tellingly, however, he preceded to co-opt my insights and fob them off as his own in his attempt at cultural analysis. Evidently Brian has a sublimated reverence for me that manifests itself in the petulant temper tantrum that he calls writing. The responsible course is to take on Brian’s own subject matter and show him how it’s done properly.
But first, given these unprovoked attacks, I think I can be forgiven an internet investigation into Brian. Sadly, Bri-Bri is not yet a writer of sufficient gravitas to make much of an impact on such a discriminating medium as the internet. What is known is that he is a relatively recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin where he wrote, and for some reason posted, a literary critical essay on post-grunge that he brilliant entitled “The Foucault Fighters.” There also exists a LinkedIn profile, which lists among his accomplishments “Branding Consultant for the Mother’s Fool Coffee House” in Madison, Wisconsin.
But I’m cherry picking. I’m sure he has many good qualities.
And now, without further prologue:
The Thoroughly Flambéed Neighborhood Guide to Eastern Canal Street
The most copiously flambéed section of Chinatown lately centers around a stretch of Canal Street just east of the Manhattan Bridge. Ironically, Good World, the pioneering and first-to-be-flambéed establishment in the neighborhood, didn’t survive long enough to see the flourishing of the seed it planted.
Here are a few of those flourishing seeds:
This chic, fun healthfood spot with a gorgeous bathroom and tons of fresh fruit on the salads used to exist in a Canal Street location that was the size of a dime, but it has already moved to a bigger space across the street! Things are happening fast. By the time Brian makes down here, it’ll be full of Chipotles.
PIES AND THINGS
Dimes relocated across Canal Street, right next to Pies and Thighs’s new Manhattan outpost. While Pies and Thighs is in many ways Dimes’s spiritual sister, it is her healthiness antithesism making this the greatest Hegelian irony of modern times. Try the doughnut.
Clandestino is a great, low-key bar with fantastic bartenders and a little outdoor area for fantastic smokers. It’s been around longer than most of these joints, and now that Canal Street’s been flambéed it isn’t quite so clandestino anymore.
LES ENFANTS DE BOHEME
The owners of eastern Canal Street’s own Les Enfants Terribles have already pulled a Dimes and outgrown their original location, creating this full-on French Bistro a stones throw away on Henry Street.
Mission Chinese (whose dragon tables are pictured above) is surely the coolest Chinese restaurant this side of San Francisco. It’s technically not on Canal Street, but it’s part of the same Seward Park scene. It has the right mix of kitch and delish to keep it jam packed, so make a reservation, but don’t tell them Brian Poirot sent you.
THAT BUILDING ON CANAL AND ORCHARD
What’s going on in that building on Orchard and Canal? Rumor has it, it’s being made into a brand new (but, obviously, old looking) hotel by the people who brought you the Ace Hotel.
Right down to da name, this bike shop should be the main hang spot in the long overdue BMX movie for the millennial generation. The only thing that movie wouldn’t capture about Da Shop would be the strong aroma of authenticity (weed) that smacks you in the nose when you enter. I have noticed some price inconsistencies, but I chalk that up to the aforementioned authenticity.
Mr. Fong’s is technically just to the west of the bridge, but it makes the list because it’s that type of cool bar that people complain about not existing anymore. Well, Mister Fong’s exists now, so zip it.
There have always been cool places to hang in the neighborhood. And it would be puerile of me not to mention a couple of them.
THE UPSTAIRS BAR
I’ve heard it called The Swat Bar by philistines, but to the regulars it’ll always be the Upstairs Bar because it’s upstairs. Downstairs is an empty stretch of eastern Canal Street that every so often becomes a bustling Chinatown bus depot. Pop on up and meet the regulars and maybe become one yourself.
CUP & SAUCER
Manhattan’s newest flambéed neighborhood, also contains one of its oldest school greasy spoons. Belly up to the counter for classic diner fare even Edward Hopper couldn’t poopoo.