Strolling along 5th Street, I was immediately drawn to a row of old-fashioned light bulbs hanging in the window of a small hair salon. Alexandra, the owner, invited me in while announcing that today, June 3, 2015, was Filament’s first day open!As I admired the salon’s hardwood floors and simple, appealing interior design, Alexandra told me that she and her co-owner, Seiji, had recently decided to leave the nearby hair salon where they both worked. A native Puerto Rican, Alexandra specializes in curly hair, while Seiji, originally from Japan, mostly works with straight hair and extensions. The pairing is perfect, Alexandra explained, because “there’s something for everyone here.” And while she and Seiji have different styles, they both believe in a natural approach to hairdressing: instead of trying to change their clients’ hair, they embrace and enhance its natural beauty. The salon’s name reflects this philosophy. Alexandra and Seiji spent hours trying to decide what to call their new endeavor, but it did not click until they bought their signature light bulbs. When they saw the glowing filaments inside the shop, Filament Hair Salon was born - a place where "the light inside you shines through the strands of your hair.”
Peering through the panes of Blackstone's storefront windows, I could imagine Sigmund Freud getting his beard trimmed or Jack the Ripper getting his curls perfected in the leather barber chair inside. Blackstones is a hair salon that is overflowing with character. The theme is a mix of Victorian and taxidermy. Somehow the combination evokes a sophisticated old world sensibility and works perfectly. To enhance the salon's unique approach to hairstyling, the shop produces its very own brand of hair products called Five Wits. As customers' bottles of shampoo and conditioner become empty, they can be replenished at the in-house refilling station.
Kenkeleba Garden, named for an African healing plant, is simply magical. We followed the densely forested greenery around to the back, arriving at a clearing that transported us to another world far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. We were completely surprised when we landed in front of the sculpture garden, which is only visible from 3rd Street. From large African sculptures to collections of scraps or bricolage, a specialty of the Lower East Side art scene, we could not help but linger before doubling back and re-emerging onto the concrete sidewalks of 2nd Street. It was not until many months later, when we had the pleasure of meeting Joe Overstreet and his wife, Corinne Jennings, that we learned that this is affiliated with their gallery next door, Kenkeleba House. It is their life-long dream to someday use these grounds to build a museum that would house their massive collection of African-American art.
The common thread throughout this brilliantly executed mini restaurant/takeout spot is broth. Try it with free range chicken, grass-fed beef, or a combination of veggies. But the fun does not stop here. There are "add-ins" that one can choose including ginger, turmeric, sweet potato, eggs, meatballs and more. The menu also offers further filling food options, but there is always a small cup of broth that can accompany any dish on the side. It can be used as a marinade, poured into the mix of vegetables and/or meat, or, of course, the third option would be to simply drink it down separately.The brains behind this clever endeavor - that opened in the spring of 2016 - are Jordan Feldman and Sam Eckstein who have been best friends since they were five years old and living in Manhattan. Coincidentally, that same year both sets of their parents decided to move to Englewood, NJ where their backyards connected. Sam and Jordan traveled back into the city to attend high school together and then went in separate directions for college. While Jordan studied film at the University of Pennsylvania and went onto a career in real estate development, Sam received a degree in Chinese from Johns Hopkins followed by a job in China in the banking world. Upon his return to the United States, he found himself investing in food companies.When Sam and I were chatting about how they came to start Springbone Kitchen, he said, matter of factly, "Although the two of us took different paths beforehand, we each had the perfect skill sets to bring together to open a food business." It was initially Jordan's obsession with nutrition and healthy eating that was the spring board for their eatery. He shared his ideas with Sam one day in 2014, asking his advice on certain issues with which he was not as familiar. As Sam tells it, the more he became involved, the more he realized that this was what he, too, wanted to do. He quit his job and decided to "Go all in." They quickly realized that they were a match made in heaven. "Jordan knew all about zoning, he had the knowledge for how to find the best location, and how to build it out, and I had knew the business end - profit margins, suppliers, production, and how to market."From an early age, Sam was always passionate about food and dining out. "I was attuned to the restaurant world and always appreciated the great chefs - they have had a strong influence on me." When he decided to team up with Jordan, Sam knew that he had to meet the standard of the chefs who had inspired him. Then Sam added that it was Jordan who was determined to have those same high standards when it came to healthy eating. "We definitely compliment one another," Sam stated.Though it had only been open for a few short months when I visited, Sam was eager to discuss how they have recently begun partnering with new businesses to sell homemade products by others in the New York area who share the same philosophy. Some fantastic examples are Matt's Kimchi, Raaka Chocolate, and Pilot Kombucha.After spending a few minutes in the kitchen - observing the process and the ingredients that go into their massive pots of broth - I came away knowing, with certainty, that what people are eating here is filled with love, passion, and the best possible recipes that these two men have concocted. They have done their research and are fully committed to serving healthy, satisfying meals to their customers.