We stopped in for an early lunch at Dumpling Man. After hearing from a bartender down the street that the dumplings were “oh so good, ” we had to find out for ourselves. The menu was simple and concise, yet complex in the flavorful concoctions you could pack into your dumpling. One of us ordered a mixture of pork and chicken, and another had the vegetable one. The dumplings arrived – the juicy meat steamed perfectly within the browned casings, and the veggie choice, filled with tofu and mushrooms was delicious as well. As everyone ate their savory dumplings, we were entertained, watching the deft hands of the chefs roll out dumpling dough that would soon be filled, steamed or fried, then eaten by the next lucky customer.
Richard Ho is Californian at-heart. He is from San Gabriel Valley, where he grew up eating his mother’s Taiwanese food. Ho Foods seeks the excellence of the home-cooked Taiwanese meals he experienced as a child, including his well-known beef noodle dish. Beef noodle shops, Richard explained to the Manhattan Sideways team, are like pizza shops in Taiwan, but they were not necessarily always popular. In fact, beef noodles were originally soldier food that ultimately became a large part of the Taiwanese diet. Growing up in the LA-area, Richard never felt that he experienced any Americanized version of culture or food, but rather was able to be immersed in pockets of culture hard to find elsewhere. When he first moved to New York in 2007, he worked as a manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi, but found while living here that no one made Taiwanese food like his mother did. So, Ho Foods was born in January 2018, with a curated menu that feels like his home. The idea? Take simple, classic comfort food from his youth and translate it into a restaurant setting. The staff works like a home as well - everyone cooks, everyone cleans, everyone serves. Each member has “kind of been a friend” - they met through mutual connections or college. Richard has been surprised by the passion they have taken to learning about Taiwanese culture, whether that be cooking techniques or even the language. Christian, a member of the staff at Ho Foods, is so confident in his pronunciation of dishes that people often assume he fluently speaks Mandarin. When we asked Richard about why he chose 7th Street and how it has been working out, he told us that he feels connected to the building. A friend previously lived there and even wrote their name in the cement before he came, so it felt a little like he had been there before. He enjoys his location in the East Village, calling it "not-so-obvious. " In addition, he has found that there is a loyal Taiwanese community wanting to support each other, and in search of places that celebrate and capture their culture;. And, through this endeavor, he has realized the extensive, and sometimes unlikely, connections people have to Taiwan. Laughing, Richard went on to say that he has encountered a number of Polish customers who claim the Taiwanese beer he serves reminds them of one from Poland. Richard’s perspective on the business is in many ways simple. A focus on comfort, taste, and family-like service is always a safe bet. His philosophy comes from an opinion that "Life is just better when there’s food between two people. "
The warmly painted walls inside Veselka envelop the room in folky florals and traditional Ukrainian symbols. Hanging from the ceiling are glowing milk glass globes that seem to replace the sun or moon depending on the time of day — and it could be any time at all, as Veselka is open for twenty-four hours, seven days a week, serving a smorgasbord of pierogis, bowls of borscht, and other expertly prepared comfort foods — Ukrainian and otherwise. Wlodymyr Darmochwal planted roots for Veselka when, as one of the founders of the neighborhood Plast organization (akin to the Ukrainian boy scouts, teaching survival skills and Ukrainian language), he was asked to create a weekend study program for the boys. In response, he opened a five-and-dime style counter at the corner of East 9th Street and Second Avenue where the boys could buy paper clips, cigarettes, lighters, and, notably, bowls of borscht and other basic Ukrainian foods. The business expanded into another storefront on East 9th Street a decade later. After Wlodymyr’s passing in 1972, it was taken over by his stepson, Tom Birchard, who was later joined by his son, Jason. Today, having worked at the restaurant since he was a teenager, Jason has “done every single job possible here except cook the borscht. ”When Jason joined the team, one of his first projects was to find out, “How late can we stay open? ” It turns out the answer was “all night. ” As Tom and Jason once again prepare to expand the restaurant into an adjoining storefront on 9th Street, they are eager to continue serving the next generation the kind of traditional Ukrainian food that Wlodymyr would have had at his counter more than sixty years ago.
Shahrzad Ghajar, founder of the gift shop Spooksvilla + friends, takes curation to another level. She meets with each of the artists represented in the store and personally chooses every piece showcased on the walls and shelves. Shahrzad, herself, is a talented artist, and many of her designs are featured in the shop. By focusing on the artists, Spooksvilla ensures that everything for sale - from apparel to wall art - is one-of-a-kind. “We like to be representative of original people doing original things— be it art, products, charms or any other kind of cool item, " said Ethan Velez, manager of Spooksvilla. Despite the fact that multiple artists contribute to Spooksvilla, the store is not a hodgepodge of styles. Rather, the art is united in its bold, whimsical designs. A favorite is the label on the bottle of the rose bath salts - a piece of art in itself. A woman with purple skin and purple hair rides a pink dragon, holding, of course, roses.
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake. As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
The essence of Duo is in its name; it is two things at once. It is dulled colors and clean lines, minimalist in feel but simultaneously filled with warmth and softness. Both young and old, vibrant and calm, it is modern and fresh but brings to mind memories of simpler times: of handwritten letters, cozy Sunday afternoons and soft breezes over the wide open fields of northern Minnesota, the owners’ home state. Conflicting and complementing all at once, Duo is the product of two minds at work. Sisters Wendy and LaRae Kangas have created a perfect little fashion oasis that fits right in with the small town vibes of Manhattan’s East Village. Growing up, Wendy and LaRae pestered each other and fought over clothes, as siblings will do, but in 2008 they decided to open up a shop together. Today, they work with dealers and emerging independent designers throughout the country and pick all their clothing, accessories and home goods by hand, combining masculine and feminine styles with modern silhouettes and vintage traces to curate a timeless collection of quality, classic pieces. “It’s a very personal process, ” they told me, “and we put a lot of love into our shop and our collections. ” Nothing at Duo is mass-produced, and most of their merchandise is recycled. The sisters pour their hearts into the shop and work hard to stay true to themselves while keeping an eye toward the future, expanding their business into the world of e-commerce and social media. “It’s important to stay current and give the customers what they want, ” they said. They love what they do, and working with family makes it even more fun, according to the sisters. “It makes work smooth when you don’t have to verbalize what you’re thinking, ” they told me, “We just know what each other is thinking and it makes choosing products and daily operations much easier. ”Duo is a celebration of creative spirit. It is clear that the sisters revel in the one-of-a-kind individuality of each and every one of their customers who come to them looking for pieces that will express their own unique style. When explaining what they love about their work, they said, “It’s great to make a customer feel better when they walk out the door. ”
For Mimi Lau, her work is an exercise in sharing a bit of herself with her customer. “When you buy food, you’re not just paying for the food; you’re paying to learn where that food came from. It’s a culture. Even this mochi, it’s so clear that it’s from a different generation. It’s not your really traditional mochi because there’s something inside. It reflects my generation, and that’s my culture. I put Oreos and Froot Loops in there, goddammit! ”Brooklyn-native Mimi Lau opened Mochii, an adorable artisanal dessert shop on East 7th Street, in April 2018 at the ripe old age of twenty-five. Like the desserts served there, the shop is sweet, small, and soft: bean bag chairs line the walls and each mint green cup is decorated withMochii’s bunny logo. The highlight, though, are the treats themselves. Mimi’s mochi are works of art, entirely hand-crafted from the delicate rice wrapper to the varied fillings. A batch of ice cream mochi alone can take up to nine hours to make, but for Mimi the effort is entirely worth it. “Working with this type of dough for so long and making this type of sweet, it’s just something that should be made by hand. It’s so delicate. ” Every aspect of the mochi is thought through, down to the way they are consumed. Mimi recommends eating by hand, so the heat from one’s fingers warms and softens the outside of the mochi - and the mess is, of course, part of the fun. The mochi come in a wide assortment of flavors, and each one holds a special treat inside - anything from a slice of fruit to the aforementioned Oreo. “Like me, they each have a little bit of happiness inside, ” Mimi sweetly stated. A smile lights up her face as she describes her customers’ reactions to seeing the mochi sliced open and the treat inside revealed. “It’s really joyful. It makes me feel like a kid again. ”Sweets have always been a passion of Mimi’s, but she noticed that the market, especially in New York, was trending towards ever more sugary, over-the-top desserts. In a world of jumbo shakes and cronuts, mochi stand out for their small size, subdued sweetness, and relative simplicity - a sustainable dessert, if you will. As for the shop itself, Mimi knew from a young age that she wanted to have her own store. She worked for several years managing two restaurants to gain experience before taking the plunge herself. “I pretty much gave up everything to do what I wanted, ” she admitted. “It was really hard to leave, but if not now, then when? ”
The folks at Spot Dessert Bar are mavericks of dessert. With desserts specially created by the Iron Chef of Thailand, Ian Kittichai, and Mark Lee, the managing partner, the eatery offers each of its customers an astounding tour of taste. The dessert tapas themselves are a blend of eastern and western flavors inspired by Chef Kittichai’s travels around the world. While speaking with Mark, we learned that the little desserts are called “tapas, ” not because of the size, but because the idea is to order a few and share. Along with dessert tapas, Spot serves cupcakes, macarons, cookies, and bubble tea. They truly have something for everyone especially with the addition of new dairy-free and gluten-free options. The desserts change based on the seasons and we were lucky to be able to try the new fall menu as well as their signature dishes, and each one was a delightful surprise. Their two best sellers are the Golden Toast, with honey butter, condensed milk ice cream, and strawberries, and the Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake, a soft dark chocolate cake with green tea ganache and green tea ice cream. The Golden Toast was warm with a flaky, soft interior, while the Chocolate Lava Cake was one of the best the Manhattan Sideways team had ever tasted, perfectly heated and well paired with the strong matcha flavor. Mark told us that it is also one of the top 10 most Instagrammed foods in NYC, which we did not find surprising, since each dish is a piece of art. The fall desserts were all equally tasty and creative—The gluten-free matcha cremeux with its toasted rice ice cream was unexpected and simply delicious. The vegan Coconut Monkey bread was light, fluffy, and topped with coconut ice cream with basil seeds. The real stand out was the Black Truffle savory dessert. None of the Manhattan Sideways team had ever had anything like it. It consists of black truffle, hazelnut dacquoise, and apricot sauce, and was the clear winner, especially for those without a strong sweet tooth. We drifted between different desserts as Mark told us more about Spot’s future plans and his experience with the company. Mark started as a server at Spot, which opened five years ago, and now is part-owner. He originally worked in magazine design and now puts his aesthetic eye to good use on the culinary design of Spot. He is inspired by everything—restaurant uniforms, menus, interior décor, and other aspects. Mark informed us that Spot is planning on expanding a few stores down. At first, the company used the space as a take-out café, but wanted to stay true to the dine-in nature of the original. Mark wants “customers to feel cozy when they come to Spot, ” and so will decorate the addition in a very similar way. We agreed that the wood-panelling and warm interior is very homey, creating a perfect atmosphere in which to fill up on dessert.
Originally, an offshoot of David Chang’s award-winning restaurant group Momofuku, 13th is one of the fortunate streets to have one of his well-loved milk bars open. Today, acclaimed pastry chef Christina Tosi takes the combination of baked goods and milk to a whole new level at each of her locations – yes, I have had many a treat. Soft serve “cereal milk” or jugs of this tasty milk to go, the infamous crack pie, cornflake or compost cookies... and then there are the packages of cake truffles – these are slices of cake that are condensed into supremely dense balls of sugary goodness. Definitely worth a bite or two... or three. Milk Bar also donates a portion of every dairy sale to various independent and family dairy farmers in need. All in all, Milk Bar is a dessert lover’s heaven.
There’s a new banana pudding in town! We stopped into the newest location of Baonanas on E7th Street and can report back that the inventive, flavorful desserts at the new East Village shop very much hold their own. Co-founders Lloyd Ortuoste and Trisha Villanueva describe themselves as “two Jersey City kids, who share a love for food and cavity-filled sweet teeth. ” The two spent many a date night baking a version of Leche flan, a Filipino staple and family recipe for Trisha. They substituted in elements of traditional banana pudding and soon discovered they had a hit on their hands. The couple’s new pudding remained a homemade treat until 2014, when the two began selling the concoction to help fund a repair for Lloyd’s car after a fender bender. Word of mouth spread and soon enough, the two had opened their own brick and mortar storefront in Jersey City. Since expanding to the East Village, the dessert has taken off even more, said staff member Nish Purino. “We get a lot of regulars, ” she added. Asked if they often met customers who wander in looking for ice cream, only to find pudding, Nisha and coworker Celyn said they’d converted a lot of die-hard ‘scream fans. “We also get a lot of people comparing us to that other pudding, ” Nisha said. After trying out the speciality ube halaya (jam) flavor stemming from Trisha’s family recipe, we’re converted!