I seem to be an object
of fascination for the chaps at Eater, who masterfully get all meta on my
Chubo entry. "Is he
food blogging for the people, or is he in it just to try to save his go-to spots?"
asks Ben Leventhal. Well, in the case of Chubo, it’s the latter. But since you
ask, here’s the official felixsalmon.com deathwatch for all of the restaurants
on Clinton Street.
Houston to Stanton, west side:
|Clinton Restaurant. By far the most decrepit restaurant
on the street, it’s also perenially popular among the LES penniless crowd.
It looks dreadful from the outside, but it does the job on the inside, with
cheap and filling chicken-rice-and-beans-style food. Could keep on going
indefinitely, but will not be able to afford to renew its lease when the
|Piada. Incredibly expensive sandwich joint. They’re good,
those sandwiches, and the coffee’s not bad either, but there’s not much
atmosphere and it suffers from the same problem as many mostly-empty places:
that when you enter you feel as though you’re barging in on a private conversation
between the owner and his friends. I fear he underestimated the price-sensitivity
of Lower East Siders.
|Sachiko’s. A good Japanese restaurant which never really
managed to take off. It’s got a weird layout, which isn’t very welcoming
from the street, and the food is unfamiliar enough that you need a real
reason to go there – which most people don’t have. It’s not good enough
to be a destination, and doesn’t have the neighborhood appeal to survive
on locals alone.
|Salt Bar. Everything which is bad about Clinton Street
– which means it’s very popular and won’t be going away in the foreseeable
future. Lots of loud Bridge & Tunnel types drinking expensive cocktails
make the food more or less irrelevant in any case. In fact, by bar-food
standards the food is very good, but you need to be a bit weird to actually
want to eat there while being constantly jostled by a drink-spilling crowd.
With luck the crowd will move on to the next buzzy bar and Salt Bar will
fizzle out, but I’m not holding my breath.
|Tapeo. I have to admit I haven’t ventured into this tapas
bar yet: irrationally, I suppose I haven’t forgiven it for kicking Dr Dave
out of his former premises. It’s new enough and inoffensive enough that
I’m sure it’ll be around for a while.
Houston to Stanton, east side:
|Clinton St Baking Company. This hugely popular spot only
ever seems to increase in popularity. It has had an insane wait for weekend
brunch for a long time now, but even mid-afternoon, mid-week it can be difficult
to get a table. The muffins are good, as is the coffee, and it’s hard to
mess up an egg dish, but overall it’s hard to see exactly why this place
is so perenially crowded. No chance of it closing, though.
|Thai on Clinton. Hard to tell, with this one: it’s never
very crowded, but one suspects that’s because most of its customers order
delivery. It has good, reasonably priced food: it’s certainly not a destination,
but every neighborhood should have a decent Thai place, and this is the
official Decent Thai Place for the LES.
discussed. But one has hope that its high quality will win out, and
that the restaurant will overcome its present thin patch.
|Punch & Judy. A popular wine bar; it has food too.
I’m not entirely sure who comes here or why, but it certainly seems to be
at no risk of closing down. I suspect that most of the custom is from guys
wanting to impress their dates by choosing somewhere "sophisticated"
where they can pretend to know something about wine.
Stanton to Rivington, west side:
|Lotus Club. It was here before anybody else, and it will
probably remain here long after everybody else has gone. If there were any
doubts about that, the aquisition of a liquor license should have put them
to rest. It is the unofficial headquarters of the Lower East Side: hang
out there long enough and you’ll meet pretty much everybody, sooner or later.
Meet people by asking them to watch your PowerBook while you go to the toilet.
Or just hang out at the bar.
|Summers. This space is cursed. It didn’t work as a shop
selling reversible jeans, it didn’t work as a distant cousin within the
Dufresne empire, and whatever it is now, it still doesn’t work. No one will
mourn its passing.
|Chibitini. For sake-lovers with a soft spot for small
dogs. A small cross-section of the LES, perhaps, but large enough to keep
this place going. Surprisingly good and reasonably-priced bento boxes, if
you get hungry.
|Cube 63. Lock nails it, really: "green glow = not
conducive to my dining experience". Perfect for people who like green-tinged
sushi. Which seems to be an enormous number of people. The food’s not cheap,
but it’s BYO, so you end up spending less than you might at a nominally
cheaper and certainly higher-quality sushi place such as Esashi, on Avenue
A. Seems very popular with groups of 21-25 year-old girls. Who can get very
loud. In any case, it seems to have hit on a successful formula.
|71 Clinton. What is it, just one week to go? Sad. End
of an era. I had some great meals there, especially when it first opened
and one could get a same-day table. You’d phone them up, ask them to decant
a bottle of their $28 pinotage ahead of time, and the wine would have opened
up by the time you got there.
Stanton to Rivington, east side:
|Pizza. I have no idea if this place has a name beyond
"Pizza", the bare-bones sign outside. In fact, I’m not sure if
this is actually a restaurant or is really some kind of money-laundering
operation. I can’t imagine why anybody would actually go in and eat any
of their congealed product, let alone sit down at the plastic tables in
front of the faux-brick walls. Awful.
|WD-50. It survived the initial hype, and then the inevitable
backlash. Now it’s an established destination for adventurous gourmands
from around the world. Its prices are high enough that it will be able to
stay on Clinton Street indefinitely, should Wylie want to do so.
|Crudo. Do you remember the crudo craze? Italian raw fish?
It lasted for just under 15 minutes a year or two ago? Well, there’s an
entire restaurant devoted to the stuff on Clinton Street. I’m far from convinced
that their turnover is high enough to guarantee the freshness of the fish.
It’s a nice enough restaurant, but no one will be surprised to see it go.
Plus it always gets confused with Chubo, which is a much better restaurant.
Best to settle on just one of the two.
|1492. Popular, reasonably-priced, friendly tapas joint
with a nice back yard in the summer. What’s not to like? Should be able
to make it.
|Falai. Lock might not like it, but this is a fantastic
restaurant, permanently packed for very good reason. For the quality of
the food and wine, the prices are decidedly reasonable, while the atmosphere
is generally upbeat and friendly. Yes, it does attract rather too many trend-seekers
from the Upper East Side, which means the crowd leaves a little to be desired.
But I’ll always love coming here for a meal.
|Cibao. The quintessential Lower East Side rice-and-beans
joint. Friendly, with good food, good music, good atmosphere. Does run the
same risk as Clinton Restaurant two blocks north – that it won’t be
able to afford to renew its lease when the time comes. But its closure will
occasion much sadness in the neighborhood.
South side of Rivington:
|Falai Panetteria. An overnight sensation. Permanently
packed, for very good reason. The ultimate Italian-style coffee shop, with
great coffee, great desserts, and even proper food (pastas and the like).
Inconceivable that it could fail.
|Alias. The only other Dufresne joint, now that aKa and
71 Clinton have died. Popular neighborhood restaurant. I’ve never been hugely
impressed myself, either by the food or the wine. But there’s no denying
the fact that lots of people love it. Will stay for a very long time.