Lower East Side Storm Watch 2:02 p.m.

Our friends at An Choi report they are still open for lunch.

A Year of Transition for the Lower East Side BID

LES BID President Mark Miller, former executive director Roberto Ragone. Photos courtesy: LES BID.

Earlier this week, the LES Business Improvement District held its annual meeting at Mason Dixon on Essex Street. The organization’s leaders looked back on what was really a transitional year — and looked forward to a busy 2011. They honored former executive director Roberto Ragone, who has gone on to run a BID in the Bronx. 

Scenes From Apple Day

A nice crowd turned out yesterday on Orchard Street between Broome and Grand for the third annual NYC Apple Day. Although we couldn’t find any apple pie, there were plenty of apples (and apple-themed food) from local restaurants and purveyors – not to mention live music and arts and crafts for the kids. Here are some of our photos from the event.

Weekend Guide

Whimsical illustrator, live performer, VJ and videographer Shantell Martin‘s Project InsideOut OutsideIn, is at the Collette Blanchard Gallery through May 22nd.  Along with her show, Martin will be performing in collaboration with live bands, a cellist and a violinist, starting with “Drive In Theater” on Saturday at 6pm and “Person Line Drawings” on Sunday at 2pm.

An Choi – Bringing the Comforts of Vietnamese Street Food Indoors

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Chef Dennis Ngo with Co-owner Tuan Bui at the banh mi counter inside An Choi on Orchard Street.

Although the Vietnamese restaurant, An Choi (85 Orchard), is new to the 'hood, as of a couple months ago, co-owner Tuan Bui is not a newcomer to the Lower East Side. It's been his neighborhood for almost nine years – he can't imagine living anywhere else. Tuan has watched the LES change during the past decade. There are those big, towering developments, like the Blue Building and the Hotel on Rivington, but he really likes how the community is evolving below Delancey Street.

"People say it's too much gentrification, but I do love the diversity and the history it has.  I mean here we have Hassidic Jews, the Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, professionals, artists, hipsters,
tourists. It's one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York, so I like that this (restaurant) is
something I can contribute, to add to it's diversity".

After 7 years in the finance industry, Tuan took a "sabbatical" and traveled on his own through Vietnam last year.  He ate different types of regional food throughout the country and realized he was ready to bring some of his cultural heritage back to the Lower East Side.  

Luckily his brother, Huy Bui, who is an architect, was also ready to work on his first solo project. They had noticed a big gap between the "no frills" type of Vietnamese food Chinatown offers and some of the more upscale, high concept Vietnamese restaurants uptown.  "We wanted to be something in the middle, to elevate the experience of eating the traditional street food everybody loves but bring it inside to a nice environment."  But mostly, Tuan saw a need for an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. "Sometimes when I order in Vietnamese at a Pho restarant in Chinatown, he says with a  twinkle in his eye, they don't understand what I'm saying".

Monday News Links

A New York Post analysis shows some encouraging early signs from a controversial program that pays students who improve their performance on standardized tests. The Post story mentions P.S. 188 on Houston Street, where: "76 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded state benchmarks in
English — 39.6 percentage points higher than last year, when the kids
were in third grade."

The Gotham Gazette has an in-depth piece on the future of community boards in New York, exploring whether how they will fare in Mayor Bloomberg's assessment of city government.

An Choi on Orchard Street debuts its backyard and adds items to the menu.

The Post profiles "The Dressing Room," on Orchard Street, declaring it's part of a "fusion bar" trend — combining shopping and drinking.

Wednesday News Links

You'll be paying $2.25 to ride the subway and a monthly MetroCard will likely cost you $89 under the agreement reached in Albany yesterday. The Daily News blasts Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, saying he left Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver with no choice but to "tap (New York City) riders harder than necessary."

New York's Rent Guidelines Board apparently hasn't heard about the worst recession in decades: it's voted for increases in rent stabilized apartments. It's a preliminary vote – public hearings will be held next month. Wasim Lone with the group "Good Old Lower East Side" is calling for a freeze in stabilized rents. The Times has the full story here.

The Times just can't get enough of An Choi, the Vietnamese pho/banh mi destination on Orchard Street.

Living large at the Bowery Hotel: ad exec Richard Christiansen's home high above the newly gentrified neighborhood.

AM New York: bicyclists love the city's new bike lanes – neighborhood groups – not so much.

Tuesday News Links

It's come to this: State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith says "it's not about merit… it's just about what gets us there with the votes that we need to get it passed." Yes, they're still arguing over an MTA bailout bill in Albany. It's still a city vs. suburban tug of war.  The New York Times has the full saga here. Meanwhile, as predicted, the MTA says its budget woes have only gotten worse.

Banh Mi Beat: An Choi on Orchard Street, one of the darlings of the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich craze sweeping the city, is stepping up its quest for a liquor license. Grub Street explains.

As part of Mayor Bloomberg's "Million Trees" program, 20 thousand trees were planted in 77 parks and public spaces, including East River Park, this past weekend. See the press release here.

Banh Mi: Ready for its NYC Closeup

Earlier this week, I mentioned An Choi, the New Vietnamese place on Orchard Street, which got a mention in New York Magazine. Not to be outdone, tomorrow's New York Times food section has a big blowout on the Banh Mi craze. The Times tells you everything you could possibly want to know about these tasty sandwiches. We learn for instance, that the young co-owner of An Choi, "may be the first on the East Coast to serve the upscale delicacy
banh mi thit heo quay — stuffed with banquet-style roast pork belly and
slivers of crunchy pork skin." You can digest the entire article here.

Posted by: Ed Litvak