For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with LES resident, Pies ’n’ Thighs co-owner and baker-in-chief, Sarah Sanneh.
How long have you lived on the Lower East Side?
I lived on Division Street, just over the border in Chinatown, for five years and now on the “Lower East Side proper” for two years.
Why did you move here?
I got priced out of Williamsburg! And I found a fifth-floor walk-up in Chinatown with a private roof and an incredible view of the Manhattan Bridge for dirt cheap.
What do you do?
I own Pies ’n’ Thighs! I was a pastry chef before Pies and am still a fill-in baker and full-time donut eater.
We opened Pies ’n’ Thighs here [after opening the first location in Williamsburg in 2006] because the triangle Division makes with Canal and Orchard is so beautiful and feels like the West Village in layout, but with all sorts of weirdo people and businesses on it! It’s such a mish- mosh: a skate shop, a grilled meat store, the funeral home next to us, Dimes, the TV repair guy who can fix anything, a massage parlor, a fancy bodega (and us!).
Tell us about your apartment – the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good: It’s big for a small family and the ceilings are high.
The bad: The walls are thin and we live below a totally lovely family of eight. When I hear them playing jacks (at least it sounds like jacks) I just remember how much I love them.
The ugly: It’s on the ground floor looking over a service ramp
What’s your favorite spot on the LES?
I LOVE Joy’s Flowers [on Hester Street]. I love that she works in her own flower shop like she’s in an adorable French movie and I love that she takes the summer off to travel like a French person in real life (she’s not French). Someday I will take her up on her offer to plant/replant the planters in front of the restaurant because I am EXCELLENT at killing plants. I really want her to be a life coach though, because I think she’s got it figured out.
Favorite cheap eats?
Is El Rey [on Stanton] cheap eats? Yeah, right? Anyway I need to figure out a way to incorporate El Rey into my answers because I love it so much. I love Dimes too. In my mind they’re our healthy alter ego. Sometimes I need a chia pudding and nothing else will do, and I love seeing the Dimes staff come into Pies to slam a burger. Yin/yang makes everyone happy.
Also, everything at Ni Japanese Deli in the Essex Market. The udon soup is totally bananas.
Also the roast pork at La Isla on Delancey and Pitt! They run out/don’t make it a lot, but it’s always insane when I can get it.
Favorite place for a special night?
Mission [Chinese] continuously brings it. The beef cheek/beet dish and weirdo spicy kaffir lime coconut cocktail is my fantasy dinner.
The basement at Bacaro always feels like an awesome, romantic war room.
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
Sure, lots of things have changed, and super quickly. Thank GOD that incredible bodega on Canal and Orchard has stayed the same. So much shelf space for art mags! What’s the economy on art mags?! I have no idea, but I love that that place exists.
Is there a new arrival you love?
Duhhh—JFK, the kitchen supply store on Canal and Orchard, ’cause I don’t take it for granted that we have a kitchen supply store less than a block away. And they’re nice and not expensive. If they could start producing and carrying our craftsman-made custom donut cutters I would never complain about anything ever again.
Also Coming Soon, ’cause it’s awesome and the owner convinced me to buy a fully X-rated scene in a geode for my husband for our anniversary and I haven’t regretted it once.
What drives you crazy (if anything) about the neighborhood?
That there’s no elevator at the JMZ stop! Is that an annoying the-world-should-bend-itself-around-people-with-strollers kind of gripe? Probably! It’s the thing on the Lower East Side that has most consistently made me frustrated/tired/mad, but also isn’t the biggest deal, so maybe that just means living on the Lower East Side isn’t that crazy-making!
Also, while I’m putting in MTA requests, I live kinda far east under the Williamsburg Bridge, so if someone could build some stairs up to the walkway from Columbia Street, it would be a game changer.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the LES?
Some weird shit goes down at the McDonalds on Essex and Delancey, my toddler’s (direct quote) “favorite restaurant.”
Who’s the best neighborhood character you’ve met and why?
That lamb that came into Pies last winter, for sure!