As you no doubt are aware by now, the second season of the Hester Street Fair is upon us. The gates will swing open Saturday morning, revealing dozens of food, vintage and craft offerings. This year, we’ll be featuring a different Hester Street vendor each week, a Lower East Side-centric participant in the fledgling community event. Today, we get things started with Cheeky Sandwiches, the quirky New Orleans inspired spot at 35 Orchard Street.
One thing you can say for sure about proprietor Din Yates: he’s always thinking. When I stopped by Monday afternoon, he was still figuring out how to design a portable convection oven using a metal box, silver electric tape and a blow dryer. He will no doubt have figured it out by the time the weekend rolls around, when fair-goers start clamoring for those roast beef po’ boys Cheeky’s will be serving.
In the year-and-a-half since opening the sliver of a sandwich shop, Din has made quite an impression on Orchard Street and beyond. That delicious braised short-rib sandwich on toasted challah would have probably done the trick. Not to mention that superb oyster and shrimp po’ boy, served on French bread from a New Orleans bakery. It also doesn’t hurt that Din’s one of the friendliest guys in the neighborhood. Not only does he know all of his regular customers by name but he also remembers exactly what they like to have for lunch. The combination of good food and conversation has created a loyal neighborhood following.
It can be tough running a lunch-only establishment on the LES, where daytime foot traffic is fairly minimal. But Din says he likes the laid-back feel of lower Orchard Street and isn’t all that concerned about attracting the masses. Having a good time creating food people enjoy is a lot more important to him than becoming a restaurant mogul.
Din’s got more ideas up his sleeve, including a second sandwich shop on the Lower East Side. He didn’t want to talk about too many details (financing is still being worked out). But he’s picked out a spot and is working on the concept (think French bakery).
At the fair on Saturday, he’ll be teaming up with another Lower East Side restaurant, La Crepe C’est Si Bon, a new place on Eldridge Street. Po’ boys and crepes? Sounds nap-inducing!
This weekend the Hester Street Fair is co-sponsoring the Lower Feast Side Food Festival with the LES BID and the Festival of Ideas for the New City. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Remember: the fair is Saturdays only this year; there will however be special events held on many Sundays. Check out the fair’s web site for a complete vendor list.