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My LES: Raja H.

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This weekly feature spotlights a wide variety of people who live and work on the Lower East Side. If you know someone you would like to suggest be featured in “My LES,” please email us here.

 

What do you do?

Right now I’m a senior at The City College of New York, and also the business development coordinator of CityMaps, a very cool start-up that launched not too long ago. In my spare time, I enjoy checking out what the city has to offer in terms of food, and then sharing it on my blog, EatLoveNY.

How long have you lived on the LES?

I’ve been here for about 13 years.

Favorite block in the hood?

My favorite block is the one with the Essex Street Market. I’m a fan of small, local businesses and there’s a great collection of them housed in this building. I always get a kick out of meeting the shop owners, and I can easily do that here. Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop is also on the corner of this block. I still dream about that Spicy Rizzak sandwich…

Favorite date spot in the hood?

Kuma Inn is a fantastic BYOB place for sharing boldly-flavored tapas. You’ll win cool points during the date for knowing about this semi-secluded Filipino restaurant. The bamboo-accented decor and simple tea lights in this second floor restaurant give Kuma Inn an intimate vibe that’s easy to love. ‘inoteca on Rivington is a great place to close the night with a glass of wine.

Favorite coffee in the hood?

I’m partial to Dora (now Pushcart Coffee), the cafe on East Broadway run by Jamie Rogers. In New York City, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the quality of coffee and the friendliness of the barista serving you your drink. Dora breaks this trend, primarily because of how engaging Jamie is with his customers.

Favorite slice in the hood?

To satisfy a pizza craving, I have to get on the F train and leave the neighborhood. LES pizzerias do a great job of being just alright. I have heard good things about Nonna’s on Clinton, so I’ll check that out before giving up hope.

Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?

If the Hester Street Fair is happening, that’s the first place I bring friends who come to visit. Otherwise, I stop by the Doughnut Plant and have them sample the creative genius of Mark Israel’s creations. No visit is complete without a trip along the border between the LES and Chinatown, where Super Taste is found. Their Mt. Qi Noodles is my latest obsession.

Favorite cheap eats in the hood?

Despite the overwhelming popularity of Xi’an Famous Foods, their Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger is still priced cheaply at $3.00 (although the quality can be inconsistent). My favorite cheap eat that has never let me down is Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge Street. It’s so good that I recently bought 150 fried dumplings to take to Midtown in a cab for the office.

What sort of changes have you seen in the neighborhood in the last few years?

The neighborhood has seen an influx of young people wearing skinny jeans, obnoxiously thick glasses, and/or facial hair — making the LES even more diverse than it already was. With this change in demography also came a change in the businesses catering to the neighborhood. The LES has quickly become a hotspot for nightlife, bars, and good food. That’s change I can get behind.

Favorite LES memory?

My favorite memory was in the middle of the fall, aimlessly wandering around the LES with my friend Karen and her dog Peanut. Walking around without a plan is sometimes the best way to discover hidden gems and streets that are visited infrequently. I noticed how underdeveloped a lot of the neighborhood is, which adds a rough charm to the LES, but also is unfortunate. The neighborhood has a lot of potential to become more accessible along the East River.

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