My LES: Benjamin Bauman

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?

I am an actor, computer nerd, all-around gadget geek and practitioner of Yoga.

I also love to cook and, for an amateur chef, there aren’t many better places for buying food than Essex Market.  I’ve been shopping there for as long as I have lived in the LES but with the – somewhat – recent additions like Formaggio Essex, Heritage Meats, Rainbo’s Fish (just to name a few), Essex Market is a dream!

How long have you lived on the LES?

I moved to Orchard and Broome in 1997.  When I arrived, the streets south of Delancey hadn’t much to offer other than cheap panty-hose and cheap leather.  So far as I can remember, the first bar to open around me was Lolita which is still a fun place to go with friends if one of the couch and chair areas in the back is open.

Favorite block in the hood?

My block!  Orchard St. between Broome and Grand.  This block has such an interesting mix of old school stores, hip restaurants and interesting fashion.  There are plenty of benches on which to hang and talk to neighbors.

Favorite date spot in the hood?

Apizz at 217 Eldridge Street.  This is so romantic.  The lighting is perfect, the brick oven wood fire smells great and the food is fantastic.  My wife Katie and I have dined there a bunch of times and she always orders the same dish:  Ravioli Con Zucca open ravioli, ricotta, mascarpone, caramelized butternut squash, brown butter and sage.   If you taste it, you’ll know why.

Favorite coffee in the hood? 

There is so much coffee from which to choose.  I’d have to go with The Roasting Plant. Being a gadget guy, I can’t get over the coffee roaster in the window and the vacuum tubes that shoot the perfect amount of beans into the fancy brewer that then makes the richest and tastiest cup of coffee that I’ve ever had.  All with the touch of a button!

Favorite slice in the hood?

Ciao Bella Pizzeria on Allen Street.  Simple and good.  When I’m watching baseball at Lucky Jack’s across the street, I love to run over there and bring a couple slices back.

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

Visitors almost always get a trip to Café Katja on Orchard between Grand and Broome.  The Austrian food is so unique to most people.  The cocktails are great and the food is affordable.  A while back a waitress told me that one of the owners, Andrew, was fishing that day.   He caught a some blue fish and that night – wouldn’t you know it – blue fish was the special entrée that evening.   You’d be hard pressed to get better than that in the middle of New York City.

Favorite dive bar in the hood?

I don’t know if I would call it a dive, but it sure ain’t fancy:  Bondi Road on Rivington Street is one of my favorite places to drink.  They have really fun drinks and they’re not too pricey.   But what really keeps me coming back:  $1 Oysters and $2 Oyster Shots ALL-THE-TIME!   But let me warn you from experience:  those Oyster Shots have alcohol!  Yes, I once slurped down four of them plus a couple cocktails and found it much trickier a walk home than usual.

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

When I first moved here, as I said, there was nothing really “cool” south of Delancey until Canal.   Since then, well, I can’t even count the number of restaurants and bars on my block on one hand.   There are cool clothing boutiques and art galleries.  Sadly, though, no more Guss’ Pickles.

Favorite LES memory?

There are many LES memories, but one that comes to mind is last year’s big snow storm.   The City is wonderful while the snow is falling hard.  It’s quiet and dreamy. We found that Essex restaurant was one of the only joints open.  We – along with some friends from upstairs – bundled up and ventured out into the fury of the snowstorm for some food and drink.  The restaurant was near empty.  We ate and drank.  It was a great night.

The next day Katie and I trekked over to Remedy Diner to eat some of their fantastic buttermilk pancakes.