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New Arrivals: Mission Cantina, Black Cat Cafe, Louie and Chan

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Here’s a look at some businesses that opened recently on the Lower East Side. This feature was first published in the December issue of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.

Black Cat Cafe, 172 Rivington St.
Black Cat Cafe, 172 Rivington St.

Mission Cantina (172 Orchard St.) is the hotly anticipated, super-hyped restaurant featuring the proprietor Danny Bowien’s take on Mexican food. The soft opening in early November served “friends and family” meals to guests such as superstar chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and other A-list names. The restaurant opened to the public in late November, featuring tacos al pastor and rotisserie chicken stuffed with rice, housemade Oaxacan cheese and handmade tortillas. Bowien’s first LES venture, the wildly popular Mission Chinese just up the street at 154 Orchard, closed indefinitely in early November in the wake of major building issues.

Black Cat Cafe (172 Rivington St.) brings a welcome shot of caffeine to the block of Rivington between Clinton and Attorney streets. Offering authentic espresso and a variety of coffee drinks featuring add-ons like peppermint syrup and Nutella, Black Cat provides a comfy place to perch on vintage armchairs, sip a hot drink and have a snack.

Fung Tu (22 Orchard St.) is the new collaboration from Nom Wah Tea Parlor’s Wilson Tang and Per Se alumnus Jonathan Wu. With a name that translates from Chinese as “wind and soil,” the new 50-seat restaurant features Wu’s personal, contemporary take on Chinese food, with a wine list curated by sommelier Jason Wagner. Early menus showcased dishes such as smoked mussels in scallion oil; Parker House steamed buns; and whole steamed fish with fennel and tangerine peel, chili and fermented black beans.

Julie Meneret Contemporary Art (133 Orchard St. is a new showplace for promoting “an international roster of talented emerging artists working with particular passion and purpose.” The inaugural exhibit features works by Zakaria Ramhani, a Moroccan artist whose work incorporates Arabic calligraphy; it runs through Dec. 22. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays noon to 6 p.m.

Louie and Chan (303 Broome St.) After delays in build-out took the better part of four years, this Italian-Chinese inspired restaurant/club combination from the owners of Grotto opened its main level in mid-November, with seating for 44 and a menu helmed by Stuzzi alum Pasquale Frola. The downstairs club, touting an “opium den atmosphere” is set to open at a later date, and will be called The 303 at Louie and Chan.

Brannon’s (119 Essex St.) is a new eatery from Wall Street exec-turned-restaurateur Ron Brannon, who left a career as a chief technology officer to pair up with Donatella Arpaia in her eponymous Chelsea pizzeria and its sister establishment DBar back in 2011. Now Brannon has struck out on his own with a menu of “sophisticated American comfort food,” including steak frites and seasonal butternut squash soup.

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