The Lower East Side of New York City: a place synonymous with fast-paced everything and never-ending opportunities for discovery.
That’s where Alan Armijo, an EF Tour Director and NYC expert, found himself one spring day during a break between tours. Though he’s usually leading a gaggle of curious middle schoolers around town, he reveled in the chance to enjoy his own day of exploration—and snackery—in his favorite city.
Exiting the F train at the 2nd Avenue station, Alan wandered into Doughnut Plant. Though he claims not to be a “very exciting person,” Alan’s order of a lychee doughnut and a peanut butter and jelly number suggests otherwise. It’s not a combo he usually enjoys, but the pieces of PB&J heaven made him wonder: Why have I forsaken this classic? Was I too quick to judge? The short answer: Yes.
Decades-old candy brands, on the cheap—all good and plenty of it. That’s what Alan found when he walked down Grand Street and into Economy Candy. While browsing what is essentially a candy museum, Alan treated himself to a bit-o-history and grabbed a bouquet of Cow Tales. (Obviously only because he needed energy for the rest of his New York experiences.)
Alan’s seen NYC from nearly every angle, including through the lens of a camera. His love of photography brought him next to Bitforms Gallery, where a photographic exhibit on each of the city’s boroughs reignited his curiosity. Nothing like a new perspective to shape your old one.
Some of the coolest things in NYC are underground—like the Lowline Lab, the world’s first subterranean park, trees and all. Alan still hadn’t seen it, but it was Thursday, so the weekends-only installation slipped through his fingers yet again. The park has closed since, but hey, that’s just the nature of the concrete jungle, baby.
In search of a real meal, Alan made his way to Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery. The cozy spot has been around for 109 years and famously serves up knishes, a traditional Jewish medley of fried dough and potato, to locals and divas alike—including the Barbra Streisand. He could almost hear Barbra’s velvety voice: “Try a mushroom knish, it’ll make you sing.”
Alan wasn’t looking for any particular book when he walked into Bluestockings, a volunteer-run bookstore on Allen Street (go figure). But while perusing the shelves, a book on New York City’s unknown sights caught his eye anyway. “The book’s filled with weird information on things that you pass by every day, but you don’t even notice,” says Alan. Sold!
With evening plans on the horizon, Alan’s day seemed wrapped up. But really, it was just the first chapter in a series of adventures. “I got up the next day ready to explore the spots from the book I bought.” Funny how the end of his day just so happened to be his beginning, too.