June 2019 - ciaooo!

Sitting in the faded fluorescent booth of a grunge hip bar in the Lower East Side’s Orchard Street sits Mic Nguyen and Fumi Abe, a twenty-something creative type caught in a heated debate about whether Eddie Murphy’s RAW or DELIRIOUS is better.

Mic and Fumi are the dynamic duos behind a monthly comedy show called HACK CITY . The show has taken place for the past 3 years across local undergrounds in NYC until finally landing in Canal Street Market. Besides that, they’re also the hype men behind ASIAN NOT ASIAN, a podcast that features top-notch Asian Americans on everything funny, political and NSFW. On top of that, they’re also regularly performing stand up in lounges all over the city – from subterranean bars to top tier standup lounges as many as up to five times a week.

In this Netflix fueled, a bottle of wine with dinner generation, it’s hard to talk about these guys without wondering where the hell they make the time for everything. Besides, I haven’t even mentioned their day jobs, which both take up in the Advertising industry (Fumi is in IT, Mic is a copywriter) which take up the bulk of the time.

I first came across Mic and Fumi during a deep dive of cool, cheap (read FREE)  comedy shows in NYC. Stand up comedy is the poor human’s entertainment in NYC, and with a few well drinks and a dimly lit bar, one can instantly turn a bad date into a good one or forget their own sorrows. A few Instagram DM’s and emails later, I was in the middle of a convo with the guys talking about what Ronny Chieng is like in real life and trying to be funny growing up as an Asian American.

Our conversation took a turn from favorite stand-ups to the art of stand up. While I always assumed stand up involved an inimitable amount of bombing on stage in half-empty cellars in the West Village, I was impressed by how militant of an approach they took about it.

“The first year I did stand – up, I probably went up 700 times. Since then, I probably average 500 times a year…and that’s including everything from 5-minute sets in shitty basements, ambush shows and half hour specials”

The art of stand up is not new to NYC by any means. If anything, it is as definitive to New York City as taxicabs, pizza by the slice or piss scented train cars. Comedy in NYC for me, at least has always had a Jewish connotation. The Comedians and comediennes of the past were hilarious Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, Lenny Bruce, etc but Asian comedians were few and far between. Growing up, I often wondered to myself, did Asians simply fall into the stereotype of doctors and business school? Did the fear of possible failure just seep too deeply into Asian souls? Or worse, were Asians simply not funny?

I had so many questions to ask:

What was it like when your parents found out you were doing standup?

FUMI: Well, it’s not like I really told them. I mean we work in advertising in a creative field, and even explaining that was hard enough. You know, we’re paying our bills, we’re grown, I just never really felt like I had to tell them.

MIC: Yea, I mean we’re grown up. I want to have them come and see me perform when I’m at like a nice venue, you know? So until then, we’ll just hang tight.

What do you say to other people who want to be successful comedians?

MIC: You know, people will say that you just have to do it and bomb, but you really have to think like a business person. You have to be able to market yourself. You could be the most talented comedian in the world, but if no one knows, then it’s not really helping your career.

A lot of it is also figuring out how to find your target audience too. A lot of people find that niche super easily. For us, we think it’s youngish multi-cultural people who don’t necessarily have to be Asian, but have been shown a different culture maybe, and just get the feeling of being somewhat of an outsider growing up in the states.

Yea, that’s why I related so hard to like Eddie Murphy growing up. As an Asian kid, it was just awesome to see someone different on TV, talking about different things and being hilarious.

What’s next?

Next step is we are constantly writing and preparing scripts. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen next, but we’re open to all opportunities, but we’d like to have a development deal one day. Maybe a TV show, like Desus and Mero, but Asian. (Whoever knows some Hollywood/Vice/Execs holla at my dudes HERE).

It’s exciting to see when people are on the way up and up. It’s been five years since the two started comedy, and a rough mental math calculation makes me think it’s been about 2,700 times since they hit the stage. Telling jokes. Bombing. Rocking sets. Getting up and doing it all over again.

You can find check out Mic and Fumi’s FREE monthly stand up show HACK CITY at Canal Street Market every third Wednesday.

If you can’t make that, then listen to their funnies at ASIAN NOT ASIAN podcast.

If you can’t listen to that then at least stalk them on Instagram.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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So your friends are visiting again.

Curating the perfect New York experience for a friend visiting from out of town can be anxiety-inducing. Like planning a fun date, you want to make sure it’s a unique, hyper New York and memorable experience.

Before we dive into things, the first thing you should do is have them find 3 things they absolutely want to do before coming here. The full responsibility should not rely on you, and chances are, you’ve already done enough by letting them crash on your couch and gracing them with your friendship and presence. Plus, nothing is worse than someone saying, “I don’t know, you’re the one who lives here”.

In response, send them to scour Instagram and not some TripAdvisor Top 10 List that will literally suck the life out of you.

OK! Now that they’ve done the legwork, you can base the rest of your itinerary around those things. It’ll give you a jumping off point to start from, but definitely at least guarantee that they won’t have a shitty time even if they don’t love that favorite divey bar of yours.

Explore by Foot

We’re fans of picking a theme and exploring that option around the whole city. It gives you an excuse to pick the places together and since it’s trying out and ranking a few different things, there’s no pressure on whether it will be good or bad. Is your friend a huge movie fan? What about checking out all the movie locations in NYC? Foodie? How about a dumpling, fried chicken, banh mi, or pizza tour?

Not to mention, they’ll get to see the whole city on foot, and perhaps quite a few different neighborhoods.

Incorporate those Views, Yo.

The NYC skyline is gorgeous and you want to give them a type of experience they couldn’t have anywhere else. But that doesn’t mean you have to hop onboard the struggle bus to wait 2 hours for $18 cocktails at Le Bain. A few of our favorite views and options are:

Picnic in DUMBO to Watch the Sunset

This is a gorgeous view of the city. Grab a blanket, a bottle of wine and some snacks to catch the sunset. It’s serene, blissful and right on the water. You can people watch and see tons of people taking wedding portraits. The neighborhood itself is gorgeous as well, so you can end it by going to the ONE Hotel rooftop or by careening off into the sunset on the Ferry for $2.75.

Mini Golfing & Drinks on a Boat

Start the night by playing mini golf at Pier 25. It’s not often that you can be on an old boat in NYC enjoying some oysters and rose on a boat. Word of warning – the lines get crazy on a gorgeous day, so see if you can get there earlier for a seat.

Bike on the West Side Highway

Citibiking is one of the best ways to explore the city and on a gorgeous day, you can take them from one end of the city to the other. Plus, since you’ll be on the bike path you won’t have to worry about any angry cabbies cursing you out. Probably.

Kayak on the Hudson

A totally unique experience is FREE Kayaking in the Hudson. There are multiple locations across the city including LIC, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

Party like a local

Yes, you could go clubbing, but ugh. It’s so much work. Getting dressed up, lines and being pushed and shoved by bouncers and 22-year-olds in Forever 21 dresses. Save your money and instead, throw a makeshift theme party for your friend at your apartment or a local bar for Happy Hour. Get everyone to dress in a theme, like 90’s outfits, or matching outfits like a white t-shirt and denim… you’ll surely be making new friends and they’ll feel what the local vibe feels like in NYC.

Good Mood Food

Fine dining but instead of fancy schmancy, we suggest trying some of the various cultures they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Maybe Ethiopian, Korean BBQ, Chinese Hot Pot or Banquet style dinner, Indian Chinese or Pakistani, Greek Seafood or Italian family style. In fact, check out our guide to group birthday dinners that might be fun for this!

Memorable Random Experience

Alright – now that your friend has sufficiently been WOW-ed by your itinerary – we recommend throwing in a hyper random experience that you know they’ll love. We can’t tell you what that is since it’s your friend, but we can throw in a few suggestions like a show to Comedy Cellar or UCB Improv, a boat cruise around New York City or concert at Brooklyn Mirage, Tiki Disco or Webster Hall.

By the end of this weekend, your friend will adore you, and as long as you map out one of each of the above categories, you’ll be sure to design the most memorable and enjoyable experience for the both of you!

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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On a nondescript, two way street just off the B1 bus stop on Avenue X stands a bagel shop, nail salon, and, tucked just in between, the billowing, green, white and red Italian flag decorating the A&S Pork Store.

The 73-year-old Italian Salumeria, or “pork store”, is run by Joseph Paolillo, aka Joe Sr, and his son, Joe Pork. For over 40 years, the shop has been in the Paolillo family and has been a neighborhood staple in Gravesend, Brooklyn. The two are so renowned for their food and personalities, that they’ve been approached and filmed by not one, but TWO reality shows about their shop.

I’ll be honest with you. The story of this article originally started about food. Good ol’ cheese-y, sauce-y Italian food that was of that food porn status that would have gotten a couple of hundred likes on the ‘gram. For the most part, the article is still heavily involved with the food (ask for the Julio sandwich) but, really, it’s the story of how one of the few remaining neighborhood father and son shops are still surviving in NYC today.

The spot was recommended to me by a former Gravesend local, Francesco Soru, who had grown up a block away and was hosting me for a neighborhood tour.

“I grew up around the corner, and every day I’d come here after school with my mother. I remember my mother giving me $5 and getting a sandwich. They knew my whole family”.

When we arrive, Francesco tells me that it’s been about 3 years since he’s been here. Inside, a glass counter filled with homemade sausages, braciole and pork chops takes up the length of the shop with a mounted boar’s head along another wall. Behind the counter are four or five counter staff working in a frenzy picking up phones, weighing cheeses and walking in and out of the kitchen with heaps of fresh cannolis and cookies, riceballs and sandwiches.

It’s a seamless honeybee farm, understatedly impressive, only broken up when we walk in the door with a big, “GET OUTTA TOWN. IS THAT YOU FRANCESCO?!”

Joe Pork (L) and Francesco (R) reminisce after 3 years.

Joe Pork walks over, gives Francesco a giant bear hug and calls his father over. Before I know it, I’m witnessing the whole shop greet Francesco, including a woman who was in line before us that, as it turns out, was also a family friend of Francesco’s mother. The whole scene feels straight out of a movie and, suddenly, the whole shop is reminiscing together.

In fact, throughout the entire three hours that we were there, I don’t think, at any point, there was a customer that hadn’t been greeted by name. As for me, within 15 minutes, I was in the corner with Francesco taking shots of homemade Limoncello with Joe Sr.

“I got this shop without spending a penny… I came to the United States when I was 13 years old and I worked at the shop. I made a lot of sales and when they decided to open a second shop they asked me to be a partner in it. I have been here for over 50 years”.

To this day, Joe Sr makes his way from Staten Island at 5 AM to open the shop. In the back, dozens of homemade sausages air dry just like the way Joe Sr learned over five decades ago. The shop, Francesco tells me, “looks exactly the way it did when I was a kid”.

Joe Sr drying his homemade sausages.

Throughout the day, Joe Sr and Joe Pork share stories of their shop in the neighborhood. From watching kids grow from toddlers to adults (like Francesco who has been coming here for over 30 years), Joe Sr and Joe Pork have turned their shop into a neighborhood haven in Gravesend. Small businesses, like A&S Fine Foods, are essential in not only making a neighborhood, but raising one too. In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities“, urban planner Jane Jacobs writes,

“The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts. It grows out of people stopping by at the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newsstand man… The sum of such casual, public contact at a local level…is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighborhood need”

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

Handwritten note from a customer

Together, Joe Sr and Joe Pork are a father and son duo that truly make up the neighborhood. When I ask for an example of what their favorite memory of having the shop is, Francesco chimes in.

Francesco: “Joe, tell her how many people you had at your wedding”

Joe Pork: “700”

Francesco: On the dot?

Joe Pork: “711, and my wife invited 60 people. What can I say? We have a big family, not only from Italy but from the neighborhood. All these customers, they’re family.”

Italian Bites

I’ve been invited to try a handful of their signature dishes including the infamous “JULIO” sandwich, an Italian medley on perfectly crisped bread with fresh homemade mozzarella, roasted peppers, arugula, parmesan, prosciutto, and salami. I also tired “The Sicilian Teardrop”, a deep fried risotto ball cooked to perfection and simply oozing’ with cheese.

The Julio Sandwich

Four years ago, Joe Pork bought the bagel shop next door. He takes us on a tour through the back in a Goodfella’s “Copacabana” scene fashion; straight through the kitchen, past the antique wooden refrigerator that stores the dough, “this is the real secret to NYC bagels”, and into his newest venture, Bake City.

Joe Pork’s Newest Venture – Bake City Cafe (right next door)

In a time of the disappearing neighborhood shop, it seems like Joe Sr and Joe Pork have figured out the secret sauce to keeping a thriving business. While Gravesend, a historically Italian neighborhood, has changed in recent years, with an influx of Jewish, Russian and Chinese tenants, A&S has managed to keep the community alive.

The secret sauce, I expect, is none other than Joe Sr and Joe Pork themselves.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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I’m sitting at the newest addition to Kips Bay, a modern American cocktail bar called My Friend Duke. Owner and manager, Zachary Pease, is sitting across from me and we’re chatting about the insane journey it’s taken to build a modern cocktail bar that’s lowkey casual but fancy enough to impress everyone from a hot date to your mom visiting from out of town. 

Once you walk in, you’ll see. It’s airy, it’s gorgeous, it’s designed so beautifully that it’s sure to wow a first date, or friends visiting from out of town. It’s also totally casual enough to meet with your friends after work on a Thursday night. Suffice to say, its one of those spots that are sure to please everyone. Want a great cocktail? Check. Want a draft beer? Yep. Just want a great glass of wine? Yas! Heck, they even have wine on tap. 

Zach spent the bulk of his career working at various bars around NYC. He was the manager of a neighborhood bar, Lucky Jack’s in the Lower East Side. He cut his teeth measuring up cocktails at the legendary speakeasy, Attaboy. So, I’m not surprised that he took his experiences from both these bars and combined them into a beautiful, perfect specimen that is MY FRIEND DUKE. 

“We wanted to take all the pretense out of cocktail bars.  We’re here for people to cut loose and escape a little bit. We still want people to enjoy themselves, and we don’t want it to be stuffy at all. It’s a neighborhood bar where you can still get a great cocktail.”

Zach spent last year traveling across the country from Hawaii to New Orleans visiting various bars for inspiration. The influence is West Coast meets retro, from interior design right down to the menu. Cocktails are throwbacks to the madmen era, with names like, “The 11th St Manhattan” and the “Georgetown Buck”.

Food is of the non-fried bar variety. Pork Belly lettuce wraps. A fried chicken sandwich that’s been brined for 3 days that will knock your pants off. “How I know it’s good though, Zach says, “no one ever asks for any additional condiments. They just love it as is. That’s the biggest compliment in my eyes”.

As for the name? There IS a real-life Duke.

“It’s been an inside joke for a while. When someone does something good, they pick up a tab, or they win a big award or something, we say, “That’s my friend Tim, or Rick or whatever. One day, my friend Duke picked up the tab and I said, “That’s My Friend Duke and it kind of just stuck”. 

Open from 4 PM to 4 AM every night.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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Let’s face it single people of NYC, a lot of you are bad with dating.

It’s not that you’re completely bad at dating, per se. Everyone is bad at making complete strangers fall in love with them within a three-hour window. It’s that everyone is bad at planning dates. The line is hella fine between “fun and adventurous” and “holy hell I’m trapped with this person for how many more hours”?

We’re here to tell you that “grabbing a drink” is lame and devoid of effort! How will you stand out against the dozens of others who have taken or are taking your potential mate out for “drinks”? Sure, you are different and once they meet you they’ll realize that, but in order to win the game, you’ve got to wow them before the date. Get creative! Dating should be FUN! Both for them AND you!

Ultimately, if you find that they’re not down for a fun date, then that might be a red flag that they’re not a fun time. And no one wants to date a wet blanket.

Here are a few ideas that are sure to be a great night (and not be too hard on your wallet). PS – Many of them involve drinking, but these are still fun without. Take care of your liver, yo.



Photo by Uncle Chop Chop

Asian Bites at the Restaurant Named after Australia’s Most Notorious Murderer “Uncle Chop Chop”

Yo. Murder?! What? I know, but first off, some people are totally into murder docs so there’s that. But also, Uncle Chop Chop is a new restaurant run by two Aussie brothers who wanted to recreate their favorite Asian Fusion foods from back home. The restaurant is super cute, and hidden on Cornelia Street so it will definitely impress your date that you know of such a dope, hidden spot. With dishes like “Dumplings with Rick and Morty Szechuan Sauce” and “Balinese Shredded Roast Duck” this is going to be perfect for conversation starting!


Lowkey Games & Jazz at Fat Cat

Oh Fat Cat. It’s the most random collection of people and activities in NYC. After dinner, come here for a few fun games! The subterranean bar offers games like ping pong, pool, shuffleboard, and Chess BUT also, live music every night! Just know there’s a $3 cash entry.

Photo via Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Late Night Sweets at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

After a long night of eating, drinking and playing,  top it off with some sweets at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, and just walking distance from the West 4th train station.


Photo via Timeout by Paul Wagtuoicz

Transport Yourselves to Thailand at SomTum Der

Start with dinner at Michelin rated & affordable Thai restaurant Som Tum Der that offers regional Siam food. It’s totally different than traditional Thai restaurants in the city, so you’ll be sure to impress a date with the variety of food.


Then, Catch an Improv comedy show at UCB Theatre!!!

The Amy Poehler founded Upright Citizen’s Brigade is NYC’s answer to affordable, improv comedy. We’ll be totally real with you – improv can be a hit or miss, but catch a great team here and you’ll be left wondering how the hell anyone can be so funny. With cheap tickets (generally, less than $20 bucks a show) and cheap beer, this is a fun one to try with a date.


Make out session at Lovers of Today

Lovers Of Today is a hidden little speakeasy that is prime for making out.  It’s intimate, dark with dope cocktails and recessed seating. It’s the perfect place to make your move.



Backyard Retreat at Gran Electrica

Maybe it’s the jaded New Yorker within me, but there’s almost no better thrill in my life than walking by an obscenely long line and knowing that A. There’s no way in HELL that I am waiting and B. There’s always, always a place that is less popular within walking vicinity that is 10x better than the touristy BS.

That my friends, is Gran Electrica. This Mexican restaurant is directly around the corner from Grimaldis and is a total hidden gem. The tacos are fire and there’s a gorgeous, extremely romantic backyard with lights hidden from the rest of DUMBO that feels like a total escape.


Sunset Picnic at The Vale at Pier 1 / Brooklyn Bridge Park

TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT. Walk all the way to the left on Pier 1! Pass the tourists, down, down, down all the way to the left. There are chairs and benches but when you get to the middle of the pavilion, there is a little grass section where you can throw down a blanket, have some wine and cheese and break out the bottle of Rose to see the sunset.



The East River Water Taxi is one of the best ways to get around the city in the summertime. Instead of taking the train back to the city from DUMBO, settle for a romantic boat ride (for $2.75, holla).

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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