My Favorite NYC Places

I thought since I’ve at least temporarily moved out of the New York City area, I’d compile a list of my favorite places after having lived there for a few years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but more like some cool venues I’d bother mentioning in a more comfortably-sized blog post.

On this map, places to hang out are in blue. Restaurants/eateries are in magenta, and places for groceries are in teal.

Since I’m a vegetarian, the restaurants I’ve listed are mostly either at least vegetarian or have at least 1 good vegetarian option.

I’ll list my favorite restaurants in order from quick/small bites to sit-down-forever restaurants:

  1. Pommes Frites

128 Macdougal Street

There are so many sauces/dips to choose from in this place. Not really ideal for a “meal” but it’ll end up being one because it’s fries and it’s addictively tasty. I also love the area that it’s in. I was also afraid they wouldn’t have like a bathroom where I could wash my hands from all the grease, but they have a sink right next to the cashier just for that! ๐Ÿ˜€

2. VLife NYC

348 7th Avenue

Sometimes I can’t resist going here after pole dancing across the street at Foxy Fitness and Pole. I remember loving the BBQ Seitan with rice and the Paradise Protein sandwich. It’s a small space with a few seats, so it’s a quick bite kind of place.

3. Saigon Shack

114 Macdougal St

The best vegetarian pho I’ve ever had. I’m about 99% sure they bought their fake meat from May Wah Vegetarian Market, which is alright with me (even though I’ve had a lot of it over time already). The broth is super comforting and satisfying. Love the pho with a side of Thai Iced Tea.

4. Ajisen Ramen

14 Mott St

If I don’t feel like stuffing myself with a greasy food coma from Buddha Bodai across the street, I come here for the vegetarian ramen bowl. Their sushi selection also looks really nice, but I’ve always ordered their veggie ramen. I also love the broth in this dish — light and refreshing.

5. Han Dynasty

90 3rd Ave

I can’t say I’ve really dug that hard around NYC for a good Szechuan restaurant, but I like their sauteed string beans and homestyle tofu with rice. There aren’t really any novelty food items for vegetarians here, just my favorite Szechuan dishes at decent quality.

6. The Original Buddha Bodai

5 Mott St

I strongly advise coming here for dim sum, which goes on from opening hour until 3pm every day, I believe. Not to mention the dim sum is on the cheaper side at around 3 bucks per dish. ย My favorite items to order are the BBQ meat buns, shrimp rice roll (I always order 2 of these), shark fin congee, cruller rice roll (which I put into the congee), pan-fried turnip cake and jelly fish. Outside of dim sum, the BBQ veggie meat is always great with rice. I can’t say I’m a fan of the other fake meats like beef or duck, but their fake chicken like sesame chicken or General Tso’s is pretty good. Buddha Bodai is the closest I can get to my childhood favorites from China Town as a vegetarian.

7. Red Bamboo

140 W 4th St

This place is often crowded whenever I try to go (usually with my boyfriend, so only like Friday-Sunday nights). If it’s too crowded, several times we’d just go to the restaurant next door, Go Zen.ย (It’s not like a baaad restaurant or something, it just doesn’t get overcrowded like Red Bamboo does when we happen to be going). They also don’t take reservations, so the times we were able to get a table were on Sunday nights. The menu is super diverse with foods like Philly Cheese Steak, soul food, Italian, curries and Asian fusion. I remember really enjoying their vegan pumpkin pie.

In my experience, you can’t go wrong ordering chicken satay at any restaurant. (In this case, both Red Bamboo and Franchia Vegan Cafe have some really good chicken satay).

8. Franchia Vegan Cafe

12 Park Ave

This is pretty much a vegan Asian fusion restaurant. I recall always over-eating here, but never getting the gross food coma feeling and I feel as if I could eat a lot here without feeling full too soon. There’s a huge selection of beverages (teas) — if you haven’t tried chrysanthemum tea yet, I recommend trying it here. I forgot exactly what I’ve gotten here, but from what I can recall, the satay was always great, and I often got some kind of bimbimbap. The pho was okay, and I don’t recommend the vegan sushi here. I’d say stick with any mock chicken dishes — in most restaurants where they offer fake beef, it’s often not as great as the fake chicken.

9. Candle 79

154 79th St

I haven’t been here in a while, but this is probably the most upscale vegan restaurant I’ve been to. ย It seems they rotate and swap their menu items in and out often, so even if I recommended some dishes, they might not even have them at the moment. But just in case, I vaguely remember seitan piccata, spaghetti with wheat balls, polenta fries and exotic ice cream flavors. I don’t think there’s any dish I’ve had that I wouldn’t recommend here.

(^My attempt at a quick scribble of a photo of Seitan Piccata ^ because I don’t want to directly rip other people’s photos)ย ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ll briefly mention a few of my favorite outing itineraries in NYC.

West Village is a great place to hang out for the day. The Comedy Cellar I think mostly has their shows in the evenings, but if you want a Sunday outing, you can also do a brunch comedy show (book these shows days ahead of time, especially for weekend nights). I had a blast with my friends when we went to a brunch comedy show, then went to The Uncommonsย to play boardgames for hours until dinner time. We paid 10 bucks a head, and once you get a table, you can stay forever until closing time. They also sell some hot snacks and drinks there as well. They take reservations for parties of 5 or more, but we were able to do a walk-in, get on a waiting list and then we got a table in like 15 minutes. For dinner we had Red Bamboo, which as I may have mentioned, had open tables on a Sunday night.

Several times I’ve had outings where we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Candle 79, then walked down to Central Park Zoo. With good company, all that walking isn’t much of a long trip at all ๐Ÿ˜€

My other favorite places to go are the Bronx Zoo and finally, Coney Island. There’s so much to do on Coney Island — there’s a beach, boardwalk, an amusement park with rides, and an aquarium. I feel as if people don’t really think much about Coney Island when they think fun stuff to do in NYC, but perhaps it’s because it’s so out of the way. But it’s an easy one-stop venue for a full day of fun activities that are all within walking distance of each other.

I’m talking as if I’ll die or never come back to NYC because at the moment, I don’t know if or when I’ll come back to live in the area again as close as I did. I’m going to miss the convenience and the diversity though :’)

Hope this post was helpful ๐Ÿ˜€

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Animated Snapshot of Grandma’s Old Apartment

I kind of threw this together in 2 days, probably a total of around 8-12 hours or something like that. I made this for my dad’s (well, now belated) birthday.

What I want the “main piece” to be is a Flash file (the .swf file) that can be viewed here if your browser can play Flash.

Otherwise, you can view it here as a video:

It’s not really meant to be an animation in the traditional sense as it is supposed to be a sort of atmospheric snapshot that happens to be moving. I wanted it to be Flash because you don’t have to hit a “play” button, and it’s to be viewed like an image that moves, but also has sound for the nostalgia that brings you back to the 90’s… if you were into NES or ever played the NES cartridge that was referenced in here.

I couldn’t find the other audio from the cartridge, “Super 190-in-1.” It’s apparently very rare.

I went with “Balloon Fight” as the game we were actually playing here. We played many other games on that one cartridge — the only 2 others we had I think were Super C and Super Mario Brothers.

As you can probably tell, the main target audience is my dad and my brother. The apartment was in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, very close to China Town. I was always pretty bored over there, so most of my time was spent either playing the NES with my brother or drawing pictures. My dad always napping because he worked a lot and the commute from his house to my grandma’s place was anywhere between 1-3 hours each way.

I really didn’t feel like digging through my things, which are mostly packed away (because I’m kind of in the middle of moving at the moment), to find more accurate depictions of my grandma’s old apartment. So the entire image of her apartment is done from memory. Like the table lamp, for example. I don’t think I’ve seen these objects in this context in over a decade.

I’m mildly curious about the choice of decor here — like the ceramic dragon and the jade elephant, sure. Traditional Chinese family. But what about the lamp that looked vaguely tribal or something? What about the painting above the couch? *Shrug*

The TV also had an antenna. I didn’t include it because I didn’t want to block my brother’s face, but if we wanted to watch TV, I remember spending a lot of time with my brother adjusting the antennas to get better signal.

As for the production of this piece, I drew a bunch of separate images in GIMP, ripped some audio off of Youtube, edited it in Audacity then threw together the images and audio in Adobe Animate CC 2017. I tried ToonBoom Harmony first, but it kept auto-smoothing the images. I also couldn’t figure out how to sync the audio because the audio wouldn’t scrub frame-by-frame. So I couldn’t really find a practical way of syncing the audio more. I also didn’t bother with ensuring best audio quality. There’s some leeway here because it’s 8-bit music anyway, though. The main products are the GIF’s, the still images, the Flash file and the video file.

Video game music sure was catchy back then.

Happy Belated Birthday, Baba! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Friend’s Portrait Commission

Here’s a commission I recently completed for Rosstin. ย The illustration is a portrait of his friend, referencing a bunch of cute lively photos they took of her. Here I combined the elements of the photos that stood out to me most.

Here are some progress shots:

Thanks for the fun project, Rosstin! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Quick Doodle Dump

Kind of just for the sake of updating, here’s a bunch of random sketchy stuff I’ve produced recently. Most of them are either in progress or just very rough — mostly just practice.

This first piece is Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala from The Expanse:


Here are some perspective and full figure drafting exercises:

Here’s something I found in a sketchbook I haven’t looked through in a while, and I want to do a full colored digital illustration of both these characters eventually:

Boy were my proportions so much more off back then ๐Ÿ˜›
And here’s some more pacapillar animations I did with one of my students. Think of these as comical studies in collisions and squashing/stretching:

I posted an earlier progress of this before, but now that I’ve tweened it a bunch, it has way more frames:

I should just do more quickie color sketches, they’re more fun to look at.
@_@
Happy Friday!

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Victorian Interior Pixel Art

I’ve been making some pixel art lately for a project that at least for now I’m keeping kind of hush-hush.

Interior designing is actually really fun. The Victorian aesthetic is quite detailed though and takes a lot of time (like the wallpaper on the side walls). Working in the pixel art style certainly makes production more efficient, and also makes stuff look kind of cute. If I were making these in my usual fully painted style, I’d probably be spending like 20 hours per room @_@ But then the game would look incredible in a different way — it’d just take forever and ever.

As you can probably tell, I took some artistic freedoms with the perspective. I couldn’t exactly connect the depth perspective lines to the corners of the image while conforming to the actual 1-point perspective lines coming from the center of each canvas I was working with, so it may look a bit wonky. But at least it’s kind of subtle, I guess.

I also wouldn’t consider myself a pixel artist, I just mostly chose this aesthetic because it’s more efficient and it seems to be in style in the indie game development scene these days.

Happy Sunday! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Gif Animation Dump

Here are a bunch of GIFs I compiled from animation demos I did during a bunch of private animation lessons I gave to students. Some of these are from 2016. To be clear, all of these were drawn/animated by me. I’ll make a post featuring just student animations one of these days ๐Ÿ˜€

(yeah if you can’t tell already I have an obsession with eating bowls of noodles)

 

I actually did most of my animation lessons through Pencil2D, but that program is pretty buggy so it gets weird when I try to load and/or export some files. I usually tell my students to download Pencil2D because it’s free and very simple. The more reliable programs were ToonBoom and Adobe Animate (duh). I also don’t save every single animation I make during these demos. As you can imagine, I do a lot of walk cycle demos, so I wouldn’t save all of those.

With one student, we did a bunch of studies on video game animations. Here a few based off of Fire Emblem:


Here’s Kirby:

With another student, we did a whole lot of My Little Pony-style studies:

(this next one looks like it has the head of a duck looking up at the sky >_>):

With the same student, we did a couple from Avatar/Legend of Korra:
One from Pokemon:
And now we’re exploring a tiny DeviantArt craze, Pacapillars. It was truly interesting learning about how Deviant Artists are so willing to put down anywhere between a few bucks to a few hundredย dollars just for “ownership” of unique Pacapillar designs (Seriously, people auction them off for real money!)

In the above animation, my student and I couldn’t stop giggling over how when the pacapillar’s head is upside down, the head looks kind of like a dancing/melting Kirby.

 

Kids are playing video games and watching cartoons all the time these days, so it’s pretty easy to make these lessons full of fun and giggles ๐Ÿ™‚

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Quick Silhouette Character Concepts/Designs

I just finished a quick and very fun character designing gig with my most recent client, Orion McClelland.

To be honest, I had no clue about this kind of process to character designing until recent years. I’ve never created character silhouettes like this either — at least, not this exact process — but times like these make me feel thankful for all that figure drawing and doodling I’ve pretty much been doing all my life. I guess I do kind of create these sorts of sketches for all my illustrations, just not in such quick succession. This character line-up type process has actually been most effective for coming up with the best ideas though, in my experience.

Each individual character silhouette took me an average of 10 minutes to sketch and render. I designed and drafted for a total of 4 different characters.

Thank you so much for having me on such an enjoyable project, Orion! ๐Ÿ˜€

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