Musician Aaron Maine of Porches' Day Off in Lower Manhattan Includes French Fries and Tennis
Something that resembles a tradition is nice to experience in a city that is constantly changing.
By Sadie Bell and Aaron Maine
Published on 4/14/2022 at 12:00 PM
Musician Aaron Maine | Photo by Jason Nocito
Aaron Maine has long been a staple of the bedroom indie pop genre—writing and producing synth-pop music out of his home studio since the early 2010s. While he's performed under different monikers over the years, he most famously fronts the dream pop project Porches. Maine has released five albums under Porches, most recently All Day Gentle Hold ! in fall 2021, and is out on tour this spring. New Yorkers can catch him at Bowery Ballroom on April 18 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on April 19.
I love that the Lower East Side is charged up. There's a lot of families. There's a lot of restaurants. There's a lot of markets. I find it really comforting that—even if I'm inside my house all day working on music—knowing that these human beings and lives are going on simultaneously, it makes me feel more alive. It's a good place to live if you don't like making plans, which I am sort of one of those people.
That first cup of coffee and cigarette is my favorite part of the day. I'll usually get coffee from Cafe Grumpy and sit in Seward Park, just across the street. A lot of the time I sit there and soak up the weather, watch people walk by—there's this large group of women that do this dance practice in the park, which is really beautiful. I think it's my favorite because it's like the cleanest slate of the day—where it's all potential. You're not caught up doing anything. You're not falling behind. You're not stuck in a rut. You're just wide eyes—like I can accomplish all of these things today.
Cafe Grumpy | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
"I love that the Lower East Side is charged up. There's a lot of families. There's a lot of restaurants. There's a lot of markets."
Seward Park also used to be great because there was a wall where I could play tennis. That was a major part of the last year and a half—I mean, there's a massive tennis craze that I definitely was a part of during COVID times. That became a really big part of my day and a peaceful, zen exercise that didn't feel like a chore and worked some pent-up, anxious energy out. I started going to the Brian Watkins courts on the East River, which are really beautiful—10 courts, first come, first serve. I met some people—some actual strangers on the court—which was cool because I had never really been in a situation where I could meet a stranger playing a sport. I was always mortified of anyone coming up if I was playing basketball, just because I was so shit at those sports. So, I met some friends there, and then I have a couple friends that have been playing, too. But recently in this massive demolition of East River Park, the tennis courts [got demolished], as well. Seems like that's how things go the longer you live in New York—more of that cycle you see of paving over the old stuff for new stuff. That would be like my dream day off—both of those parks would be open for tennis still.
French fries from Fanelli Cafe | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
"Seems like that's how things go the longer you live in New York—more of that cycle you see of paving over the old stuff for new stuff. That would be like my dream day off—both of those parks would be open for tennis still."
Later on in the day, I’d wander around Essex Market. There's a lot of different [food] vendors and really interesting options in this two floor complex that used to be up the street on Delancey or Rivington. There's this cheese shop called Formaggio and they sell baguettes from Partybus Bakery. I recently tried it for the first time after I got back from Paris where the baguette intake was seriously upped, so bringing back a little bit of that energy to New York [by getting] a piece of bread in the morning. I really like the baguette from Partybus—it's maybe eight inches, so it's the perfect size to not OD on bread all day.
I also try to go to Fanelli Cafe in SoHo between the lunch and dinner rush to catch the sun setting. It just seems to have that special thing about it that you can't put your finger on. The coordinates are right in a charged up location in the city where it attracts a dynamic crowd. Fanelli's is an old spot, so you get some old regulars, but it's a trendy spot, too, so a lot of younger people go there as well. They have some of my favorite fries in New York. Their steak fries are very crispy. There's some skin on the potatoes, which I always like, and I'll get them with some barbecue sauce, which has become a rare condiment these days! There's not many things that I eat that come with barbecue sauce in a little cup. I think it came with that shake and fingers and I had a little taste and was like, damn, I totally forgot how insane this taste is. I've been revisiting that whole sensation. I think a cheeky negroni goes well with the fries.
"I also try to go to Fanelli Cafe in SoHo between the lunch and dinner rush to catch the sun setting. It just seems to have that special thing about it that you can't put your finger on."
The box office at Metrograph | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Then there’s The Odeon, another old New York establishment that feels similar to being at Fanelli's—where you're taking part in this older ritual or routine. The drinks are pretty solid—they got good olives and stiff martinis—but it's just something beyond the actual tastes or feelings. When I first went there after the lockdown, it felt great. You'd been fantasizing or dreaming what it would be like to go to The Odeon, or to Metrograph, or any restaurant that you missed—and then the second you go back, for me, it felt like nothing ever happened. I'd be like, wouldn't it be so wild to sit inside and have a martini, and then when I went, it was just like picking up where I left off.
I'm realizing that I love a lot of old New York institutions. I guess for the obvious reasons—the longer legs, something that feels a little more ingrained in New York is cool—but just something that resembles a tradition is nice to experience in a city that is constantly changing. Love to walk around and soak it up.
As told to Sadie Bell.
Places to Eat & Drink
Things to See & Do
Canal St. and Essex St., Lower East Side
28 Essex St., Lower East Side
7 Ludlow St., Lower East Side