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Jessica Louise Dye is a breath of fresh air on the Lower East Side — if, by fresh air, you mean she harkens back to the neighborhood's glory days. While so many of the great venues, bars, and record stores keep folding to the likes of sterilized chain yogurt shops, Dye captures the area's rebellious roots and knows where to go to find a similar spirit.
She's magnetic enough to make you need to be her best friend immediately, and she'll keep you hooked with her vintage-leaning style, her musical insight, and debaucherous stories of life on the road with her band, High Waisted.
With the release of the surf band's album On Ludlow coming up next week, Dye is one busy lady. But she still took the time to kick it with us on a Saturday to show us her favorite go-tos in the neighborhood. We jumped at the chance to see how a true downtown rock star does a local weekend.
CAFFÉ ROMA: 385 BROOME STREET
Every good day starts with a little caffeine boost, and Saturdays are no exception. In fact, they're even better than other days because we get to leisurely enjoy that eye-opener while tucked into a table in Jessica's favorite authentic spot, Caffé Roma. Even in the middle of "tourist land," as our guide calls Little Italy, this café feels true-blue, old-school New York. It's cozy and welcoming with a little attitude, and has the perfect view for people-watching.
We can't think of a better snack to accompany said people-watching than the famous cannolis this place serves. Crispy and flaky, filled with creamy and rich — heaven. There's also a tiramisu to dig into and dream about, and delicious hot chocolate if you're looking for something a little more low-key than espresso.
REFORMATION: 156 LUDLOW STREET
It's time to get down to business. We want to shop and we want to shop now, and our guide knows just what we're in the mood for. Jessica brings us to one of her all-time favorites, Reformation, and we couldn't be happier — who's not a fan of this cool-girl cult label with its sexy, vintage-inspired vibes?
"I wish my entire wardrobe came from this shop," Jessica says. We agree, and proceed to spend way too long flitting through the racks and picking our dream looks, thrilled as we always are when shopping a boutique that carries options for multiple body types, budgets, and aesthetics.
Our guide points out the staff's helpfulness as a major bonus here. "I actually did a style pull from here for my first photo shoot with my band. The girls who work here are super sweet and helpful! I tend to be very indecisive when shopping for clothing alone, so it's nice to feel like the babes working here are my best friends who can help me pick out the perfect new look."
LUDLOW GUITARS: 172 LUDLOW STREET
Hanging out with a lead singer on the rise all day is likely to have anyone channeling their rock-star dreams. We were itching to get a little Hendrix, and we happened to be right by Jessica's go-to shop for six-strings. She took us into Ludlow Guitars, another old New York gem tucked into the changing Lower East Side that's still a haven for seasoned musicians and burgeoning bands alike — its proximity to some of the city's coolest venues only adds to the atmosphere.
After perusing the lovingly and expertly curated axe selection — a mix of vintage and new with a focus on indie labels — we were treated to our own performance from Jessica in one of the store's jam-perfect soundproof rooms, which are a bona fide hangout spot for our guide.
"We met Hector, my favorite guitar geek and knowledgeable shopkeeper at Ludlow Guitars, at one of our shows. This is a prime example of why local guitar shops will always win my business. They are excited to help me find new toys to boost my live performance and don't mind setting up their coolest amps and pedals for me to play with."
WILLIAMSBURG PIZZA: 277 BROOME STREET
Twirling around in Reformation's always-perfect dresses and getting our own private rock show has worked up our appetites, and Jessica has us covered. She knows the way to our hearts is more Italian carbs, and so on we go to Williamsburg Pizza — but don't worry, we're not leaving the Lower East Side.
We're hitting up the Manhattan location of the Brooklyn-born pie spot. We find out our guide has ties to this place that go even deeper than a love of ooey-gooey cheese, perfectly spiced sauce, and crispy yet fluffy crust (and that love is pretty deep).
"I met [Williamsburg Pizza owner] Aaron through Instagram," she explains. "Nerdy, I know. They have a weekly ‘show us your pie' contest, and I tagged a photo of myself inhaling a piece of their delicious pizza and I won. We've since become pals IRL. Williamsburg Pizza sponsored my cassette tape release party this fall. It was beautiful to see a very crowded room of happy show-goers munching on free pizza and watching bands."
The possibilities are endless here with delectable toppings like truffle oil and kale. "I recommend their Grandma pie," Jessica says. "But they also do cute stuff like make heart shaped pizzas — send one to your crush!"
BLACK TREE: 131 ORCHARD STREET
Still totally chilled out from our pizza binge, we ask Jessica where her favorite spot for a cocktail or craft beer is. We are, after all, on the Lower East Side, where it feels like there are more bars than apartments. But how do we cut through the noise and find somewhere with an equally perfect menu and vibe? Our guide doesn't have to think twice before leading us to Black Tree.
"This place is my own version of Cheers," she says. "I have my own bar stool and the staff have given me a nickname. My drink is ready when I walk through the door...My guitarist works here, [and the] owners have become close friends and supporters of our band."
Black Tree has on-trend foodie haven written all over it, yet it's such a laid-back place to hunker down with a drink and either a snack or a full meal and befriend your bartender. The entire menu changes based on what's available on a hyper-local, seasonal basis, and even the drinks are selected based not only on quality but aloon proximity.
"I recommend the burrata, and I wash it down with a pint of Down East cider on draught," Jessica says.
Even if we're full, we can't resist taking her advice, and also give in to a snacking urge for the yellow pea hummus before choosing from the list of citrus cocktails and DIY Old Fashioneds. We're probably going to be here all afternoon.