Manny Mutuc (@mannydiamantes) and I met years ago when he was serving coffee in Midtown. He had this unique attitude about him like he wasn’t just some barista, he clearly had a lot brewing behind the scenes. From biking, building, photography and everything in between.
Over the years we lost touch, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I ran into Manny again, this time at Canal Street Market.
Manny had gone from working at a coffee shop, to running his own place. In collaboration with Office Magazine and a few partners, he launched the Office Coffee concept. He also began working full time with CSM to build out a range of unique food concepts. When we met, he had just helped launched one of his sister shops, Lulu Smoothie Bar. The place stands out for it’s impeccable designed and fresh growing basil on site. :)
Photo: Canal Street Market
As someone who spends his day surrounded by amazing food, I knew Manny was definitely the guy to give me the low-down on good eats. I sat down with Manny at his apartment on the historic Doyers Street as he shared some of his favorite dishes to grab for dinner, observations into the neighborhood and trials/tribulations of being an entrepreneur.
Congrats again on the new shop. How’s it been?
MAN. There’s a lot of tough parts. Being able to sleep well at night is one. Caffeine aside, wondering if I can pay my employees on time, the risk of a failing business, and the deadlines sometimes eats me up at night. Also, finding the balance between the business and my loved ones. They’re both important, but sometimes the business has to come first. Remembering that I’m not the only soul that this shop affects definitely helps me get through the tough decisions of balancing work and my personal life.
Photo: Aviva Klein
How did your partnership with Canal Street Market come about?
My journey to CSM wasn’t linear, but every odd job on the way taught valuable lessons that aided me when I joined this project. Besides working part time at a coffee shop in midtown, I was a freelance stagehand. I built sets, designed lighting, and worked in production for theatres, clubs, and events. It taught me how to work with others, stay organized and be hands-on. Applying that to my many years in the coffee industry helped with opening this shop.
Obviously starting out is never easy, but what have been some of the greatest joys of launching Office and Lulu?
The support of my family and friends is definitely the greatest joy of being an entrepreneur. Getting visits and being able to collaborate with the homies makes me so happy. I want us all to grow together and do great.
Let’s talk food. Dining in after work, where are you grabbing a bite from? What do we have here (before it gets cold)...
I love grabbing dinner from Canal Street Market’s food hall and around the neighborhood, these are a few of my favorite spots:
First, we have fish, carnitas, and chicken tacos all from Calito. Their signature sauces and salsas are amazing.
Photo: Aviva Klein
Next we have an assortment of siu mai from Nom Wah Kuai. Their shrimp and snow pea leaf dumpling is why Nom Wah is an institution when it comes to dim sum.
Photo: Nom Wah
"Nom Wah’s first location was not always about dim sum. The original restaurant opened as a tea parlor and bakery in 1920 at 13-15 Doyers St. Located in what was nicknamed the “Bloody Angle”. The nickname stems from street’s sharp corner and warring gangs who took advantage of this. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Nom Wah Tea Parlor was first and foremost a bakery. Serving dim sum was a secondary priority. The most beloved specialty were the mooncakes, which caused lines to lead out the door. Following this initial expansion, Nom Wah opened its first fast-casual dining spot in 2016: Nom Wah Nolita. With classic items from the original Nom Wah Tea Parlor, new creations are also introduced. Transcending its roots, the latest venture looks to synthesize the traditional with modernity.” - Nom Wah,
From Izakaya/ Samurice, we have an Ikura Salmon Bento Box. I love Japanese food so this one takes the cake for me.
Photo: Aviva Klein
Finally we can wash that all down with the Rosie smoothie from Lulu. Watermelon, strawberry, basil, mint, jalapeno, chia, coconut water and coconut milk all get blended together with love to create this incredibly refreshing drink.
After eating we got to catch up a bit more...
What is it like working and living in the same neighborhood?
The one thing I love most about Chinatown is leaving my apartment every morning and witnessing the locals that have been here for decades open up their businesses. The owners of the grocery stores, fish markets, barber shops, fruit stands, and jewelry stalls open up every morning around the same time I walk to work. Especially at a crucial time like today where immigration is a critical topic in the news, many forget that Chinatown would not have existed without these immigrants. They inspire me to keep hustling hard to solidify my place in their neighborhood and keep the Chinatown culture alive.
Who are some shouts outs to the people who have helped you along the way?
Josh Ilyas is one of my closest boys and has been a constant inspiration to me ever since we were very young. Our will and strong work ethic has pushed us through our times we were NYC bike messengers, freelancers, and college dropouts. We embarked on a 3-day fixed-gear bike journey from NYC to Montreal, Canada in 2014, and we motivated each other to keep pushing up those hills and endure the long hours on the saddle. Now that we are nested in our own positions, we continue to push and inspire each other. Also shout out to Phil Chong, founder of Canal Street Market for putting me on his team and helping me secure this platform to keep building. All of this would not have happened without Phil!!!
What does it mean for you to be Finally Home?
I am always out- either at work or otherwise. Being Finally Home means I can decompress, because who knows how much rest I’d be able to get before I need to run out of my apartment again. Rest is typically achieved with a series of power naps, a whisky on the fire escape, or peaceful meditation in silence.
Whats next? Even I don’t know. I’m just going to continue what I’m doing, keep growing, and keep learning. Forever upwards, that's for sure.
Photo: Aviva Klein
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