Volume 78 / Number 20 - October 15 - 21, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower
East Side, Since 1933

A Villager special section
Transitions and Traditions
The Lower East Side

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

Lucien Bahaj, standing at rear, with diners at his Lucien restaurant

Lucien, the man, the restaurant and the Pink Pony

By Casey Samulski

On First Ave., just north of E. Houston St., Lucien lies tucked into the east side of the block. Small and cheerful with a fair selection of wine, the restaurant, according to owner Lucien Bahaj, is the sort of place “anyone can do.” Bahaj has lived in New York City for 35 years, moving here from the south of France when he was 28.

“I sell high-quality product at a low price,” Bahaj began. In his soft French accent, gesturing expansively, he explained the three simple fundamentals of the place: good food, nice environment and an artist’s atmosphere.

With photographs on the wall of Andy Warhol and Bill Rice grinning from his tables, he’s not exaggerating.

Across Houston St. from his self-titled spot on First Ave. is Bahaj’s other restaurant, the Pink Pony.

Located at 176 Ludlow St., between Houston and Stanton Sts., the Pony caters to a younger crowd. Its wraparound shelves are stacked with used books, lemons, wine and champagne. Twin double doors in the back swing open to reveal a second space for private parties and movie screenings. Again, the cuisine and style are French — and uniquely Lucien.

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