Teany is the vegetarian restaurant established by Moby and his ex girlfriend Kelly Tisdale, located on Rivington Street, New York, just off Bowery in the Lower East Side.
Moby and Tisdale are no longer involved in the venture, and I don’t believe Moby was ever really ever actively involved, but the pair did pen a book of Kelly’s recipes, and the book included a whole stack of Moby’s self-deprecating Little Idiot drawings. The restaurant even spawned a range of Teany-branded iced tea drinks; I bought one once from a convenience store on Fifth Avenue, but I couldn’t tell you now what flavour it was, or even if I enjoyed it, though I’m slightly surprised I didn’t try to squeeze the empty bottle into my suitcase. The name Teany itself was an amalgam of the words tea and the abbreviation for New York, as well as being an intentional misspelling of teeny, as in small. Which it is.
I’ve been to Teany twice. The first time was in 2005, back when Tisdale and Hall were still the proprietors. It was a hot late summer afternoon in Manhattan, and I’d dragged my pregnant wife across the island to Bowery with the sole intention of getting a drink a Teany. When we got there the place was heaving, the tables outside were all taken, and, well, I was a bit of a chicken about going in places like that. I don’t know why. Mrs S was not hugely impressed with me, mostly because she was tired and grumpy because of bring pregnant, but also because back then the area round Bowery was still a bit edgy.
The second time was this year. My family and I were schlepping around the area in pursuit of, variously, ice cream, rice pudding and cheesecake, all of which were consumed before lunch. Don’t ask why. Rivington Street itself was pretty empty, and when we walked past Teany I thought I would nip inside to take a look and also to try and buy a mug. Back in the day, Teany offered a limited range of merchandise, but they wouldn’t ship to the UK. The webshop ceased trading a few years ago also, and despite some enquiries via an email address off their website, it seemed that a Teany mug was not going to be mine. So I thought I’d pop in and see if they’d sell me one on the off chance.
Sadly that was not meant to be. I had an exchange with a pretty waitress who didn’t speak much English (and who clearly couldn’t work out how to comprehend my English accent), somewhere on the axis between confusing and frustrating. It went a little like this:
‘Do you still sell mugs?’
‘You wan’ milk?’
‘No, I want to buy a mug. Do you still sell mugs?’
‘No, a mug.’
‘I’m sorry – whas’ a, a, merg?’
‘It’s like a cup. But, you know, a mug?’
‘You wan’ a cup of milk?’
‘No!’ I then spied a white mug with a red Teany logo on the shelf behind her. ‘One of those!’
‘Ah, you mean a mug!’
‘Yes, do you sell those?’
If I’m honest, I didn’t like the interior much. It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and, well, a bit shabby. I’m not sure if this is how it would have looked back in the day, but I wasn’t that impressed. I obviously didn’t eat so I can’t comment on the food.
Anyway, I can say I’ve been in now, and I can (not without some disappointment) put to rest my quest for a Teany mug.
As we turned off Rivington and headed down Ludlow, I found this bit of graffiti, which cheered me up.
(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence