Josephine Jansen, proprietor of the Snack Dragon taco joints, let me know last week that the location on East 3rd Street is closing by the end of July. She writes that the closure is "due to the fact that Croman wants to triple the rent to $3900 for 100sq feet of public space and a tiny basement. Snack Dragon has been serving delicious tacos, great music and eclectic vibes to the EV set for 10 years now. They will not negotiate the lease."
A decade is not a very long time, but there's always been something comfortingly offbeat 1990s about Snack Dragon. Jansen once told NYPress, "I’m a diehard East Villager. I like it here; I get mad at people for
moving to Brooklyn—the neighborhood is changing cause the people are
I visited Snack Dragon, had some of those delicious tacos, and found myself immediately in an intelligent and entertaining conversation with waiter Conrad Ventur and his friend Timothy Dean Lee.
We talked about the demise of the bohemian East Village, the demise of gay Chelsea, the rise of tyrannical drunk girls (they come in, force themselves behind the counter, and ask, "Am I pretty? Do you want to hit this?" before passing out on the floor), the sociopathy of people who walk and text, the problems of Bloomberg ("I know for sure he's a closet case," said Timothy), and other such favorite topics.
Timothy also waxed nostalgic for his days running around with the likes of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, hanging out at the Mudd Club and Paradise Garage, venturing into the Mineshaft, and making art. He and Conrad are both artists.
Conrad explained how Snack Dragon was originally conceived as "an art installation that also sells tacos," each one staffed by working artists. Conrad is the only remaining artist manning a Snack Dragon counter. When he's not making tacos, he's making films.
His project "13 Most Beautiful / Screen Tests Revisited," in which "the original subjects of Andy Warhol's screen tests re-perform them 45 years later," is now in the collection of the Whitney Museum. And don't miss "Montezland," stunning shots of Warhol superstar Mario Montez in her dotage. Timothy's most recent work includes some startling images of nude men in masks--including himself sleeping in a CPAP mask.
As I ate my tacos, Timothy recalled the old East Village, and we shared our love for--among other things--DeRobertis' Pasticceria, hoping the rumor about its sale proves untrue.
"I remember DeRobertis," he said, "from back when the old lady called Madonna a slut and told her never to set foot in the place again. Well, Mrs. DeRobertis was a real Catholic lady--she went to Mass every Sunday--and everyone knew Madonna was sleeping with everything that moved, so..." Did you know that Lucky Luciano put that silver dollar in the floor tiles? And that Woody Allen wrote Annie Hall in the back room?
Anyway, Snack Dragon on E. 3rd is leaving. Bottom line: You don't meet these kinds of people, hear these kinds of stories, or have these kinds of conversations in a Starbucks, or a bank, or an artisanal mayonnaise shop.