Vibrant colors are the norm here.
Photo: Melissa Hom
Grungy Doyers Street seems like one of Chinatown’s unlikeliest nightlife destinations, but that’s precisely what appealed to siblings Heather and Christopher Tierney when they opened Apothéke in 2008. Six months ago, they expanded their Doyers Street profile and opened Pulqueria two doors down. “It’s cool because during the day it’s barber shops and people running around, and then at night, it’s serene and kind of eerie, with streetlights and everything closed down except these two spaces,” Heather says. Subterranean Pulqueria is an oasis of color on this curving back alley, with a raw feel from exposed brick and abundant cinder blocks, tempered by feathers bursting from Deco-style sconces. Staff are encouraged to wear turquoise, gold, geometric pieces, and color in general, but beyond that they’re given free fashion rein — and it shows. See what we mean straight ahead in the latest edition of House Style.
What do you think about when you’re dressing for work?
Jennifer: It’s really your own personal expression. We like to try to keep with the colors of the restaurant and some of the motifs — Aztec shapes, and gold and turquoise and vibrant colors.
Andrea: Usually I try to style myself as a Mexican fortune teller. I have a lot necklaces, I have saints, crystals; I do a lot of red and black and silver. I think the what we wear enables us to transport ourselves into the space.
Does the clientele have a particular style?
Jennifer: Well, every night is different. On Wednesday we have an Afro-Cuban band. And Monday we have the Pollo party, which is more like a club-kid thing. We have some celebrities, like Calvin Klein, and Jude Law was here the other night. And it’s all ages, and all different types of people.
Do you have a day job?
Andrea: I’m a singer in City on Fire. I’d call it rock noir.
What do you notice about the people who come in?
Muonja Simba, left: It’s a pretty stylish crowd. We had a Vogue party here and I noticed a lot of people were wearing bright colors.
Is it fun getting dressed for work?
Muonja: Yeah, the place encourages us to be flamboyant with our style.
Malia Scharf, right: I like to throw on fun pieces. This is a vintage dress I found.
Natalia Carrasco, center: Outside of the restaurant I’m a makeup artist, so I’m always trying to bring some of the cool fashion in. I do some color sometimes, I usually do bright pink or orange lips — it matches the style of the place.
Are you looking at the customers like a canvas?
Natalia: All the time. And I get inspired a lot by seeing people’s looks. People are so beautiful and then they have a hipster-ish style. It’s good inspiration for my work.
I love your bright dress. Do you usually wear a lot of color here?
Yes, I do. It’s such a cavernous space, it’s a burst of sunshine down here.
Did you have to buy new clothes when you started?
No, I did a stint at Miss Lily’s [Ed note: see our House Style there], so that pulled the color out. Most New Yorkers wear black all the time. You walk into most restaurants and it’s a black uniform. But I think we’re a great depiction of New York City overall. Everyone looks different but they still incorporate the Pulqueria theme.
How does this fit in with Chinatown?
I think we’re the Rainbow Brites of Chinatown. It’s like Starbursts; you see so many different colors. I always say to the staff, ‘A lot of people are waiting on us to brighten their lives,’ whether it be by food, libation, or just with our energy.
Is this a typical ensemble?
Khay Muhammad, second from left: Here we have to wear all black. I try to mix it up: I do black suspenders a lot and a little touch of flair, like an African medallion. But I’m one of the only girl bartenders, so being a girl is already distinct; I can tone down the style.
I see you have a feather earring.
I’m part native American, so I collect feathers. Here it’s just a total coincidence.
Does the clientele have a particular style?
At the bar, it’s a pretty international crowd. Yesterday there were about fifteen people from Sydney. You get a cool European crowd. And then you get smaller cliques of people that love tequila or have Latin blood. And then the newbies, who go to cool downtown New York spots.
How does the restaurant fit in on this gritty Chinatown block? Mexican and Chinese is an interesting marriage, but you have two of the largest groups, Latinos and Asians, living in close proximity. People always look at me because I’m not either, so when I come down the block it’s like Where is she going?
What do you wear behind the bar?
Not this. I wear a black collared shirt, black pants, and usually some sneakers that have some kind of turquoise in them. We also have turquoise ties that we wear.
Where do you find those shoes?
I’m a sneaker collector.
How many pairs to do you have with turquoise?
Probably like six, by chance. I already happened to have sneakers with that color.
Do people go back and forth between here and Apotheke?
Heather: The whole reason we chose Mexican is because Apotheke — after you have a couple cocktails, I think Mexican food sounds really good.
It seems like you’ve created a mini nightlife district here.
Heather: It’s cool because Le Baron is now here. And the Nom Wah dumpling parlor is another new spot on the street.
What’s the vibe at Pulqueria?
Chris: The inspiration was drawn from parts of ancient Mexico, Aztec culture. The gold, the deco geometry from Aztec jewelry. And the cinder block.
So it mimics that shape?
Chris: Yeah. If you go to Mexico City they’ve kind of rebuilt a lot of their structures with Aztec temple stone. I couldn’t find real Aztec temple stone, but this kind of goes along with the lines and the geometry.