Born and raised in Hawaii, Mary Jane Livingston has lived in New York for eight years and combines dentistry and content creation while enjoying the energy of her adopted neighborhood and its many small businesses. Mary Jane shares her West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I’m a transplanted New Yorker, born and raised in Hawaii and moved here eight years ago to support my husband in pursuing his medical career. I remember back in 2013 when I visited New York for the very first time, I looked at my husband and said, ‘How cool would it be if you got into medical school in NYC?’ — not knowing that the universe and God had that plan in store for us already. NYC has a very special place in my heart. Although I came here to support my husband, it is the city where I found myself and who I am.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
The first job that I interviewed for, two days after I landed here, was for a position as a dental hygiene professor at NYU Dental School. I currently work in a private practice. While my husband was on his journey, I was on my journey to figure out who I was and at that time I had no New York friends. Through social media, I was able to tap into my creative side with content creation and created Pineapple in the Big Apple.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
I took the subway by myself for the first time from Harlem to Times Square. I ordered a Gyro from one of the carts and ate it on the famous red steps. In that moment, I realized “I live in effing NEW YORK CITY!” The energy from Times Square made me hopeful and excited for this journey and chapter in my life.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love Hell’s Kitchen because of the diversity and the number of delicious restaurants. Most people would try to stay away from Times Square but I love the energy surrounding it — and energy pours into Hell’s Kitchen too. But what I love the most is the community and the people that live and work here. The community is what makes Hell’s Kitchen, from the corner bodega to the coffee shops, the grocery stores and the street flower shops. The employees may not live here, but they make living here special.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Saving people’s lives through the power of dentistry — and being a mom! I’ve been volunteering with the Glo Good Foundation (founded by Dr Jonathan and Stacey Levine) and Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule to help a dental and medical mission in Gregory Town, Eleuthera, Bahamas. This past December the foundation completed its 6th mission trip. This experience has been truly amazing, inspiring, fulfilling, emotional, and life changing. I’ve been a dental hygienist for almost 13 years and it was only until these trips that I fulfilled my purpose as a dental hygienist. My journey came full circle.
This last trip we had over 100 volunteers and treated approximately 1,000 adults and children by providing life-saving and life-changing dentistry, basic medical care, and education to people with limited access to care all for free.
Give a Smile. Change a Life.
What else should we know about you?
I love food! Touring the city as if I don’t live here #Forevertourist
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Mary Jane’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
LumLum — 404 W49th St (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I’ve seen this restaurant boom over the past year since it opened and I remember telling Mo (one of the owners) at her soft opening that if she continued to make her dishes with love and consistency, her business would thrive! The food is delicious and authentic and it is the Thai restaurant that I bring all my visitors to. They’ve become like family.
Afficionado Coffee — 750 11th Avenue (corner W53rd St)
Their daddy latte makes me happy! Cinnamon toast crunch latte? Please sign me up! I love the cozy environment, the Spanakopita is lip-smacking good and their coffee beans smell and taste divine.
Fine and Dandy Throwback — 445 W49th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Enrique the owner is a fellow Filipino entrepreneur and I sometimes go there just to chat with him. It is on my list of places to take family and friends when they visit, to find their unique vintage NYC souvenirs and clothing.
Preston Konrad Studio — 461 W49th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I’ll die over his luxury candles. Something as simple as a candle can make your apartment feel like home and bring calmness into a space.
Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Since I moved here eight years ago, I’ve always bought my Thanksgiving pies here. It’s become a tradition. I am obsessed over their sour cream apple walnut pie! It’s not Thanksgiving without it!
Arriba Arriba — 762 9th Avenue (bw W51/52nd St)
I love their frozen margaritas and it is one of our favorite spots to eat Mexican food. This is the first restaurant we ate at when we moved into this neighborhood. It was recommended by a broker who also lived here at the time.
Wondee Siam — 792 9th Avenue (bw W52/53rd St)
Wondee Siam is like visiting your Thai aunties and all they want to do is feed you. When I’m there I always order the mango catfish salad and their crispy pork basil.
Nam’s Nails — 451 W46th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
My go-to nail salon in the neighborhood. Walking in, you feel the positive energy and the love in this place. It’s woman/family owned and my nails always come out perfect.
Brow Society — 433 W45th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
The only salon I trust with my eyebrows. It’s inspiring to see Santi (the owner) expand into his own space and now have several employees. I remember when it was just him and Megen.
Shaking Crab —737 9th Avenue (bw W49/50th St)
There’s nothing more fun than diving into a seafood boil and getting your hands dirty. The simplicity of just enjoying food without having to worry about being proper! Lip-smacking and finger-licking good.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I want to add Cha Pa’s Noodles and Grill to the list. I love that every time we walk into the restaurant they already know our order. Their Pho is food for the soul.
You can follow Mary Jane on Instagram @pineappleinthebigapple. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.