The Lower East Side is one of my absolute favorite neighborhoods in New York City. It is rich in culture and all things eclectic. This is largely in part because the Lower East Side served as a hub for many immigrants back in the day. As such, although it can be a little rough around the edges, (ahem, dirty) and largely populated with projects along the East River, it has some of the most unique restaurants with menus you won’t find anywhere else. The LES also gives you a taste of what the “real” New York was before it got cleaned up. Check out the restaurants that I think are the Best Restaurants on the Lower East Side.
Katz’s Deli: Open since 1888, this Kosher-style deli is THE place to go in New York for smoked meats. The hot pastrami is the best thing on the menu. Don’t forget a cream soda to go with it. And of course your Meg Ryan impression from When Harry Met Sally (filmed here). They even have the original formica tables and self-service counter. A real New York must.
Apizz: This Italian joint is super cozy and warm…partially because the restaurant is built around a brick oven. Apizz serves up homey, comfort foods like lasagna and meatballs and ricotta. Super romantical!
Image Courtesy of Grubstreet
Mission Chinese serves up Americanized Chinese food and manages to make it gourmet at insanely cheap prices (most dishes are under $15). Make sure to try the Kung Pao Pastrami, Ma Po Tofu and the Broccoli Beef Brisket. You can eat like a king here without breaking the bank.
Pok Phat Thai. Photo by TravelingPanties
Pok Phat Thai is Manhattan’s branch of the Pok Pok rage (in Brooklyn). The restaurant serves only a variety of Pad Thai options and each one is delicious, simple and perfect. Get a meal here, including a coffee or a “vinegar” soda for under $15.
Pink Pony Cafe. Photo by TravelingPanties
Pink Pony is the most perfect LES bistro/cafe. You will feel like you’ve been transported back to Paris in its heyday. Come in for a cappuccino, a bite, or bottle of good but inexpensive wine (starting at $30). You never know who you might see here, Lady Gaga is rumored to have written most of her first album here! Also be sure to take advantage of the free jukebox here!
Sammy’s Roumanian: Enjoy live music (an old man usually on a keyboard), dance around like you’re at your cousin’s bar mitzvah, get rowdy and enjoy old-school Jewish cooking at this LES staple. You won’t leave here sober, make sure you get a bottle of Kettle One, which comes frozen in a giant ice cube. Get the skirt steak and potato pancakes and you’ll be shouting Mazel Tov all night long.
Big Mack Daddy at Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop. Photographed by Moi!
Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop: Nothing is tiny about the taste here, ba-dum-phshhhh. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. This sandwich shop offers affordable and enormous sandwiches and salads. You won’t leave hungry since portions are inappropriately, huge. My personal faves are the Buffalo Chicken, I’m a sucker for all things “Buffalo,” and the Mac Daddy, which is a soy-based veggie burger with the works!
Favorite Dessert Picks: Clinton Street Baking Co., Sugar Sweet Sunshine and the Donut Plant. Quick word about the Donut Plant, it’s incredible. You haven’t ever tasted a Donut until you’ve been here. You will never (if you ever could) be able to stomach a waxy donut hole from Dunkin Donuts again. Try their signature Creme Brulee if you’re feeling adventurous or just get a classic vanilla and you won’t be sorry!
Image Courtesy Travel & Leisure
Notably absent, Meatball Shop. Yuck, I was so not a fan of the “meat”balls here. The only items that didn’t gross me out by bounciness were the veggie meatballs.