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Want a classic New York sandwich? A tasting menu that will feel special for an anniversary? A party scene for your birthday? An excellent vegetarian restaurant? All covered as well. Here are the LES spots you should know about. The dining room is full of big, round tables topped with delicious pea shoots, salt and pepper prawns, and crispy fried Dungeness crabs spinning around on lazy Susans. Of all of the places on the Lower East Side, we consistently recommend group dinners here the most. The catch? Prepare to kill time at Clandestino or Forgtmenot next door until your table is ready.
It involves a big bowl of coconut rice topped with fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs. Stop by with a friend for a casual dinner and split extra sweet French toast dusted in sugar and a big bowl of pan mee soup with hand-pulled noodles, dried crunchy anchovies, ground pork, and sweet fishy broth.
Le French Diner feels like a secret bistro only you and your dinner companion know about. The short menu is as simple as the set-up itself: bistro classics like escargots, duck rillettes, scallops, mussels, grilled rabbit, and beautifully cooked hangar steak served with a square hunk of crispy cheesy scalloped potatoes. If we had to cut this list down to five places, Le French Diner would still be on it. Fast forward to when Contra reopened with an a la carte menu for the first time including dishes like a skate wing with zingy curried cherries on top, or a dry-aged striploin slathered in rhubarb mole.
Particularly if you like the idea of eating delicate rice rolls that taste like a jug of olive oil. When you think of visiting an NYC food hall, do you imagine yourself sitting on a covered patio, gnawing on a smoky lamb rib served in a tin-can grill? What about the idea of soaking up green-chile-laced dal with buttery chapati in between sips of gin, ginger liqueur, and betel leaf swirled together in a martini glass? Try their version of chicken pulao served directly in a pressure cooker, or the tender lamb kidneys and testicles in a fragrant onion-tomato stew and pao shimmering with ghee on the side, and finish your meal with a rich, souffle-like chhena poda for dessert.
Even with its new a la carte options, going to Contra still feels like an event to a certain extent. Wildair - their sister wine bar located right next door - is a more casual spot to snack and drink something incredible. Wildair also started making doughnuts in These things are typically filled with cream, often inspired by various internet celebrities, and highly coveted. Good luck getting one. Their Cubano comes on a hard, crusty roll that tightly packs all of the shredded pork shoulder, ham, cheese, and pickles.
Add on a side of crispy tostones, but know the spot is cash-only. Show up early. The Bun Hut opened in Spring of serving exciting West Indian and Bahamian dishes like steamed bao and roti wraps stuffed with various Caribbean fillings, like juicy jerk chicken, braised oxtail, and coconut shrimp.
This place is constantly in our weeknight dinner rotation, specifically when we want a generous helping of curried goat for takeout. But they also have a big dining room, where they often host live music, that works for a casual date with someone who shares your love of conch fritters. That was cool. It really was.
Even back then, the chef, Flynn McGarry, made you feel like you were dining in the future, but also in his living room. He put hyper-seasonal vegetables on display without forsaking meat entirely, all in a flower- and art-bombed space that feels more like a fun hang than a restaurant. Now you can experience all of that without committing to a tasting menu. Some standouts from a recent meal included emerald green ramp tortellini in broth, lamb and oyster tartare with fried capers, and an entirely vegetarian schnitzel made with cabbage and maitake mushrooms. But the limited space makes the list of curry options, daily breakfast and lunch, and variety of cocktails and wine all the more impressive.
Anytime you need a spot for a calm one-on-one with a friend, consider Davelle. La Contenta is where you want to be eating fish tacos and drinking mezcal margaritas on the Lower East Side. The tiny Norfolk Street location is perfect for when you want to have a fun night out in the neighborhood in a dark crowded space. Along with your massive, lightly-battered fish tacos, order queso with goat cheese and hanger steak served with a twice-baked potato.
The nearby cafe offers both seating and an extensive menu that adds eggs, platters, and cocktails to the usual bagel and nova situation. Dirt Candy is a pioneering restaurant, in both their early commitment to paying their workers equitably and treating vegetables as the focus of fine dining.
Sure, a couple of the seasonal dishes you try now may feel stuck in gastronomical-yesteryear when chefs wracked their brains to figure out how many different techniques they could use to show off a tomato in one single dish - but we think the experience feels surprising and delightful nonetheless. Plan a special night out here sans meat or fish.
The dough and tomato sauce are certainly flavorful - they mill their own flour in-house and the sauce is not too sweet - not to mention they make a great vegan pie. The chicken comes out charred and juicy, and for a few dollars more you can make it a full meal with some sides like rice and peas, caramelized plantain, or a few festivals.
When you ask your text chain if anyone wants to go out tonight, you usually get one yes, two maybes a. But on the rare occasion that everyone wants to , go to Congee Village. This two-story Chinese spot just off Delancey - which has a tree growing in the middle of it and bamboo everywhere - is filled with big tables.
Essex Market has been a central part of the Lower East Side since the early 19th century when the city was covered in mud and manure. But this is still a great one-stop-shop place to grab something to eat on the LES.
Check out our full guide for more specifics on where to eat, drink, and shop here. Douska fills that void with straightforward handrolls. Their extra-gingery pork and chive dumplings, offered fried or steamed, have a dedicated following among the neighborhood so expect to see lines of skaters, NYPD parking ticket enforcers, and people who have lived in Chinatown for 50 years.
We usually order our dumplings pan-fried because we love the way the bottoms crisp up, but the boiled version will also satisfy. If you insist on straying from the dumplings, try the flaky sesame pancake with chives or noodles with vegetables. You can now order a chicken sandwich and fries at Ivan Ramen. That alone should al to you that there have been some major changes at this iconic Lower East Side ramen spot since it opened in But the ramen, with silky, porky broth and thin delicate noodles, remains pretty unchanged. A bowl of any of those, particularly the shoyu or spicy red chili ramen, works great for a hearty meal.
Cocktails and fried chicken sandwiches make for a solid blueprint and combination at any bar or restaurant. They have a whole menu of on-tap cocktails featuring ingredients like Italicus, Cocchi Americano, and different teas, along with three different chicken sandwich versions and a fried tofu one with rich peanut sauce that is just as deserving as its poultry counterparts.
The original Cocoron in Nolita is one of the most underrated restaurants in the city. No honest guide to the neighborhood would be complete without Dimes. This all-day cafe is less of a singular restaurant as it is a player in the LES cultural zeitgeist. If you want something on-the-go, Dimes Deli across the street also serves filling, vegetable-forward breakfast burritos and quick snacks. This Thai and Filipino restaurant specializes in pink cocktails, very loud music, and shareable portions of things like pork belly adobo and a whole fried fish covered in curry coconut cream and Thai basil.
Try to sit in the back and order plenty of coconut rice on the side with your meal. The dark Forsyth Street dungeon space connects to a beautiful back garden filled with plants, wicker furniture, and twinkling string lights. The next time you want to appear cool and in-the-know, bring a group here and enjoy a bunch of shareable Thai dishes.
This is an excellent option to remember when every place in the neighborhood is overflowing with people on weekends and you need a table as soon as possible. The Greek food here has gotten us through many busy workdays and otherwise boring weeknight meals. But you should also know that no meal from Factory Tamal is complete without a tamale.
We like the slightly spicy rajas con queso and the salsa verde with chicken. Most importantly, the masa on these are smooth, hold everything together, and are never mealy. This Dominican, takeout-only spot under the Williamsburg bridge on Delancey serves all types of fried fish and chicken, empanadas, and different stewed meats. Home Cities Pick the perfect spot for every situation.
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