Walk around the little area south of the Lower East Side, but east of Chinatown, and you’ll notice: there’s a lot going on, from restaurants like Dimes and Kiki’s to bars like Mr. Fong’s and 169 Bar. Add in places like the Malaysian coffee shop Kopitiam, the 1970s suburban pizza place-themed Scarr’s Pizza, and a quality restaurant located inside a trendy movie theater, and you’ll see just how much action is happening around East Broadway. As more and more restaurants continue to open in the area, we’ve updated this guide with several new spots.
We’re not sure what to call this area exactly: East Chinatown? The Lower Lower East Side? Whatever you want to call it, grab some white overalls, an ironic hat of some sort, and go forth. Here’s the lay of the land.
Kopitiam is a tiny Malaysian coffee shop on Canal, and a stop here is essential, any time of day. If it’s lunch time, try the Nasi Lemak (coconut rice with egg, cucumber, and anchovy) or the Chilled Spicy Sesame Noodles. If you’re in just in for a snack, go for the Kaya Toast or the blue Morning Glory Sticky Rice.
The Lower Lower East Side was missing a slice joint until Scarr’s came into the picture. Scarr’s looks like a New Jersey pizza place from the 70s, which is intentional - points for coming up with a restaurant theme no one ever knew they needed or wanted.
A self-proclaimed “experimental” ice cream shop, Ice & Vice makes ice cream with ingredients like “Chili Lime Plantain Chip” and “Lemon Charcoal.” Try an ice cream sandwich.
Metrograph is a new movie theater for film geeks: they project everything on 35mm, and show movie buff kind of movies, both old and new. They also have the fanciest movie theater concession stand you’ve ever seen, and a full-service restaurant called The Commissary, which serves everything from steak tartare to a piece of roasted trout. You don’t need to be seeing a movie to eat there.
A Greek restaurant from the people behind Forgtmenot, located right next door. It’s somehow both a hip new neighborhood spot and a classic Greek restaurant, which makes for a varied crowd and long waits. Plan to order the octopus.
A block below the center of the Lower Lower East Side action on East Broadway, Les Enfants de Boheme is a typically pretty relaxed French restaurant and bar. It’s a great low-key spot for dinner and drinks, and they often have the TV on at the bar - we’ve watched both political debates and European soccer games here. They also recently opened a coffee shop serving salads, baguette sandwiches, and crepes next door.
Everyone at Dimes seems to either be a model or a person ironically wearing a bucket hat. Some are both. The servers also sometimes seem to be confused and/or annoyed about you being there. But all the said, Dimes has been a legitimate game changer in the Healthy Food That Doesn’t Suck movement, and the food they serve does taste good. Get a grain bowl or an acai bowl, or even a breakfast sandwich. We won’t tell the models.
There’s an hour wait at Dimes? Head a few blocks east to Eastwood, a cool and cozy little bar that serves Middle Eastern pitas and fish and chips.
Williamsburg’s Pies ‘N’ Thighs now has a location at the very tip of Canal Street, and the remodeled classic diner space is perfect for eating biscuits and fried chicken. That is, assuming you aren’t looking to eat biscuits and chicken with more than one other person. This location of Pies ‘N’ Thighs only has one table that seats more than two.
When we ordered a pita dip platter here once, the bill item said “ALL DA DIPS.” Forgtmenot (unclear why the “e” is missing, but it is) is the kind of place that would do that. It’s great for hanging out with a margarita in a mason jar, for a beer while you wait for a table at Mission Chinese or Forgtmenot’s new sister restaurant Kiki’s, or for breakfast tacos at any time of day.
The Fat Radish was one of the first restaurants to draw diners to this lower end of the Lower East Side. We loved it a few years back, and it’s still a nice space even if the food has slipped a bit.
We’re not sure if it’s the dripping candles or the chandeliers or the exposed brick, but at least three people we know went on third dates here and ended up getting married.
Cheeky is like a tiny windowless cavern of sandwiches. The fried chicken on a biscuit is fairly legendary, as are the egg sandwiches.
You might walk by and notice the outdoor seating at Cafe Petisco, and wonder if the food’s any good. Turns out it is - try it for brunch, and order the shakshuka or burger.
If you were looking to make a Lower Lower East Side music video or something, Mr. Fong’s is where you’d come to do your casting. The people watching is tremendous, especially at later hours, but earlier in the evening it’s a good place for a one-on-one drink. The Chinatown-inspired cocktails (a “salty plum old fashioned,” for example) are also very good and very well-priced.
Located right next to Mission Chinese, 169 Bar is best explained by a few things: a disco ball, a dinosaur on the wall, and a pool table covered in leopard print. Also, of note: you can text your drink order.
A cool little party-time dive bar that’s all about the neon pink lights.
The Leadbelly is The Fat Radish’s sister spot specializing in oysters across the street, but it’s really more of a bar. It’s a good spot for dates, but it’s best late at night or on a weekend afternoon after checking out some of the art galleries up the block.
Clandestino is a dark, comfortable bar. Keep it in mind for a pre- or post-dinner move.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all cool neighborhoods get a Café Grumpy. There’s one here. It’s pretty small.
12 Corners is very friendly hangout on your laptop kind of cafe, and they happen to serve some of our favorite iced coffee around. They also do matcha lattes and fancy barista art.