You were supposed to go on a date with someone, but this person cancelled due to some “flu-like symptoms including a very high fever.” Obviously a lie, so you decide to have fun without them. Or maybe you were watching TV when a commercial about orphan dogs came on, and you got so bummed out you had to leave the house. Well, here are some places in the East Village to get a good dinner on short notice. Some of these spots might have a little wait, but one thing this neighborhood does not lack is bars for you to wait in.
If you live in the East Village, congratulations - you have a lot of good options for neighborhood Italian. Lil Frankie’s, Supper, Frank, Lavagna - it’s like you live in Italy or something. Il Posto Accanto is another East Village Italian spot, and it’s a little more under-the-radar. So poke your head in the next time there’s no food in your apartment, and you don’t have the energy for Trader Joe’s. Get the meatballs and split a few pastas. It’s somewhat affordable and good for date night, and you should be able to walk right in.
St. Mark’s isn’t just good for piercings, bongs, and t-shirts with obscene Dennis Hopper quotes - you can also find some great soup dumplings here. That’s why we like the Bao. Get the dumplings with pork and wasabi. And feel free to get to pan fried noodles or wontons in chili oil. You might run into a little wait here, but if (on the off chance) it’s as long as an hour, just take that as a sign that you should sing some karaoke next door.
You’re mentally ticking through your options for tonight: your friend asked you to go with her to that super hot hotspot, but you had a sh*t day at work and the last thing you want is to wait two hours to eat. You could go home and make yourself something. But if you do it right it’ll require even more effort and if you do it wrong you risk crying into your dried-out chicken breast. You need some comfort, and you don’t want to have to do any dishes. That’s where Porsena comes in. This is where you go to eat excellent, fancy pasta in a totally un-fancy environment. If you’re down to shell out around $20 a bowl and eat in what’s basically a glorified bar, you will not regret it. (Note: on Tuesdays they do a non-optional prix fixe situation, so avoid that night if you're looking for something more flexible.)
This place gets their fish flown in daily, and it’s easily some of the best in the East Village. Surprisingly, it’s also reasonably priced. Their sushi and sashimi combos are relative bargains, and they have a few exceptional miso soups that you should consider messing with. So stop in when you feel like having sushi last-minute. The food is great, but you won’t get laughed at when you try to get a table (or sit at the bar) without a reservation.
Motorino doesn’t get a whole lot of glory. People love it, sure, but it doesn’t drop panties like Roberta’s or Rubirosa or Paulie Gee’s. And you know what? It’s all the better for it. Because when you want really good pizza, and you don’t want to have to wait hours for it, Motorino is here for you. This is on our forever-roster of East Village go-to’s.
Soba-ya, otherwise known as The Perfect Place To Eat Something Respectable By Yourself. But for as great as Soba-Ya is for a solo dinner at the bar, it’s just as good for a one-on-one or even a group meal at a table. It’s always busy, but never crazy, and you’ll be in and out in time to watch whatever episode of bad television you’ve been looking forward to all day. The hot soba is exactly what you want to eat on a cold night, but we love the raw fish rice bowls too.
Say you text a bunch of friends to hang out, and every single one of them says yes. You probably didn’t see that coming, but it’s a good thing this place exists. Bar Primi is big, and it’s great for groups. It’s also pretty casual here, but still feels like you’re having dinner at a legitimate establishment that’s a big step up from whatever lazy alternatives you were considering before. We doubt there will be much of a wait, but if there is, you can always check out a bar in the area. We’re partial to Wise Men and Cafe Standard.
Zabb Elee is the sort of place you can walk by every day and assume there’s nothing special going on inside. It’s like they blew their whole design budget on fancy white banquettes then went to a discount sign emporium and chose their name based on what sign was cheapest. But it’s actually pretty nice. And, more importantly, they do some of the most authentic Thai in Manhattan. It’s Northern Thai, so think sticky rice, papaya salad, and lots of meat.
You had planned to go right home after work and do some pressing adult things like read the internet while you pretend to look for a new job, but 5pm came around and you caught your second wind. You managed to find a few friends who are also down to ignore their responsibilities, and now you just have to pick a destination. This charming little Greek spot is a great place to come with a few people, split a bunch of things, and drink some wine. Because after all, you’re an adult even if you sometimes like to pretend otherwise.
Empellon is essentially a chain. There’s a somewhat upscale taqueria in the East Village, a more casual taco spot on St. Mark’s, a (newer) flagship space in Midtown, and this spot in the East Village where you can get uni toast or falafel tacos. It’s Mexican in the sense that Mission Chinese is Chinese. It’s modern and fun and they seven different salsas (in case six salsas is a deal breaker). Empellon Cocina isn’t cheap, but it isn’t mind-blowingly expensive, and they do a reasonably-priced tasting menu.
Malai Marke is our favorite Indian spot on a block with about 6,000 other Indian restaurants. People call it “Curry Row,” but you can have a lot more than just curry here. The menu is huge. Get your usual lamb vindaloo or go for something new. It’s also nice enough for date night. So study up on your Indian food and try to impress someone. If you’re a vegetarian, even better - the non-meat dishes are some of the best things on the menu.
Hasaki doesn’t get talked about as much as other East Village casual sushi places like Kanoyama and Takahachi, but keep it in mind if you want to try a different spot the next time you find yourself in the neighborhood, without a dinner plan, and in the mood for raw fish. It’s super fresh here, and they stick to the classics - you will not find spicy cream sauces or fried anything. Sit at the bar if it’s just one or two of you, but they also have a few tables if you’re in a group.
Your best friend texted you last week and asked you to help come up with a low-key post-work birthday dinner plan, and you told her you’d take care of the whole thing. Then the week from hell ensued and it completely slipped your mind and now it’s her birthday and everyone is asking you where you’re meeting. This isn’t your greatest moment as a friend - but you can fix this. Get some embarrassing balloons, show up a little earlier than everyone else to claim a table (you can usually snag one without much issue), and have margarita pitchers waiting for people when they arrive. Your f*ckup just became a home run.
It’s hard to put a label on what Tuome is exactly, and maybe that’s why you can get a table here most nights. Like most “new American” places, you can get some chicken liver toast or steak tartare here, but you can also get snow crab with dashi butter or a “pig out.” If your party has more than one mouth, we recommend you do the latter. It comes with a spread of pork belly and some peanut noodles that are better than they need to be.