Walk around in the East Village, and you’ll probably come across an establishment with chairs, menus, and a kitchen. This is a called a restaurant, and the neighborhood is packed with them. You’d think this would make it easier to find a last-minute place to get dinner in the neighborhood - but there are always a lot of people in the East Village who enjoy sitting down and eating things. That’s why we made this guide. It has 12 spots where you can either make an easy reservation or walk in at any given time and get a table without having to wow a host with your unparalleled charisma.
If you need a last-minute spot to eat at a bar by yourself, walk over to Jeepney. Once you find a stool, you should then look at the bartender and say, “I’ll have a burger.” It comes with a big beef and sausage patty with spicy ketchup and an optional egg, and it’s the best thing here. But if you aren’t in the mood for a burger, we suggest the rice noodles with shrimp, calamari, and chicharron. The drinks are also great, and this place is even better when you bring a group, share a bunch of things, and get a large format cocktail in a pineapple.
Kafana is a neighborhood spot with brick walls and dim lighting, and it’s an ideal place to drink some wine and eat an excessive amount of meat. The food here is Serbian, and it consists of things like pork schnitzel, pork chops, lamb shank, and chicken liver rolled in bacon. There are also some small plates like fries, mashed potatoes, and a cheese pie that’s just a very dense mass of dough and cheese. So yes, you will get full at Kafana. Bring a few friends for a big, casual Friday night meal, or have a date night here with someone who enjoys meat, cheese, and potatoes.
At Haile, you can get a great meal for less than $20, and you probably won’t have to wait for a table. Those are two very good reasons why you should know about this East Village Ethiopian spot. There are a few different combos that come with various meat and/or vegetable dishes, and all of the entrees come with two sides. We especially like the ye siga wot (strips of beef) and shira wot (chickpeas) - and we also like the fact that if you share a big plate of food with someone here, you can be pretty certain they like you (because you eat with your hands).
Virginia’s is a neighborhood spot where you can plan a semi-important date last-minute and pretend you had to book the table a few weeks in advance. It’s an attractive space with white brick walls, leather banquettes, and candles on the tables, and it has both a sommelier and a list of beer-and-shot combos. There’s also some great food here, like roast chicken, mussels, and a burrata. That said, if you don’t order the burger at Virginia’s, you’re making a mistake. It’s one of our favorites in the city, and it provides a compelling reason to come here, whether or not you have a date.
When Hunan Slurp first opened, it was about as busy as the section of ground in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. But now that its aura of newness has worn off, you can eat here pretty easily. So if you’re wandering around with a couple of friends one night, trying to find a spot where you can sit down and eat something quick, get some noodles here. We especially like the hometown lu fen with sliced beef and peanuts, and you should start with some cucumbers and the smoked sausage. There are also some big communal tables if you’re with a group, or if, for some reason, you enjoy eating in very close proximity to strangers.
Let’s say it’s a Friday night and you’re looking for something quick and easy, but every place you walk by appears to be as crowded as a Best Buy on Black Friday. Go to K’ook. It’s a Korean spot in a basement on 6th Street where you can hang out with a friend and eat some good tofu stew or bibimbap. There are also roughly 30 other things on the menu, most of which cost less than $20. Split an order of Korean fried chicken or rice cakes with someone, and avoid telling other people about this place.
When someone asks us to suggest a last-minute spot that will impress a couple of people in the East Village, we often suggest Huertas. It’s a big, attractive space, and it’s never too hard to get into (and they take reservations). The tapas here are also some of the best in the city, and they’re actually big enough to share - which you’ll appreciate once you order some octopus and saffron fried rice, and the people at your table decide they’re hungrier than they claimed to be.
Benemon is perfect for when you need a spot where you can potentially spend around $20 on dinner, and you don’t feel like doing so in the frozen food aisle at Trader Joes. This neighborhood Japanese place specializes in rice bowls and curries with things like pork katsu, eel, and popcorn chicken, and it’s a charming space with brick walls and an excessive number of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. If you want to have a drink, there’s also a great selection of sake.