NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants In The East Village

Our favorite spots in a neighborhood packed with great places to eat.
a spread of lechon and pickles at Naks

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Narrowing down a list of the best restaurants in the East Village isn't easy. Extremely worthy candidates live on every block, like a BYOB Puerto Rican cafe that’s been around for decades, a Thai restaurant on 13th Street with a secret backyard, and a sushi speakeasy that feels like a house party. You almost can’t run out of amazing places to try in the East Village, so consider this list a starting point for restaurants—both old and new—that you should prioritize.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Veselka

Diner

East Village

$$$$Perfect For:BreakfastBrunchClassic EstablishmentLate Night EatsLunch
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In the early 20th Century, the East Village was largely made up of Ukrainian, Slovak, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants, but there are only a few remnants of that history left. One landmark that's still around is Veselka, a well-known Ukrainian diner that opened in 1954. Despite its crowds, Veselka somehow retains the magic of an old-school neighborhood joint. Stick with the Ukrainian food—like the stuffed cabbage, borscht, or potato pierogi—for the best results.

In order to get to Studio 151, you enter a door that's marked with a single red light bulb, then walk up a red-lit staircase and ring a tiny buzzer. This Alphabet City restaurant is technically a speakeasy, and it's located in a cavernous space reminiscent of a ‘90s art loft. You can grab a high-top or a couch and eat some à la carte sushi—but we suggest you reserve one of the four seats at the chef’s counter and try the exceptional $80 omakase. In any case, you’re going to have a good time.

Yellow Rose specializes in pressed-to-order tortillas made with Sonoran flour. You can see these blistered, perfect discs in action via one of their excellent bean and cheese tacos or a taco stuffed with braised carne guisada. You should also try their doughnuts (available on weekends), zingy vegan queso made from cashews, and Texas sheet cake that you’ll want to hide in your fridge and eat at midnight. Stop by for breakfast tacos in the morning or a casual dinner with a friend at night.

How did 7th Street Burger become the most hypebeasty place to eat a patty between two buns? Maybe it’s because this East Village spot sells incredibly straightforward burgers for $6.50. Or maybe it’s because they also serve an impossible burger for only $1.50 more. In reality, the appeal of 7th Street is easy to understand. This is somewhere you should come for relatively affordable burgers and crispy fries, even if you don’t eat meat.

This Kosher lunch counter is the kind of classic neighborhood place that makes us say “Goddammit I love New York City” every time we pass by. It’s been open since 1938 and is now run by a couple who met in the East Village (named Ola and Fawzy). The Eastern European breakfast and lunch menus are extensive, and the pierogi are always a good choice. Get them filled with potato or sauerkraut and mushroom. Otherwise, try one of the soups or giant sandwiches like the tuna melt on toasted homemade challah.

This St. Marks Szechuan restaurant with an original location in Flushing serves dishes that happily numb, like bright and slick mapo tofu and la zi chicken with a shovelful of chiles. In addition to ordering those, we always get the spicy bass with tender fish and an electric-green broth that induces just a little bit of forehead sweat. The place stays extremely busy, but the servers are still attentive. Even if you drop your chopstick, they’ll replace it within 30 seconds.

One of the irreplaceable gems of the East Village, this basement-level cab stand has been selling vegetarian Indian chaat and curries on Houston Street since the early '90s. Bring about $10 in cash, and you can have an incredibly fulfilling meal that consists of a steaming bowl of chana masala or a brown paper bag filled with crunchy fried pakora. If you’re having a tough day, stop by and ask for “samosa chaat with the works.” You'll get a mound of food piled-high with cut-up samosas, masala chickpeas, cooling yogurt, fresh raw onions, sweet chutney, and spicy sauce. Order at the counter, then either stand and eat at a narrow ledge to the side, or take your food to go.

If you pride yourself on knowing about the best Thai restaurants in the city, Soothr’s food is required eating. This place serves central Thai dishes you may not have seen elsewhere in Manhattan, like sukhotthai tom yum noodles, and specialties from Bangkok’s Chinatown hub. (Whatever you do, order the koong karee.) Whether you stop by for a meal in their gazebo-esque backyard or spend a night with a takeout tub on the couch, your Soothr experience will be headline news during your next catch-up with a friend.

There’s plenty of great Szechuan food in the East Village. But Málà Project’s spicy dry pot specialties make it the most remarkable Szechuan dining experience in the neighborhood. One night, you could have a great dinner consisting of bacon fried rice and a dry pot with broth-filled beef balls, bok choy, and lotus root. And you could go back the following week for a dry pot full of tofu skin, frog, and four different kinds of mushrooms. No matter how many times you eat here, it always feels exciting.

photo credit: Emily Schindler

$$$$Perfect For:BYOBCheap Eats

Come to this iconic BYOB Puerto Rican restaurant in Alphabet City for crispy-skinned rotisserie chicken, beans and rice, and fresh avocado salad. Adela Ferguson, the woman at the helm of the business since it opened in 1976, sadly passed away a few years ago—but the family-run place still feels as welcoming and homey as ever. If you want to supplement your rotisserie chicken with something else, try the garlicky, piping-hot mofongo with pernil or a couple alcapurrias. Bring cash—they don’t accept credit cards.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Ariari, from the team behind Atoboy and Moono, is the only place in the city where you can eat bibimbap topped with pastel yellow uni cream. And that isn’t even the best dish here. This restaurant with the brown vinyl seats of a ‘72 Buick serves a menu inspired by the coastal Korean city of Busan. Seafood is the focus, and it’s what you should order. Try the DIY gimbap with luscious raw scallops and the perfectly poached octopus sook-hwe.

A buzzy European-inspired restaurant and wine bar, Claud feels like the cozy-yet-chic East Village apartment of your chef friends who don’t make a big deal about how talented they are. The menu changes seasonally, but if they're available, make sure you order the razor clams, tomato mille-feuille, and swordfish au poivre. Finish with a dish of ice cream and the devil’s food cake for two (one of the Best New Dishes Of 2022).

CheLi spotlights the seafood-dominant cuisine from the larger region around the city of Shanghai—all in a serene, waterfall-clad room on St. Marks Place. Our favorite ordering method here relies mainly on fish and crustaceans, like the meaty Atlantic blue crab soaked in floral Shaoxing wine. But there’s plenty of delicious pork to be eaten, too—the stacks of red braised pork belly coated in a dark soy sauce, in particular, are requisite ordering.

There are enough Japanese restaurants in this neighborhood to warrant another fully dedicated guide. But if it’s à la carte sushi that you’re after, try this Avenue A spot that focuses on sustainable fish. At Rosella, you’ll meet fish from unexpected sources, like bluefin tuna from North Carolina or applewood-smoked steelhead trout from inland farms. Pieces of nigiri start at $7, and they also serve everything from farro miso soup and laksa to handrolls with smoked uni and cucumber.

photo credit: David A. Lee

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How do you label the sort of restaurant that serves oxtail tagine, soba alla bottarga, and fried frog legs with lemongrass and ginger? You don’t. You just call it Nudibranch. This spot on 1st Ave. used to only serve a three-course prix fixe, but now you have the option to order every dish à la carte. Come by to experience some food that’s unique, tough to categorize, and generally delicious. The menu changes often, but the signature mushroom dish topped with a raw egg yolk tends to stick around. Order it.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

You know what Naks, from the folks behind Dhamaka, reminds us of? Nothing. We don’t know of any other spot in NYC where you can eat an 18-course Filipino tasting menu that involves a drinkable take on balut and a slab of pork belly with skin that shatters like crème brûlée. This kamayan-style experience takes place in a mural-covered room with banana leaves on the tables, and it costs $135 per person. If you’re worried your accountant might question the expense, you can also dine a la carte in the bar area by the entrance. Book a table up there to eat some fried duck with meat that falls right off the bone.

Is the East Village still punk rock? How about Superiority Burger? In both cases, the answer is: yeah, kind of. This vegetarian establishment used to operate out of a hectic cupboard-sized room on 9th Street, but now it’s in a bigger location with a retro diner-esque space across the street from Tompkins Square Park. The menu has expanded, but it’s still full of fun dishes that feel like they were tossed together like riffs at a jam session. Be sure to get the collard greens sandwich and white sweet potato with pickles and labneh—and try the signature quinoa-chickpea veggie burger at least once.

If you’re googling “Fun restaurants East Village,” 886 is what you’re looking for. The narrow, neon-lit space could easily be converted into the city’s smallest nightclub. But the real reason you come here is for the excellent Taiwanese food, like their big fried chicken sandwich and braised pork with soft-boiled egg over seasoned rice. Almost everything costs less than $20, so this is a great spot for an affordable meal with a couple of friends.

photo credit: Emily Schindler

Dhom’s menu isn’t very big, and it mostly consists of small plates. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stop by for a full dinner. The Lao food here is geared toward tapas-style snacking, with options that include crispy spring rolls, a coconut rice salad with mint and sausage, and—the headliners—a variety of charred skewers with caramel fish sauce. Bring a couple of friends, hang out in a booth in the sleek, narrow space, and order some drinks from the extensive cocktail list.

You can find some of our favorite summer rolls in the city at Hanoi House—a casual Vietnamese restaurant on St. Marks, right by the park. In addition to the summer rolls, we always order the rich beef phở that comes with a combination of filet mignon and brisket. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it for at least 32 hours.

Like the original Jackson Heights location, Lhasa on 1st Avenue and 11th Street serves a menu of excellent momos with both meat and vegetable fillings. You’ll also find some noodle dishes, like thenthuk with hand-ripped noodles and tons of beef. It’s understandably difficult to choose between momos here, so make it easy on yourself and get one of Lhasa’s combos.

There are a lot of fried chicken sandwiches out there, and, truthfully, most of them make us wish we were at Popeyes. Rowdy Rooster’s Indian fried chicken sandwiches are different, though. They’re covered in yogurt and pickled onions, and they come on soft, buttery pao buns with five different spice levels—the highest of which is genuinely sweat-inducing. Rowdy Rooster also makes a few vegetarian options that are surprisingly exciting for a place with fowl in the name.

Every entree at this Ethiopian spot on Avenue B near Tompkins Square Park comes with two vegetable sides. While we recognize that you’re an adult and can do what you want, we can’t stress enough that one of those sides should be the shiro wot, Haile’s chickpea mash that coats everything it meets with garlicky creaminess. We like to plop a thick layer of shiro wot on each torn piece of injera, and then top it with other delicious things like tart red beets or tender dark meat chicken that’s been slow-cooked in onions, berbere, and spiced clarified butter.

Of the trio of Frank restaurants, we like Supper the best. It feels a little more grown-up than Lil Frankie’s and Frank, and it still serves the spaghetti al limone that at least one person you know has photographed and questionably captioned with “get in my belly.” Supper is exactly the sort of place you’ll want to visit on a Sunday evening for a large quantity of homemade pasta and red wine. Just know that they only accept cash.

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