NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants In The East Village

Our favorite spots in a neighborhood packed with great places to eat.

Despite the fact that this is one of our longest neighborhood guides in existence, narrowing down a list of the best restaurants in the East Village still wasn’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 tasting menu experience that’s worth saving up for. You almost can’t run out of amazing restaurants 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

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 on 1st Avenue and 9th Street are different, though. They’re crunchy, covered in yogurt and pickled onions, and they come on soft, buttery pao buns with three 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.) We hope more takeout spots follow suit and start serving Indian fried chicken, since the line to get a sandwich here is already pretty long.

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 serves incredibly straightforward $7 burgers. Or maybe it’s because they also serve an impossible burger for only $1 dollar 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. Stop by on a Friday night, and your burger might take around 30 minutes. But just stick around, mingle, and assume that the conversation you have will end up in a meme somewhere on the internet.

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 meaty Atlantic blue crab soaked in floral Shaoxing wine and sticky slices of carp that are marinated and fried until they taste smoky. 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. Bring a couple friends for your next group dinner, but be aware that this place gets busy and only takes reservations for groups larger than five.

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 1990’s. Bring about $10 in cash, and you can have an incredibly fulfilling meal here—whether that’s by way of a steaming bowl of chana masala and potatoes 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.” What follows is a mound of food piled-high with cut-up samosas, masala chickpeas, cooling yogurt, fresh raw onions, sweet chutney, and spicy sauce. Suddenly, all the NYU students partying on the balcony next to your building won’t seem so annoying.

The East Village is spoiled by this casual Central Texan spot, because there’s simply no place quite like it in New York City. 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. But we’d also encourage extracurricular snacking on things like airy doughnuts on weekends, beef chili speckled with charred peppers, zingy vegan queso made from cashews, and Texas sheet cake 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.

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 in particular, try this Avenue A spot that focuses on sustainable fishing. While at Rosella, you’ll meet fish from unexpected sources, like bluefin tuna from North Carolina or applewood-smoked steelhead trout from inland farms. All of it is delicious, and it will nullify your preconceived notions about where fantastic fish should come from. If you’re looking for a place to start, the chirashi is a great way to get a sampling of their sashimi.

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. If you’re with a group, stick to the combination platters. Otherwise, our solo go-to order at Haile is the spicy beef tibs with shiro wot and green beans on the side.

Where To Eat Ethiopian Food Downtown guide image

NYC Guide

Where To Eat Ethiopian Food Downtown

Like many fine dining restaurants, Momofuku Ko in the East Village shifted their menu during the pandemic to offer a la carte options (including some fantastic thin-crust, New York-style pizza) in addition to their tasting menu. This is very good news for everyone in the East Village, since it means you can order our favorites from the Ko bar menu—like cold fried chicken and a burger with foie gras—as well as other dishes typically reserved for a $200+ Ko experience. Whatever else you get, try the cold fried chicken, which is fried four times, coated in a spicy-sweet yuzu kosho glaze, and then refrigerated. It’s available by the piece, like nigiri or a Rolex. You’ll want at last two pieces all for yourself (they each cost $6).

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 (they’re named Ola and Fawzy, make sure to say hi). The Eastern European breakfast and lunch menus are extensive, but ordering pierogi is always a good choice. Get them filled with potato or sauerkraut and mushroom, and you’ll spend your afternoon living in a sour cream-allium-filled paradise. Otherwise, try one of the soups or giant sandwiches (like the tuna melt on toasted, homemade challah). Feel free to bring your own newspaper and tattered hat for a full New York experience.

If you pride yourself on trying the best Thai restaurants in the city, Soothr’s food is required eating. This place opened in early 2020, serving 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. This curry has a pleasantly gooey shrimp and egg consistency, and every rich bite tastes like shrimp paste just called curry powder to say “I love you.” Whether you stop by for a meal in their gazebo-esque backyard in the East Village or spend a night with a takeout tub on the couch, your Soothr experience will be headline news during your next catch-up phone call with a friend.

The Best Thai Restaurants In NYC guide image

NYC Guide

The Best Thai Restaurants In NYC

We first stumbled upon Foxface accidentally after eating a terrible meal nearby, and our lives have been different ever since. This unassuming window on the corner of St. Marks and 1st Avenue specializes in crunchy, pressed panini sandwiches with ambitious ingredients. Other than the “Smoking Fox” (which tastes like a Cubano without cheese and is always on the menu), their offerings change every day. We’d recommend going out on a limb and trying the specials, like one with smoky-sweet carrots, tender brisket, fresh dill, and dill butter. There isn’t any seating at Foxface, but, for an excellent and truly eclectic East Village meal, bring your food into the connected Prohibition-era absinthe and mead bar next door, William Barnacle Tavern.

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 couple of 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.

Malai Marke is our favorite place to eat Indian food on East 6th Street. That’s a significant claim, considering the restaurant’s one-block radius has historically been home to tons of Bangladeshi and Indian spots. The bulk of the menu is dedicated to expertly-spiced Northern regional specialties, like creamy black lentil dal makhani and lamb burra kabob cooked in a tandoor. But you’ll also see coastal dishes made with coconut and fish and Indian-Chinese chili chicken. Even on busy East Village weekends, you can usually get a table at Malai Marke.

When fries wind up in burritos, it can go one of two ways. Either the fries are drastically soggy and weigh the whole operation down, or they're the perfect golden, crispy additions to your handheld meal. At Electric Burrito on St. Marks, expect the latter. This counter-service spot's California burritos—like what you’d find at a stand in San Diego—use french fries in place of rice, but you can also order their Conga burritos which are just as noteworthy and come with beans, rice, crema, and your choice of protein. 

Au Za’atar is famous on Tik Tok for their tableside shawarma towers. Even if you generally shy away from anything with a "Foodie" hashtag attached to it, don’t let that deter you from coming here. Au Za’atar’s Lebanese classics are excellent, especially the creamy labne and the grilled mix platter with sumac-dusted fries. If you’re eating with a couple of people, opt for a bottle of Lebanese wine and the shawarma tower on a vertical spit, which comes with fries, grilled tomatoes and onions, herb salad, plenty of pita, and enough food for leftovers. You’ll have a great time if you’re looking for a fun, meat-filled group dinner.

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 and now bloats with tourists nearly every hour (although they’re not currently operating 24-hours a day anymore). Despite its crowds, Veselka somehow retains the magic of an old-school neighborhood joint—ceramic plates with the restaurant’s logo, unlimited coffee pours, remarkably fast service, and all. Stick with the Ukrainian food—like the stuffed cabbage, borscht, or potato pierogi—for the best results.

If you’re Googling “Fun restaurants East Village,” 886 epitomizes what you’re looking for. The neon-lit narrow space could easily be converted into the city’s smallest nightclub, and the outdoor dining area pretty much always feels like a Taiwanese-beer-fueled St. Marks party. 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. Nothing on the menu costs over $20, so this is a great spot for an affordable meal with a couple of friends.

The original Lhasa in Jackson Heights is one of our favorite places in the city to eat momos, specifically of the beef and chive variety. So if you live anywhere near Lower Manhattan, consider Lhasa’s new East Village location a blessing. Like their original Jackson Heights spot (which tragically closed in 2021 because of a fire), Lhasa on 1st Avenue and 11th Street serves a menu of excellent round dumplings with both meat and vegetable fillings. You’ll also find some noodle dishes and thenthuk, a hearty soup with tons of beef and hand-ripped noodles. It’s understandably difficult to choose between momos here, so make it easy on yourself and get one of Lhasa’s combos. We particularly like the non-veg combo, which comes with eight lightly-crispy dumplings filled respectively with chicken, beef, and a mix of beef and chive.

The Bao review image

The Bao

$$$$212-388-9238
Hours:SATURDAY12:00PM to 11:00PM

This St. Marks institution serves a menu full of Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, and Taiwanese specialties. But your focus should be the namesake xiao long bao with nearly-translucent skin. The pork and spicy wasabi pork varieties (with a thinner skin and a bit less soup than what you’d find at Joe’s or other Chinatown faves) both have an extra-savory meatiness that nicely compliments the light broth. If you’re looking to expand beyond the classics, The Bao offers a whole variety of soup dumpling flavors like “super spicy xiao long bao,” salted egg yolk, semi-sweet black sesame, and pork and black truffle.

12 Great Xiao Long Bao In NYC guide image

NYC Guide

12 Great Xiao Long Bao In NYC

You can buy a lot of things for $60. A new pair of Converse, for example. Or a huge set of high-end colored pencils with which to create amateur portraits of your friends and family. But none of those things would bring as much joy as the $60 omakase at Sushi By M. The quality of the fish here is top-notch, and the omakase comes with 12 pieces of things like seared albacore, creamy scallop, and wagyu with uni. The tiny space is also about as casual as a kitchen counter at a friend’s house, and at the end of your meal, you’ll have the option to pay $18 more for a handroll stuffed with waygu, seared toro, and two types of uni. Eat it all in one bite.

Great breakfast burritos are a rarity in this city, and this Pueblan counter-service spot does them extremely well. Theirs are packed tight with steamy scrambled eggs, black beans galore, onions, peppers, and jack cheese to bind everything together. The morning is our preferred time to visit this small, cash-only bakery, but their tortas and tamales with mole poblano are worth trying, too.

There’s plenty of great Szechuan food in the East Village. But Málà Project’s dry pot specialties make it the most remarkable Szechuan spot for an in-person dining experience in the neighborhood. One night, you could come for 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, four different kinds of mushrooms, and frog. No matter how many times you eat here, the spicy dry pot always feels exciting. This is one of the absolute best places to celebrate a birthday in the East Village.

Raku’s udon works for any mood. The hot, miso-based tantan, for example, is the spicy porky cure to a hard day at work. And the refreshing yamakake cold udon with mountain yam and bonito flakes is what you want when it’s 85 degrees out. While one of these giant pots is definitely enough for a full meal, the small plates are great, too. We recommend sharing a bowl of udon and getting a few other things, like lemony chicken tatsuta-age or the spicy cucumber salad. This is a good spot for a low-key date, or a quick solo meal—as long as you bring cash. The biggest perk: It’s usually easy to get a table even on weekends.

This Japanese fish market on St. Marks Place in the East Village offers sushi-grade fish like fatty bluefin tuna belly, as well as sushi-making classes that make for great splurgy experiential gifts. But our favorite way to use this spot—which has a sister location in East Williamsburg—is for takeout. Not only are the octopus-studded chirashi bowls and 8-piece nigiri sets as fresh and remarkable as you’d rightfully expect from a sushi-grade fish emporium, but they’re also fairly priced. Give them a call and place an order for lunch or early dinner the next time you decide buttery, marbled otoro sounds more appealing than an arugula-hummus wrap.

A delicious fried chicken sandwich from Bobwhite Counter on Avenue C will cost you roughly the same amount of money as a large bubble tea. This sandwich is about as simple and straightforward as fried chicken concoctions get, with crispy breast blanketed by two or three bread and butter pickles and a swipe of mayo, served on a lightly toasted roll. You can also just get a bucket with 10 pieces of fried chicken for about $20. Regardless of your choice, come to this Avenue C institution for Southern food that’ll make you wish there were chicken-and-biscuit-flavored toothpaste, so you could fall asleep with that taste still in your mouth.

The Serbian menu at this Avenue C spot consists of things like pork schnitzel, lamb shank, and chicken liver rolled in bacon. So, yes, the food is definitely on the heavier side, but it’s very good, and there are a bunch of non-meat things like cheese pie, mashed potatoes, and various salads. It’s great for a weeknight when you need to catch up with a friend, and it works well for a fun Friday night out where you’re aiming to spend around $30. Get a table in the dark, brick-walled dining room, order some Serbian wine, and eat something like a big patty of ground beef stuffed with cheese.

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. It comes with a combination of filet mignon and brisket, and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it for at least 32 hours.

Ruffian review image
8.2

Ruffian

$$$$
Hours:SATURDAY5:00PM to 12:00AM

Ruffian is worth visiting just for the wine. With over 250 mostly-natural options organized into categories like “Beach Sipping,” “Stoop Sipping,” “Rootsy” and “Kool-Aid,” this is one of the best places to drink and learn about wine in the entire city. That said, you could also go to Ruffian just for the vegetarian food. The menu constantly changes, but all of the of Mediterranean-leaning dishes are shareable.

Mama Fina’s is officially named Mama Fina’s House of Sisig. And that’s probably because the sisig here is what you should prioritize. The pork one is our favorite, but they serve delicious chicken and milkfish options as well. The setup here is a bit confusing: You order at a counter and then go sit in a dining room that looks a place where highly-regarded knights would eat during the Renaissance period. But the Filipino food makes Mama Fina’s well worth knowing about for a casual group dinner near Tompkins Square Park.

Where To Eat Sisig In NYC guide image

NYC Guide

Where To Eat Sisig In NYC

Oiji is a great Korean restaurant that’s good to keep in mind if you have a last-minute date. It’s in a dark room with brick walls and a bar in the corner, and we’ve usually had luck walking in without a reservation and getting a table. Get the fried chicken and the ssam platter, and don't leave without trying the vanilla ice cream with honey butter potato chips. It’s a huge portion, but if you say please, they might halve it for you. In other words, you have no excuse not to try this.

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 be on a Sunday evening for a large quantity of homemade pasta and some red wine. There are always exciting-sounding specials, but you can also rely on the gnocchi and aforementioned excellent spaghetti al limone. Just know that they only accept cash.

There are a lot of things we look for in a group-dinner restaurant, and Thursday Kitchen has most of them. It’s a fun, casual restaurant where you can get a glowing drink in a pouch shaped like a Capri Sun, and the menu consists of a bunch of shareable small plates, none of which cost more than $20. The only real downside is this place doesn’t take reservations, and there’s pretty much always a wait. So get here early, and be sure to order the steak and soft shell crab.

If you’re looking for a place to have a group dinner, Huertas checks off many boxes. You can actually get in, you can sit in a comfortable booth, and, most importantly, Huertas serves consistently good Spanish food. The majority of the tapas dishes here are big enough for you to share and get more than a single piece of an octopus tentacle. (We especially like the saffron rice with shrimp and bacon.) One last box that Huertas checks is that there’s an off-menu hot dog. It definitely isn’t Spanish, but you should probably get two.

Your family is coming to visit, and you need a dinner spot in the East Village where they can ask about wine pairings without hearing about lunar cycles and Gaia Theory. Go to Hearth, which feels calmer than most spots in the neighborhood. There’s a quiet, spacious dining room, a great wine list, and American-Italian food that focuses on sustainable and housemade ingredients. After you share some wine, garlicky calamari, and gnocchi, your family will temporarily stop asking why you live in a 300 square foot walk-up in Alphabet City.

The 23 Best Burgers In NYC guide image

NYC Guide

The 23 Best Burgers In NYC

The original Joe & Pat’s is in Staten Island, and it’s known for its cracker-y crust. And the pizzas at the East Village location are just as good as the original. We especially like the vodka pie with cheese that mixes into the sauce like a tie-dye shirt, but there’s a whole bunch of non-pizza items too, like baked clams and pasta. Even though the thin-crust pies here are incredible, it’s not usually too hard to get a table.

The 24 Best Pizza Places In NYC guide image

NYC Guide

The 24 Best Pizza Places In NYC

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