The Lower East Side is one of the best neighborhoods to eat in New York City, not simply because the restaurants are good, but because there are so many different kinds of them. Want a classic New York sandwich? Covered. An avant garde tasting menu? Again, covered. A party time scene for your birthday? Covered. An excellent vegetarian restaurant? That too. These are our favorites.
Contra serves a constantly changing tasting menu for $67, and it's not just the best on the Lower East Side, it's one of the best in the city. For interesting, unusual, sometimes weird-but-in-a-good-way food that won't bankrupt you, there is no better place to go than Contra.
A new small plates restaurant from the people behind Contra, Wildair is a great restaurant for a night out with friends. Assuming your friends are into things like beef tartare with smoked cheddar. It's not Contra 2.0, but it's a very good option nonetheless.
The original Russ & Daughters is an over-100-year-old institution, but it had one major flaw: nowhere to sit. The new nearby cafe has both seating and an extensive menu that adds eggs, platters, and even alcohol to the usual bagel and smoked salmon.
Simply put, some of the best ramen in New York, with an excellent outdoor patio to boot. The non-ramen portion of the menu - from meatballs to pastrami buns - is worth trying out as well.
The biggest icon of them all. Order pastrami, maybe a matzoh ball soup and fries, don't lose your ticket. Repeat.
Dinner at Mission Chinese is some of the most fun you have at a meal in New York right now. The menu is primarily made up of mouth-numbing Chinese food, but you can also order a pizza or a platter of oysters. All of this takes place in a big, incredibly fun room. Yes, the waits can be long, but come with a group, order a few rounds of Mission's "General Tso Old Fashioneds," and you'll be just fine.
Tiny place, tiny menu, incredible (and not tiny) sandwiches. The fried chicken on a biscuit and po boy are among the best you can find.
Think of Dimes as the global headquarters of hot people eating bowls of vaguely healthy food. And then know that all of that food - from grain bowls to acai bowls to a definitely not healthy egg sandwich - is excellent.
There are a number of restaurants on Essex Street that function as venues for drunken birthday parties. All things considered, most of them are... well... kind of the worst. But not Tijuana Picnic. The Mexican food is good, the space is cool, and it's generally a great time. Planning a group dinner for 10? Plan it here.
Dirt Candy has been known as the best, most inventive vegetarian restaurant in town for years. They recently moved to a bigger, shinier space and expanded to a bigger, shinier menu. It's still excellent. Make sure to order the Brussels sprouts tacos. Please trust us that they are better than they sound.
By day, El Rey is an order-at-the-counter coffee shop serving pastries and salads. At night, it's a seated, table service (but still extremely casual) restaurant with dishes like mole with burrata and marinated chorizo with orange zest. We enjoy it at any hour.
A legendary breakfast counter in the Essex Street Market serving psychotic inventions like mac and cheese pancakes, run by an infamous dude who will yell at you if you ask for a substitution or come with more than four people. It's an experience.
Most Japanese soba restaurants are serious, hushed places. Cocoron is the opposite - it's tiny, noisy, and the menu is cartoon manga characters. In other words, it's great. The restaurant also has a bigger location a few blocks over in Nolita, which helps disperse the crowds. Order a "dip soba" - cold noodles that you dip into a little boiling flavorful hot pot.
Originally a Smorgasburg pop-up, Goa tacos are served on paratha, a thick and flaky Indian flatbread. The fillings are a fusion of everything from Indian to Mexican to Vietnamese flavors. Open until midnight on weekdays and 2 am on weekends, Goa now serves one of the best late night snacks on the Lower East Side.