Pioneered by kindergarteners, snack time is now fundamental to the human experience. And since many of us are working from our apartments these days, snacking has taken on greater meaning. It’s a chance to get outside, stretch your legs, and heed the calls of the 3pm sun, all while eating something delicious. If you’re in the East Village and looking to take a break from your work day, here are our favorite spots in the neighborhood to pick up a quick bite to eat. They’re all open starting around lunchtime, and make it easy for you to grab and go.
At this Dominican Bakery on East 3rd Street, you don’t have to choose between a snack that’s purely savory or sweet - you can have both, without spending more than $10. They make cakes, a light and juicy morir soñando, and plump sugar donuts that often sell out before the end of the day. But don’t ignore the buffet station dedicated to things like stewing pollo guisado and pernil, as well as crispy pastelitos filled with ground beef and partially melted queso cubes. Grab a pastelito, a donut, and maybe a tiny container of red beans, and make your way to Tompkins Square Park to watch a person play electric bass and a community of pigeons feast on Wonder Bread for 15 minutes.
It’s your duty as an East Village dweller to identify the coffee shops that will guide you through this harsh world. For me, one of those places is Abraço - an espresso kingdom that’s been on East 7th Street since 2007. Along with your biting, chocolate-y espresso (you’re getting one, it’s not optional), pick up a slice of olive oil cake, which is so moist it could almost be an olive oil brownie in disguise. The pastry menu here changes every day, but you can always find this bad boy on the menu.
This St. Marks institution serves a menu full of Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, and Taiwanese specialty dishes. But your focus for snacking should be the xiao long bao with delicate, nearly-translucent skin and a loose, light-brothed center. Our favorites are the pork and the pork-and-crab varieties, both of which have a meatiness that nicely contrasts the thin broth. You can call ahead and order them starting at 11:30am every day, and you should eat these soup dumplings quickly on your stoop before you climb five stories to your apartment since they’re best hot.
A trip to Zaragoza should be motivated by three factors. First, this Mexican grocery and deli serves hearty corn tortilla tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that will hold you over between a leisurely 1pm hummus-lunch and an “oh sh*t I forgot dinner” at 9pm. Second, it’s where you can pick up tamarind-coated sour straws, Jarritos, and plenty of other Mexican snacks. And finally, there’s a friendly orange-and-black bodega cat who lives here and wants to be pet. I see no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy all three factors at once.
You may be asking yourself, as I have done many times before, “is a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich a snack?” That depends: do you let the position of the sun dictate your life? Do you enjoy breakfast foods as Denny’s intended them to be eaten - all day long? Once you’ve come to the right conclusion, head to Sunny & Annie’s and snack on a fluffy roll congealed together by eggs and American cheese. This 24-hour bodega on Avenue B makes an inordinate number of giant sandwiches, often named after celebrities and politicians. If you don’t want a BEC, try a phở-themed sandwich with roast beef and hoisin sauce, or the BLT wrap with avocado, cheddar, and sprouts.
When you can no longer tolerate rapid messages from Daniel on the accounts team, stop by the Yellow Rose takeout window for a bean and cheese taco. This 3rd Avenue takeout spot serves central Texan food, including some fantastic flour tortillas that could qualify as a snack on their own. Yellow Rose’s freshly-pressed tortilla are blistered, chewy, and adhere to their fillings without becoming soggy. Plus, they come wrapped tightly in tin foil, which is ideal for traveling. The bean and cheese is our favorite, but all the tacos are delicious.
This Kosher lunch counter is the kind of classic New York place that makes us say, “goddammit I love B&H Dairy” every time we pass by. Their breakfast and lunch menus are extensive, but for a one-order snack, we like to go with their pierogies. Get them filled with potato or sauerkraut and mushroom, and you’ll spend your afternoon living in a sour cream-allium-filled paradise.
Like its Jackson Heights sister spot, Lhasa on 1st Avenue and 11th Street serves a menu of Tibetan momos with both meat and vegetable fillings, and doughy-thick wrappers. When it comes to choosing a snack, make it easy on yourself and get one of Lhasa’s combos. I always go for the non-veg combo, which comes with eight lightly-crisped dumplings filled respectively with chicken, beef, and beef and chive.
A bar-certified lawyer once told me that bubble tea counts as a snack because you have to chew in order to consume it. So it must be true. You can see for yourself at neighborhood bubble tea places like Kung Fu, Bubbleology, Hawa, and Original Nicky’s, or at this Taiwanese fruit tea chain. Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea lets you endlessly customize your drink, from the sugar percentage to the temperature (they even have an option for room temperature tea). Plus, you can top your iced tea with salted cream. If you’ve never tried it, allow this salty-sweet dairy fever dream to be yet another inspiration to take a snack break this week.
While it’s a great place to remember if you ever need to pick up a box of rainbow cookies for a housewarming party or to apologize to someone for being a jerk, Veniero’s is just as wonderful for a solo snack at 2pm on a weekday. We particularly like their classic cannoli with ricotta and mini chocolate chips mixed in because the pastry filling tastes floral (in a good way), since it’s made with citrus rinds and cinnamon. Eating one will get you through any insufferable meeting that could have been an email.
A delicious fried chicken sandwich from Bobwhite Counter on Avenue C will cost you roughly the same amount of money as a bubble tea ($6.59). This sandwich is about as simple and straightforward as fried chicken concoctions get, with crispy breast layered with two or three bread and butter pickles and a swipe of mayo, served on a lightly toasted roll. We’re putting this time-tested sandwich in the snack category because the one from Bobwhite is fairly petite.
Before H Mart came to the East Village, there was Sunrise Mart - a Japanese grocery store on Stuyvesant Street where you can get cookies from Hokkaido, uni, matcha powder, and several different Kit Kats flavors. We love to walk here and pick up everything from wasabi sesame crackers to a couple of reheatable shumai. Plus, you have to take an elevator to get to the store, which is the closest thing you can get to riding a roller coaster while your Slack emoji is still green.
Ray’s Candy Store offers soft serve snack support all year round. A statement that, when said among the right company, might be enough to make a grown-ass person cry. This classic, cash-only spot off Tompkins Square Park has walls covered with newspaper articles and pictures of all the different things you can order - from ice cream served in a coffee cup to fried Oreos. Ray himself, who’s owned the place since the 1970s, will likely be there when you stop by, so make sure to wave hello. When ordering your soft serve, stick to the classics - chocolate, vanilla, or swirl.
Hawa has a couple of locations around the city. But if you’re in the East Village, the closest is on 14th Street. (Or possibly their spot on Delancey). Their smoothies are reliable enough to convert non-smoothie and non-juice believers alike, and even their large drinks cost around $8. If you’re into customizing, you can tell them exactly what you want in yours or choose from one of their preset acai bowls, smoothies, or juices. We usually get their spicy green juice, which keeps us from making reckless typos on guides like this.