Going out to eat in the East Village is a New York City pastime, just like observing the weirdly aggressive squirrels in Washington Square Park or watching the Jets implode upon themselves. So you’ve probably been to a good number of restaurants in the neighborhood, and there are probably some you keep going back to. But that isn’t what you’ll find on this list. This guide has a bunch of places that don’t get as much attention as they should, and it’ll help you find some new spots to become a regular. Think of it as an advanced course to restaurants in the East Village, and start studying.
You’ve probably heard people talking about The Izakaya without even realizing it. Such is the power of an incredibly generic name. This place is, in fact, a little izakaya in the East Village, and it’s a bright, minimalist space with plain white walls decorated with a couple of hats (for some reason). But as unremarkable as it might appear, the food is surprisingly delicious. The thick-cut salmon sashimi, for example, comes in chunks the size of 12-sided dice, which is officially how we’d like to eat all of our raw fish from now on. Plus, you can always get a table here pretty easily.
Kafana is not where you go when you want to order a bowl of lettuce and temporarily feel like a deer, a turtle, or something else that eats leaves. This Serbian restaurant is for when you want a heavy, satisfying plate of food that will most likely involve an excessive amount of meat. There’s pork schnitzel, lamb stew, pork neck, and an abundance of other good, meaty things, including a juicy burger stuffed with cheese (and served without a bun). Plus, there are lots of Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian wine, and the candlelit space is the perfect place to camp out with a few friends for an hour or two.
Of all the restaurants in the East Village, Uminoie might be the one that feels the most like someone’s home. It’s a long, narrow space in the bottom of an apartment building on 4th Street, the menus are handwritten and taped together like summer camp arts and crafts projects, and all the food comes out of a tiny kitchen located directly behind the bar. The menu is pretty small, but expect things like monkfish liver in ponzu, an eel omelette, and massive chunks of pork belly in a rich, salty broth. And be sure to drink some sake or shochu with whatever you order.
Good food is, of course, our top priority when we go to a restaurant. But we also appreciate a good BYOB situation - and, fortunately, Sigiri has both of these things. Sure, it’s often stuffed with tinsel and string lights like some of its neighbors, but where else can you get some great Sri Lankan food like string hopper kothu and crab fried rice here. So bring a bottle of wine, go to an ATM (it’s cash-only), and stop by when you decide you’re sick of Lil Frankies.
Another BYOB spot, Uluh is a Chinese restaurant on 2nd Avenue that looks like somewhere you’d get bottle service and sing along to some Halsey at 2am. But really, you come to this big, dimly lit place where the music tends to be loud for a BYOB tea party. And if you know what to order in addition to tea, you can have a great meal here. Start with some scallion pancakes and mapo tofu, and be sure to get the fish stew with mushrooms and pickled cabbage.
Black Emperor mostly just looks like a neighborhood spot where you’d grab a beer with a friend and hide from the world for a bit while watching some sports on TV. But this dark, Japanese-themed cocktail bar on 2nd Ave serves some excellent cocktails as well as a burger that deserves several minutes of your undivided attention. It comes with a massive patty, a squishy sesame bun, and some kimchi mayo that should be available by the pound. And if you don’t want an enormous hunk of beef, there’s a smaller version with two thin patties.
Do you enjoy bread and cheese? If so, Oda House is a spot that you’ll appreciate. After a few meals here, you might even start to think of this place when you wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night. And, in large part, you’ll probably be thinking about the Georgian cheesy bread known as khachapuri. There are about 10 different kinds on the menu, including the boat-shaped one with an egg in the middle known as khachapuri adjaruli. But that’s just how you start a meal here, and you can finish with any number of tasty things like some lamb kebabs or pinto bean stew with pork belly and a dense chunk of cornbread.
Pretty much any bodega will make you a BEC or an egg salad sandwich. But only Sunny & Annies will make you a sandwich with kimchi and bulgogi or a pho sandwich with roast beef and hoisin. Those are only two of the many creative (and delicious) sandwiches you can get here, and if you also need a toothbrush and a pint of ice cream, you can get those things too. Because this is a bodega.
You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but we aren’t perfect. Sometimes, we forget about restaurants - like Van Da, for example. This Vietnamese spot on 4th Street is a great place for some cocktails and a few small plates, and it often slips our mind. But it’s a great spot to impress a date or an out-of-towner, especially if you forgot to make a reservation elsewhere. It’s a two-story space with a small upstairs dining room and a basement that feels like a downtown art gallery that was converted into a lounge, and the menu is split up into little sections dedicated to various regions of Vietnam. We suggest you split a bunch of things like the short rib grilled cheese (that comes with a side of dipping broth) and the crispy mochi dumplings.
Ichibantei is an extremely casual Japanese spot on 13th street that stays open until 3am almost every night. So the next time you leave a bar at 1am and feel as though your life would be benefit from a plate of karaage, come here. It’s a small spot with a few communal tables and some vinyl records on the walls, and the brief menu consists of things like donburi, tonkatsu, and grilled tuna steak. And pretty much everything is less than $20.
If we were hanging out with an alien and a chicken, there are many ways we could try to explain to the alien how good the chicken could taste. But a meal at Frangos would be the most efficient. This Portuguese spot makes some seriously good peri peri chicken (with a variety of sauces), and they do something called “wing roulette” that involves 12 wings covered in different sauces of varying spice levels. It’s a great spot for a weeknight meal, and it’s somewhere you might wind up eating once a week if you live nearby.
It’s possible you’ve spent several nights eating Indian food in the East Village with string lights in your face and a loud 21st birthday party next to you. But Malai Marke is better and calmer than any of those places on 1st Ave. Whether you’re a vegan or you eat more meat than a lion cub, the vegetable dishes should be your focus here. We especially like the vindaloo from the “spicy club” section of the menu, as well as the rich chana masala.