Next up in my NYC Neighborhood Guide series is the Lower East Side! Manhattan's Lower East Side may have a bit of a not-so-great past, but in the last few years it's become the go-to hood for trendy food places, great bars, and millennials paying too much money for teeny tiny apartments. With all of the hole-in-the-wall places that line the streets, it's highly unlikely that you'll ever hit all of the best spots. Here are some of my favorites that you can't miss if you visit the LES.
Started by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton (who also made a Prune cookbook), Prune is one of those places that makes you feel like you’ve been let in on a New York secret. The space is small, the service is fast, and the food is next-level. Get there right at 10AM on Saturday and Sunday before the lines to ensure you get a taste of this brunch.
Do yourself a favor and be sure to brunch at Dirty French. Tucked inside the Ludlow Hotel, this Lower East locale serves up delicious classics like Eggs Benny along with delicious juices and coffees. If you can grab a seat in the patio area, it’ll make everything taste just a little bit better.
The first time I went to Hotel Chantelle was actually for a sorority formal (perks of going to school in NYC) but as soon as I heard that they served up a mean brunch, I knew I'd have to go back. There's an entire section of the menu called Eggs Ben-Addicts, so I'll just leave you with that.
If you like vintage decor and pink tabletops, look no further than Cafe Henrie. Whether you grab an acai bowl or some avo toast, you’ll enjoy popping into this restaurant on Forsyth street for some delightfully delicious brunch.
This tiny storefront on Essex street has a little window bench that you can perch on while you sip on your matcha latte but for what it lacks in seating it makes up for in cute cups, friendly baristas, and a neon sign in the shape of the company’s logo—a very grumpy face.
If you’d like a mani and massage with your morning cup of joe then Chillhouse is definitely your spot. This adorable (read: Instagrammable) cafe doubles as a nail and massage salon for some of NYC’s coolest girls. Whether you’re writing a blog post from your laptop or relieving tension from your shoulders, you’ll leave with a smile on your face.
This hidden gem is a great place to grab a coffee with a friend. You can grab a seat at one of their high-top tables and admire the bespeckled coffee bar counter as you sip on their scrumptious house blend.
When I picture my ideal coffee shop, I picture Spreadhouse. With gorgeous carpets, comfy chairs that you can plop in, and frothy lattes, this is a place that I could work in for hours. Free WiFi and a clean bathroom take this laid-back spot to the next level.
It’s called Pizza Beach...what more do you want to know? Well, okay. I recommend going with a few friends and splitting a couple of pies—the pink vodka pizza and the margherita should be on your list—and also treating yourself to a glass of frose to accompany your delicious ‘za.
As in, the place I book year after year for restaurant week because the food is so damn good. This American eatery is always serving up yummy dishes from steak to seafood. If you get there early enough, be sure to indulge in their happy hour with dollar oysters and half price drinks.
Beauty & Essex
For globally inspired small plates and all around cool decor, you've got to check out Beauty & Essex. Enter through the pawn shop and make your way to the restaurant or the lounge, depending on the time of day to indulge in the innovative dishes.
I've only been here once but I still occasionally have dreams about the sandwich that I got. This spot on Rivington is perfect to pop into at any time of day, but if you're looking for a bit more of a fast casual meal, you'll definitely want to check it out. Get yourself a grilled chicken po'boy before you head out for the evening.
When you enter La Caverna (translates to “the cave”) you have to go deep downstairs into the dimly lit bar. The sculpted walls really do make the bar look and feel like a cave. Enter before 10PM to enjoy a cocktail or a beer with your friends, or show up later on for when people pack in and make every inch of the space into a dance floor.
The Back Room
If you want to travel back in time to experience a piece of NYC history, then you have to check out The Back Room. It’s best to go with someone who’s been there before, as the entrance is veerrry hidden since this was one of only two speakeasies functioning through Prohibition. Put your phone away and enjoy your cocktail—served in a teacup for stealth purposes—like it’s 1921.
One and One
I like to think of One and One (located on 1st Ave and 1st St) as a step above Hair of the Dog but a step below a full-on LES club. Stop by on a weekend and take your pick: on the ground floor it’s a packed bar with music blaring and beer on tap, and in the basement a DJ and a dance floor await you. Whatever your vibe, fun is pretty much guaranteed.
Loreley Beer Garden
If you're a beer guy or gal, you’ll love the Loreley Beer Garden. You can pop in late at night for a pint or two or come by earlier for bratwurst and pretzels. I recommend getting a seat at a table either inside or on their outdoor heated patio right before it picks up at night—that way you can munch and drink to your heart’s desire.
If the Instagrammable facade of Sel Rrose doesn’t draw you in, the happy hour sure will. This dreamy spot off of Delancey is the Upper East Sider's answer to downtown drinks. Named after Rrose Sélavey, the female alter ego of Marcel Duchamp, Sel Rrose features French-focused bites. Stop in here for some oysters and white wine—or one of their cocktail concoctions—and stay a while.
At Soft Swerve, it’s all about the presentation—but it doesn’t hurt that the ice cream is as delicious as it is cute. Whether you go for ube or matcha, chocolate cone or red velvet cone, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the sweet that they serve up here. Or go for one of their pre-made combos for some no-fail flavor. For extra pizazz, top your cone off with some Fruity Pebbles.
If the standard ice cream flavors don’t cut it, you have to stop by Morgenstern's, arguably an LES staple. From their unique flavors (my favorite is charcoal but be warned it WILL turn your tongue black) to their beautiful shop, this ice creamery will have you scream for ice cream, and likely return for more.
Admittedly I’ve only tried these at Smorgasburg, but I am determined to make a pit stop at the Wowfulls Houston street location sometime in summer 2018. They serve up Hong Kong style waffles with ice cream all of the toppings you could imagine. What's not to like?
What's your favorite LES spot?