The last two summers I have lived and spent most of my time in the Lower East Side (LES). I am not too sure what LES is considered now, to the people who have been here longer and some places say that it is the area south of 14th street on the east side. I would roughly say it is the area below 14th street, east of University and Sara Roosevelt park, north of two bridges, and also east of NoHo. Now its probably known more as the East Village plus Alphabet City plus LES.
I really enjoyed living here for many reasons. There were not too many tourists and cars, there are a lot of little parks and trees lining the streets unlike most of Manhattan, theres a good night life, lots of great old and new restaurants, and there are always people out and about doing things at all hours of the day. The style of a lot of the architecture is very unique, and reminds me of the architecture style that Carlo Ratti would call open source or democratic, a style that was slowly developed and took on its form over time with many inputs of people.
I always loved Anthony Bourdains shows and him as a person, and I found out after he died that he also lived in the LES, and would probably call this area his home/turf. The last episode of Parts Unknown, published post-suicide, was the LES episode. The episode featured a lot of people from the time he was living there before he got too famous it seems. In a similar fashion to his perfect day in the lower east side, I am also going to write about some of my favorite places to visit here.
This is my favorite place in NYC. Jamie does not really give a shit about reviews, so I am not going to write anything here really, so you should just go.
Angel’s Share is a Japanese cocktail bar, hidden behind Village Yokocho as the door of what looks like a house inside the yakitori place. Every drink I have got here has been great, and some are pretty mindblowing how good they are. There is a big ass painting of some angel baby in the night sky above the bar. The bar itself is lined with a lot of bottles, but the coolest part is it is lit underneath with a light which shines through all the bottles. The window overlooks one of the few non-right-angled streets here. The people making the drinks here (not sure what the proper occupation name is) are entertaining to watch how fast and precise they are at making the drinks as well. Theres a few cool drinks that use a blowtorch and also smoke as well. Everytime I have been there is a rush when it opens and then at normal bar hours there is a massive line, so it is still pretty popular.
My favorite restaurant in NYC. A 24 hour Ukranian diner that makes a perfect breakfast. You can get 2 eggs, a potato pancake, and a piece of toast for 8 bucks. I have eaten about 1/5th of the menu, but I usually end up just getting breakfast food. I went here for a week straight at about midnight, and the staff was confused as to why I just got breakfast food everytime.
A fairly new Nordic eatery. The restaurant design is very calming and homey. They have a lot of really good smørrebrøds, which seems like just stuff on a big piece of rye bread. The hangover sandwich is amazing too. The prices here are affordable, the dishes are cool, and its a great restaurant for some flavors you never really see often in NYC.
A Japanese kissaten with a few seats. It is a coffee shop and breakfast/lunch place during the day, and at night it turns in a sake bar with Japanese bar food. Its a great place for two people to go to and get some good drinks and bites.
A new Vietnamese restaurant that opened up recently. The restaurant represents many different aspects of Vietnamese cuisine which is usually just known for pho, but it is much more than that. Vietnam has very unique regional food and amazing street food as well. The regional food is from Huê, Hanôi, and Saigòn. The prices are pretty affordable right now, but they are definitely shooting for the Michelin guide. I have had a good amount of the dishes so far, and I would give them 1/4 a star if that was a thing right now. I think a set menu with more courses, smaller portions, better vegetarian options, and better drink pairing for dishes would help get them that star. However for now, I recommend taking advantage of the location and getting the garlic fried rice and especially the corn. Going with a group allows you to take advantage of family style eating and try more of the menu.
I went here for the first time to really try some tea, and I was really pleased with my experience. Can get a pot of tea for a good price, but the best part is the place itself. It really does not feel like you are in NYC anymore, but some tea house not even in a city. The desserts here as well have taken off, and they opened a desert shop a few doors down from the tea house as well. Coming here during off hours with a book is ideal, but finding the off hours is something I have not figured out yet since it is so popular.
There a few places that do yakitori in the LES, but this is my favorite. They play a mix of Korean, American, Spanish, and Japanese music. They have a massive and well priced yakitori menu, but they do most of the comfort Japanese foods as well. They have great draft beer prices (comes in 16oz, can get fucked up on beer for cheap. My favorite skewer type is by far chicken skin, since it is my favorite part of fried chicken. Also, the sauce they coat each of the skewers with is the best out of the places I have been to so far.
Matyus showed me this place. It is a book store that sells all sorts of “new york hippie intellectual artsy shit” (not sure how to describe it). Basically, there are a lot of cool books on everything like philosophy, novels, essays, architecture, design, photography, politics, new york, etc. I saw a book on breathing colors in yoga, Japanese house design, gay couples in NYC in the late 90s, poorly drawn penises, the Origins of Totalitarianism, a Japanese book on color pairings, and some more stuff.
The best fried chicken I have had so far. The skin is perfectly crispy, they offer a boneless option, and the Pelicana sauce is the tastiest sauce I have ever had. The half size can feed 2 average people as well, so it is not even that expensive
An obvious thing to say, but a must. I always stroll through Tompkins when I can because you never know what you will see. Some things are a regular, like the skateboarders and the street hockey players (hopefully the city does not build turf over this, most new yorkers prefer watching skateboarders anyway). However, you might still catch an impromptu rock concert, blue grass music, or jazz. You might catch David and his great shirts.
Barely making it in location wise, this is a great Chinese bakery to swing by when in the area. Everything they have is phenomenal and priced very low. My go to thing to get is a watermelon slushie and a sweet bun or egg tart.
A very well known place for vegetarians and vegans, but as someone who eats meat I go here once in awhile to get something light and good tasting. The burger is not immitating meat, but its standing out as its own type of vegetable patty with its unique flavor. The sorbet gelato flavors change, but they are always a combo of sweet and savory.
A Japanese cafe that serves food all day. I have only gone for breakfast, and the two things that stand out here to me is the coffee and the toast. They have massive fluffy pieces of toast that taste so good, but they only make 1 of each kind a day. The coffee as well is great, and its the only place I have been that serves coffee jelly in the coffee as well (they used to serve the coffee jelly as a dessert, but no longer). The cafe itself is also a very nice design, fitting that LES look.
A Korean coffee shop with really interesting menu items. The coffee here has flavors that I have never really seen at most places, but the thing that blows my mind is the egg cappuccino.
A new-American restaurant in Alphabet City that I only found out about skating past it. They have an amazing goat cheese dish and a great organic beef burger (not usually pretentious sounding, but it was really good). The interior was white brick and matches my outfit as well. The (bartender/server/manager? its a small restaurant) asked me “Are you happy?” when I finished my meal, big if true, but definitely was in the moment after eating that food. She was probably one of the nicest people I met though.