When in New York City, take time to check out the Lower East Side. Known for its rich cultural history, the Lower East Side houses a mix of upscale and eclectic, trendy, chic, and innovative. Here is where the Old World meets New World, and the many cultures weave together for a beautiful community.
The Lower East Side was once a haven for immigrants, and that diversity remains in shops, building styles, and restaurants. Whether you’re seeking French cuisine, New American, Mediterranean, or Japanese, there’s no shortage of options.
When I’m looking for a meal, I love a good appetizer, but mostly I look for restaurants with a sense of community. The Lower East Side delivers. Here’s a list of my favorite and the best restaurants in the Lower East Side.
Souvlaki GR is another adorable Greek restaurant on the corner of Essex and Stanton Streets. It’s easy to recognize with the bright blue doors and cute patio dining.
The island of Mykonos inspired it just off the Greek isles. Souvlaki takes the taste of the Aegean Sea and the charm of old-world Greece and transports you through the heart of the Lower East Side. It’s a journey worth taking for sure.
I loved the Garides Saganaki. Their perfectly sautéed shrimp with feta cheese, tomato sauce, and ouzo tastes like it was hand-delivered from the Greek isles.
142 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Wildair sits in the heart of the Lower East Side, not far from the Tenement Museum, and is described as a casual wine bar, serving sophisticated American food in a calm environment.
Wildair opened as an extension of the restaurant Contra with a more relaxed atmosphere. The menu is unique and exciting, with unusual features you won’t see elsewhere in the city.
I love a good appetizer, and the Beef Tartare is no exception. With grass-fed beef, umeboshi, and walnut pesto, it has just the right amount of flavor to set the mood for dinner.
86 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
Cleverness is the first impression here at Dirt Candy, not far from Lion’s Gate Field, named so because vegetables are nature’s candy. Dirt Candy is the only vegetable restaurant in the city, and its award-winning chef Amanda Cohen uses the full range of vegetables for experiments in the kitchen.
Beyond their innovative menu, Dirt Candy steps up and treats their employees as the “essential” workers they are. They don’t take tips or add gratuity here – the price covers everything, including livable wages. Their five-course tasting menu ensures you’ll be satisfied.
Cucumber and caviar doughnuts with crème fraîche and “vegetable caviar” are amazing, and the pickled Napa cabbage roll with cauliflower dumplings and grilled savoy cabbage with sour mustard and chili oil filled my appetite. They’re delicious.
Authentic Mexican cuisine sits just off Essex St. at La Contenta, where food comes fresh with a French flair. Chef Luis Arce Mota shows off his Mexican heritage and French culinary training alongside fresh ingredients and superb customer service. The dining room is small, so reservations are a good idea, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and find an open table.
Mexican food isn’t dinner without guacamole, and La Contenta’s meals are perfect with mashed avocados and pico de gallo. You will love the Branzino Veracruz – braised branzino with veracruz sauce, mexican rice, and fried plantains.
138 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Right next door to Wildair is the mother-restaurant Contra. One Michelin Star and numerous accolades from around New York City promise that Contra is precisely the restaurant for your special night out.
Their menu is small, but the flavors are epic. The dining room has a classy-industrial feel to it, and you’ll want a reservation.
I loved the Boston Mackerel with sorrel, nasturtium, and heirloom tomatoes. Nasturtium has a flavor like radishes with a little bit of spice and complements the dish perfectly.
Freeman Alley, New York, NY 10002
Freemans Restaurant sits across from Sara D. Roosevelt Park, hidden in an alley waiting to be discovered. Freemans is what happens when you explore unused areas of town, and this restaurant, reminiscent of a colonial American Tavern, was born.
The ample dining area looks like a page out of history with taxidermied animals on display and dim ambiance. Freemans is a treasure you’ll be happy to find.
I highly recommend the Roasted Amish Chicken Breast with farro, baby turnips, grilled spring onions, and truffle butter. It’s moist, delicious, and savory.
Sami & Susu
190 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Spend some time in Peretz Square, then head over to Sami and Susu for delicious Mediterranean food. Their restaurant and store serve inspiration from the brilliant minds of Amir Nathan and Jordan Anderson.
Their unique blend of family history and locally sourced foods makes this a restaurant you will feel right at home in. Dining space is limited, but it is worth the wait.
I had Mom’s Chicken Soup with a matzo ball, chicken thighs, carrots, and dill. It was everything I’d hope for from a home-cooked meal. I took some Baba Ghanoush for later, and the charred eggplant and tahini mix was perfect.
Excuse My French
96 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Excuse My French brings a bit of Parisian flair to the Lower East Side with beautiful decor in its small space. Near the Tenement Museum and the Life in Theater Productions, you’ll find the perfect little old-world Paris Tapas bar.
With just the right amount of kitsch and class, the atmosphere sets the tone for the most delicious meal and a bit of escapism. Tapas are enough to share or keep for yourself.
I ordered the Croque Monsieur with ham, gruyère, béchamel, and salad. It was perfectly delightful, and I am so glad I tried this cute Tapas bar.
180 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
Paris itself waits around the block from E. Houston and Essex Streets in Dirty French, a gorgeous French bistro that’s as welcoming as it is fashionable.
Dirty French is the brainchild of Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick, who take classic French cuisine and spice it up with a bit of modern glamour. The Lobby Bar inside The Ludlow Hotel is a sister site with a limited menu and incredible drinks for a tasty nightcap.
I went for the Steak au Poivre with green peppercorn sauce, choosing the Hangar steak and pommes frites. The steak was tender and melted off the fork. – it was terrific.
79 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Cafe Katja’s beautiful red and white awning makes them hard to miss. Situated nicely between Broome and Grand Streets, this is where you’ll find contemporary Austrian and American food.
Cafe Katja is full of atmosphere and authenticity, making this one of the most incredible places to dine in the Lower East Side. Austrian cuisine never looked so good.
Brunch is the best way to start the day for those of us who like to sleep, and the Homemade Bratwurst with sauerkraut and fried fingerlings set me up for a fantastic day!
137 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002
Three words: deep-fried flatbreads. Langos is a deep-fried Hungarian dish. This adorable little Langos Bar just north of the Williamsburg Bridge offers a delightful combination of Langos, Spaetzle, salads, and dumplings, bringing a taste of Hungary into the heart of the Lower East Side.
Langos is street food, which is good because Langos Bar is too small to sit and enjoy your meal with friends. Pop in and grab your food to go, though, because you will not want to miss out!
The New York Langos was my favorite, with buffalo chicken, bacon, blue cheese, ranch, red onion, and garlic cheddar. I might have needed a breath mint after, but it was totally worth it.
102 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002
Matcha lattes for breakfast sound pretty impressive, and at Davelle, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge, that’s only the beginning. Like many restaurants in the area, Davelle is small – about the size of a studio apartment – but what it lacks in space makes up for in flavor.
Its all-day Japanese menu offers outdoor dining, a bar, and a few small tables. It’s a quaint little spot to enjoy your lunch.
I was lucky to find their seasonal menu with something I’d wanted to try but never had before: sea urchin. The Uni Spaghetti, sea urchin with tomato, radish sprouts, and soy sauce, was incredible. This restaurant was a real treasure to find.
152 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
On the corner of Suffolk and Stanton Streets, you’ll discover the most extraordinary Argentinean restaurant in NYC. Chef Fernando Navas takes the flavor and essence of Buenos Aires and creates a remarkable experience.
From traditional dishes to family-style plates, Balvanera has something to offer everyone. The name comes from an old Buenos Aires neighborhood where poets, musicians, and other artists gathered, and the restaurant’s spirit carries on that creative tradition.
The Milanesa de Pollo with breaded chicken, endives, and ranch dressing really did me in. The chicken was perfectly tender and delicious, and everything goes well with ranch dressing.
130 Division St, New York, NY 10002
Classic Greek cuisine lives on in the kitchen at Kiki’s, near Seward Park and St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church.
Don’t let the signage fool you – the building hosts a sign in Chinese but serves incredible Mediterranean food. Kiki’s family is Greek, and she cooks up fantastic home-style cooking with talent and simplicity.
The Grilled Octopus with lemon is by far the best octopus I’ve had in a while. It was perfectly cooked, just tender enough, and refreshing. Beyond that, the Saganaki was absolute perfection. It’s an appetizer but sweet, with phyllo dough and honey.
25 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002
This incredible Japanese ramen restaurant has its very own rags-to-ramen story.
Chef and owner Ivan dedicated his studies to the Japanese language, culture, and cuisine. He moved from Colorado to Tokyo, where he learned to cook traditional Japanese foods and eventually opened his restaurant.
In 2012, he returned to NYC and the Lower East Side and opened the critically acclaimed Ivan Ramen, where he shares that love of food with his customers daily. Ivan Ramen has been featured in the Netflix series Chef’s Table, making the restaurant even more famous.
The Tokyo Shoyu with soy sauce, dashi, chicken broth, pork belly, soft egg, and toasted nori was savory and so good.
144 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Italy is known for its brilliant food, and the Roman-inspired Trapizzino is no different. Located a block off Allen Street, near the Able Fine Art Gallery, NY, this casual Roman street food will fill you up.
Delicious, familiar, and internationally acclaimed, Trapizzino will be your new favorite street food. The dough takes around 30 hours to create, using a 200-year-old sourdough starter recipe and traditional Roman recipes.
If you want pasta, they have that, too, showing that Italian street food can stay relevant and delicious at the same time.
The Coda Alla Vaccinara with 9-hour braised oxtail, red wine, and tomato was savory and tender. I’ll be back for more!
Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002
After twenty years in business, Clinton St. Baking Company proves that classic baked goods are a staple in American cuisine. Word of mouth has been the best advertising, and I’m going to continue that trend here.
Clinton St. Baking Company offers incredible, sustainable goods from pancakes to hot jams, and they use local products in every house-made dish. Clinton St. Baking Company’s pancakes are such a hot-ticket item that the waiting line to dine here sometimes takes hours to clear.
Obviously, I had the pancakes. How could I not? It was hard to narrow down with so many options to choose from, but the blueberry pancakes won out and were completely worth the wait.
43 Canal St, New York, NY 10002
Cervo’s serves up Portuguese and Spanish-inspired cooking in their quaint oyster bar on the edge of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. This small space is an NYC hot spot, and it’s no wonder why. The atmosphere feels like a party, and the food is divine.
The restaurant’s popularity boomed during the pandemic as it opened up right on the street to continue serving customers. From Southern prawns to classy steamed clams, this seafood menu and its open kitchen are a must-see experience in NYC.
Everyone should try the Louisiana White Prawns, cooked to absolute perfection on la plancha, a giant metal flat-top grill. They’re flavored with a combination of lemon pepper and olive oil that’s light and crisp.
65 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002
Spend your day wandering the Lower East Side and the Able Fine Art NY Gallery, then pop on down the block for lunch at Sonnyboy.
This chic, modern Australian restaurant serves a mix of familiar and innovative dishes. Craving falafel? They have it. Thai salad? Yep, that, too. No matter what kind of meal you’re looking for, Sonnyboy has something that will fill your cravings.
I’m a sucker for a good burger, so I tried the Sonny Double Beef Burger with cheddar, lettuce, special sauce, a brioche bun, and fries. It was juicy and delightful, and the special sauce puts mainstream burger joints to shame.
72 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002
Cuban food never looked as good as Cibao on the corner of Rivington and Clinton Streets in the Lower East Side. La Lechonera opened in this spot in 1958, and over the years, grew into the incredible Cibao Restaurant featuring Dominican and Caribbean Creole meals.
The building is unmistakable with its boldly decorated red exterior and long tradition of excellence. The atmosphere and service make guests feel at home.
The Cuban sandwich hit the spot with ham and cheese on a delicious bun. The Sancocho soup was delicious, as well. You can’t go wrong with whatever you choose here, and a light meal is a great option.
29 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012
Japanese cuisine doesn’t get any better than Cocoron and their delicious noodles and soba, a dish similar to ramen, are the best in NYC. Soon to be moving down the block, Cocoron serves savory soba noodles, alternative curry (cocoron), and so much more.
The restaurant is bright and inviting, and its manga-covered menu makes it exciting. Reviewers like pretty much everything here, and as I browsed the choices, I could see why.
The Cold Natto Soba with natto (fermented soybeans), Japanese yam, cucumber, sesame, nori, bonito flake, poached egg, takuwan pickles, wasabi, and soba sauce was both filling and refreshing. I’d get this again in a heartbeat.
100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
While many Lower East Side restaurants have small dining spaces, Congee Village loves to take on group diners in their spacious dining room just off Delancey and Allen Streets. On the outskirts of Chinatown, Congee Village serves Cantonese and Chinese food in a beautifully elegant dining area.
Cozy, welcoming, warm, friendly, and delicious, Congee Village is the premier place for Asian food. Congee is a type of rice porridge that serves as a base for other dishes. It’s an excellent foundation for something tasty.
I tried the sliced pork and preserved egg porridge on a recommendation, which was far more delicious than it sounds! It’s now something I suggest, too.
49 Canal St, New York, NY 10002
Two blocks West of the East Broadway subway stop sits a health-conscious, minimalist diner with colorful tables and a delicious selection of healthy foods.
Dimes NYC uses fresh ingredients and trendy food combinations to make theirs one of the most sought-after menus in the area. It isn’t vegan or vegetarian, though they have menu items that will meet various dietary needs.
The salmon was delicious with wild rice, butternut squash puree, cauliflower, collards, green tahini, and a nut and seed crust. This meal was the perfect light lunch, and then you can run off to yoga down the block.
88 Essex St, New York, NY 10002
Essex Market is hard to miss with its brightly colored orange, blue, and yellow exterior. Located between Delancey and Broome Streets on Essex, Essex Market is one of the original Public Markets in NYC.
Since 1937, these markets around New York have been a place for locals to find fresh food at affordable prices. Only six markets remain, and this is one. They have an indoor dining area as well, with thirteen vendor choices upstairs. It’s hard to choose just one, but if you’re in the area long enough, maybe you won’t have to.
I tried Kotti Berliner Döner Kebab’s chicken Döner Kebab with fresh greens, their delightful red and white sauce, crumbled feta cheese, and a bit of lemon. Yum!
151 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002
Before visiting Kopitiam, I’d never heard of Nyonya cuisine. It mixes Chinese and Malaysian flavors, influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traditions. Basically, it’s a melting pot of flavors, just like the Lower East Side.
Kopitiam is one of those places you can just show up and feel like you belong. The cafe is small, and the setup is so casual, you grab your own utensils, but the entire experience is special. You’ll find sweet and savory flavors alike here.
For dinner, I loved the Tok Tok Mee, fried egg noodles (street-styled) with yao choy, pork wontons, scallions, fried shrimp, cha siu, and house-made dark sauce. You’ll definitely want to add Sago Gula Melaka – tapioca rice balls with coconut milk and palm sugar.
Pig & Khao
68 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002
Pig and Khao sits beside the Nathan Straus Playground, just off Rivington Street in the Lower East Side.
This colorful and trendy Southeast Asian restaurant serves up style, socializing, music, and art alongside their delectable menu. Chef and owner Leah Cohen brings her Filipino roots into this innovative space, sharing authenticity with every bite.
Strange to say, but the Grilled Pork Jowl was incredible. It came with brussels sprouts, toasted rice, lime-chili, fish sauce, and other herbs that made it a surprising delight. It was incredible.
Russ & Daughters Cafe
127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
A staple to the Jewish community in New York, Russ and Daughters is a multi-generation marketplace.
Russ and Daughters Cafe’s sister store takes tradition and makes it accessible for folks looking for an over-the-counter light meal. Specializing in bagels and accompaniments, with a few other delights, Russ and Daughters Cafe has outdoor dining and take-out available.
When the mood hits for the perfect bagel, I highly recommend the Boychick with Scottish Smoked Salmon, sable, and cream cheese on a bagel. It’s a brilliant combination.
100 Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002
Wayla serves trendy Thai food near Lion’s Gate Field in the Lower East Side. Wayla translates as “time” in Thai, and that’s precisely what they’d like to share with you.
Fresh ingredients make inspired dishes, and the flavors of Bangkok come alive. The space is beautiful and inviting and much more modern than many of the others on this list. The back patio is a lovely place to sit with friends and enjoy your meal when the weather is nice.
I love spice, and the Kua Kling Kung shrimp with wok-fried jumbo shrimp with spicy Thai chili paste was incredible! You might want the Jasmine rice with it, just to soothe the spice a bit.
So, if you weren’t sure of where to eat in the Lower East Side, now you know!
There’s no doubt the Lower East Side has plenty of culture, variety, and beauty. As one of the oldest communities in New York City, it’s a destination all its own. No matter what corner of the world your tastebuds crave, there’s sure to be something here for you.
If you’re looking for something more specific while in New York City, check out our list of amazing pizza places in the city!
Did we leave a restaurant out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment, and we’ll check it out!