Working from home, while stuck quarantined? How about you take some self-care time and read up on how you can make your next New York City journey one for the books!
Manhattan's Lower East Side, or "LES", is an oasis for anyone looking for trendy places to dance, eat, drink, and window-shop. Often a site of dramatic, continual change, the Lower East Side was once home to the true melting pot of Manhattan. Now, it is a neighborhood that still buzzes with life, as millennials and tourists strive to keep this area as vibrant and rich as its diverse history.
For anyone visiting New York City and looking for spots off the beaten path, this guide will serve as a way for you to enjoy New York City as a local and fuhgettaabout the tourist guide!
Culinary Capital Cuisine
Your favorite Instagram influencers are probably going to recommend solid New York City staples like Prince Street Pizza or Mamoun's Falafel, which are both great stops, but there are so many equally amazing eateries that you'll find tucked in the streets of the Lower East Side.
One thing that's unique about the Lower East Side is that it's buildings tend to be much smaller than the rest of the city. As a result, the creativity booms out of this hood, which is a hotbed for hole-in-the-walls with spunk. It's also a hotbed of seasonal and locally sourced cuisine-with restaurants growing vegetables on their urban farms to embracing everything artisanal. Here are a few places you should be sure not to skip when you're strolling around this spirited neighborhood!
From morning brunch to late nights at the bar, Sonnyboy is the perfect restaurant to start or end your day in the Lower East Side! With a bright, airy atmosphere and a taste profile that is out of this world, you will soon find out how well this Australian establishment can serve and cater to your savory needs or sweet side. Come in for brunch and order the 'hotcake,' where you'll be mesmerized by its delectable thickness. Topped with maple syrup, pistachios, berries, and mascarpone, this hotcake will be your new favorite sweet breakfast meal in all of NYC!
Not a fan of sweets? Order the aesthetically pleasing harissa folded eggs that come with buttery toast and a delicious salad with spicy, sweet peppers, along with brussel sprouts. To top every millennial's dream, this dish comes with a fat slice of avocado!
Founded in 2005 as a food truck uptown in Washington Heights, Patacón Pisao now serves the best and most authentic Venezuelan cuisine in all of New York City. Honing in on their use of plantains as the staple ingredient in most of their dishes, Patacon Pisao takes the cake in creating a casual atmosphere that has affordable prices for everyone to enjoy, no matter where they come from.
The headliner of this establishment is of course the formidable sandwiches made from patacón, which are unripe plantains that been fried, smashed and fried again, until they emerge as tortilla-thin disks. One patacón serves as a base for the sandwich, the other as lid, working together to bring a hint of nuttiness. Order the Paisa Patacón, stuffed with grilled steak, chorizo, avocado, sunny-side egg, ketchup, and salsa verde.
Managing to be one of the hippest spots without maintaining a loud Instagram presence, Kiki's maintains a cool and lively presence that doesn't try too hard. Don't be fooled by its exterior with its Chinese sign hanging out, as this restaurant only serves Greek food. Kiki's does not take reservations and gets incredibly busy with locals, but if you are willing to wait for a table, you will not regret choosing this place and will pleasantly be surprised by what you eat here.
Dine as the Greeks do and share grilled octopus with a friend or date! Tender and delicious with a lemon on the side, this dish is best shared as an appetizer! For your entree, order the moussaka-crispy potatoes on top, a generous amount of meat in the pie makes for a filling meal. Don't forget about the tzatziki with peta, along with the maroulosalata salad with romaine, feta, dill and a lemony olive oil dressing to fully encapsulate your Greco experience, 5,000 miles away from the Parthenon.
Lower East Side Toy Company (The Back Room)
Make your way through a historic path, passed a gate that reads 'Lower East Side Toy Company,' and into the Back Room, a 1920s era speakeasy. The Back Room is one of only two speakeasies in NYC that operated during Prohibition and is still in use today. At this dimly lit, prohibitionist era bar, patrons will take shots from espresso cups and drink their beer via paper bags.
Although there are no official drinks menu, the barmen know how to stir the classics and is the perfect place if you want somewhere a bit offbeat to impress that date of yours.
Thrift, Book, and Odd Shops Galore
L Train Vintage
Despite the fact that this thrift store is a bit of a walk uptown towards the East Village, L Train Vintage must not be skipped for all of your vintage clothing needs! Whether you're in Brooklyn or Manhattan, there's a good chance you'll stumble upon one of L Train Vintage's 6 stores. For all of you budget travelers, get ready for the splurge of your life! With low prices, a wide selection, and friendly staff, you'll find that needle-in-the-haystack 80's ski jacket you've been looking for!
Hua Mei Bird Garden
Just when you think New York City has nothing more unique to offer, Hua Mei Bird Garden on the LES at Chinatown's periphery is the perfect spot to hear unusual noises in this metropolis. Here, visitors can spot songbirds from blue jays to sparrows, but the bird that is the loudest and most varied in notes is the coveted, hua mei, the parks namesake.
Beginning informally in 1993, Chinese residents hung birdcages to try and establish a bird garden that resembles those common in China. Come for a morning stroll that you won't forget!
A gift to progressives, Bluestockings is a must visit for any leftists leaning person to learn more about feminist thought, queer politics, person of color issues, and much, much more! In addition to a café, readers are able to sit down with their coffee and a snack to catch up on the latest oppressive issues that plague the United States and abroad.
Volunteer-powered and collectively-owned, Bluestockings also serves as an activist center. Hosting a collection of readings, performances, workshops, discussions and films most nights of the year, Bluestockings thrives as an inclusive and safe space for those of various identities and groups.
Beginning in 1996, this 20' by 60' foot garden was created by Peter Cramer and Jack Waters to create a space for performers, filmmakers, and visual artists to showcase their work. During the summer months, this space is most active, exhibiting various performances that anyone can enjoy!
Off the beaten path, visitors will feel as though they've stepped into another world, away from the concrete jungle that NYC inhibits. Registered as a NYC park, this space is often-times overlooked by everyone, given its tiny size but what it does to the soul is anything but!
Museum at Eldridge Street
The Lower East Side used to once be home to the largest Jewish population in NYC. Today, the Eldridge Street Synagogue is a National Historic Landmark and one of the first synagogues erected in the United States. Reflecting its cultural and educational mission, the museum now offers informative tours that relate to Jewish American history of the Lower East Side and immigration. If you want to learn the history of this neighborhood, this is the place to visit!
We recommend visiting on Mondays for visitors to 'pay what you wish,' instead of spending time and money at the over-priced Tenement Museum.
Next Stop, LES!
From its large Jewish population to being home to countless, diverse restaurants, the Lower East Side has something for everyone. If it's your first time visiting this acclaimed city of if you are one of the lucky people to call this city home, you will never get tired of what you see, taste, find, and love in the city that never sleeps.