Diners snack on crispy shrimp heads from Cervo's in New York City.
The crispy shrimp heads from Cervo’s are a non-negotiable. Photo by OK McCausland for Resy

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Everywhere You’ll Want to Eat on New York’s Lower East Side


When people describe New York as a melting pot, there are few better places (at least in Manhattan) where you can feel it than the Lower East Side. It’s old, it’s new, it’s high, it’s low and it has the chaotic, kinetic energy that makes some people say: “I need to move to New York.” It’s also one of the most densely packed and diverse eating neighborhoods in the city. From breakfast to after dinner drinks and all your snacking needs, you’d be hard pressed to find a neighborhood that will feed you as well as the LES.

A perfect day might start with a bagel, lox and schmear from one of the city’s oldest institutions, Russ & Daughters Cafe or the venerable Katz’s Deli, and end at Tigre with a martini tailored precisely to your liking. Depending on the mood, there might be a stop for a slice from Scarr’s, a sampling of snacks and wine from Gem Wine, or the magical tofu from Mắm. Or if it’s more of a splurge-worthy kind of night, maybe it’s time for the tasting menu from Sixty Three Clinton or Dirt Candy. There’s never been a better time to eat on the LES.

When you’re feeling fancy …

If you’re looking for a chef-driven, Michelin-starred experience, you’ll find it at Sixty Three Clinton. Sam Clonts and Raymond Trinh have taken their extensive fine dining experience and created a much-loved seasonally rotating, perspective-driven seven-course tasting menu spot. It’s globally influenced, so expect to find riffs on tacos, chawnmushi, and tuna niçoise, among many other delicious dishes. And given Trinh’s background in wine, do consider opting for the pairing or a bottle from his selective list which balances the best of old and new world wines.

Tigre has a martini for whatever mood you find yourself in. Photo by Eric Medsker, courtesy of Tigre
Tigre has a martini for whatever mood you find yourself in. Photo by Eric Medsker, courtesy of Tigre

When you’re in need of a martini …

This is, perhaps, a controversial opinion, but for the city’s best martini, we advise you head to Tigre . There, you don’t just order a martini by spirit or garnish instead, you’re asked to pick a ratio of exactly how dry or dirty you’d prefer your martini to be. Tigre is a modern speakeasy-style bar hidden behind an unremarkable, graffiti-adorned door on Rivington. When you enter, prepare to be wowed by the sexy, golden-lit interior and sophisticated cocktail selection. Order your martini just as you like it, or any of their other offerings, both alcoholic or not at all. We’re partial to the Rolls Royce with gin, moscato chinato, Benedictine, and saffron. And if you want to make a bar crawl out of your night, do know that Double Chicken Please and Attaboy are other essential neighborhood stops for all your cocktail needs.

When you’re craving a bagel …

Another controversial opinion, but nothing beats a bagel from Russ & Daughters Cafe. The original location on Houston is one of the city’s last remaining appetizing shops — a relic of a bygone era and a nod to when the neighborhood was predominantly Jewish. Still family owned and operated, it’s on its fourth generation now. If you’re looking for a grab-and-go option, head to the Houston street shop to sample their legendary nova lox, but for a fuller dining experience, we suggest you pop into their Orchard street location where you can find a table and brunch to your heart’s content on whitefish platters, babka French toast, and eggs Benedict.

Bagel perfection. Photo courtesy of Russ & Daughters Cafe
Bagel perfection. Photo courtesy of Russ & Daughters Cafe

For when you’re in a wine bar kind of mood …

There is no shortage of options on the LES if you’re looking for a glass of wine, especially of the new school, naturally inclined variety. The intimate, cozy vibes at Gem Wine, however, might be our favorite. There’s no official wine list, but they never disappoint, and the collection runs deep. Speak to what you like or are in the mood for and the staff will guide you with care. Gem Wine comes from acclaimed chef Flynn McGarry, too, so expect to find artful plates of seasonal, often Scandinavian-inspired food to accompany whatever’s in your glass. Here’s a little secret: Order the experience menu, a family-style selection of five to six dishes; at $75 per person, it’s a steal.

For when you want to be surprised …

For the vegetarian or vegan diner or really anyone that enjoys an innovative, playful approach to food, head to Amanda Cohen’s breath of fresh air: Dirt Candy. She and her team manage to infuse each course of her tasting menus with vegetables, even dessert. The menu changes with the seasons, so you might find dishes like hand-pulled spicy butternut squash noodles in winter and a rainbow carrot mille feuille in the spring. The menu is vegetarian by default, but it can also be easily be made vegan. Whenever you stop by, though, you’re bound to be more than pleasantly surprised.

Dirt Candy changes up its vegetarian (and vegan) menus with each season. Photo by Aaron Richter for Resy
Dirt Candy changes up its vegetarian (and vegan) menus with each season. Photo by Aaron Richter for Resy

For Mexican food you’ve likely never had before …

Having just opened officially in January, Corima is the newest addition to the neighborhood. Here, Contra alum Fidel Caballero serves modern Mexican cuisine with a global twist. It offers two menus, one à la carte in the front half of the restaurant and a seven-course tasting menu under $100, with a coveted chef’s counter. The food is ever changing, but expect to find tamals, aquachiles, and a signature housemade sourdough tortilla with a memorable recado negro butter.

For all your seafood needs …

It’s no secret that everyone loves Cervo’s. People travel from far and wide to get their hands on the infamous crispy shrimp heads and their wide-ranging selection of mussels, scallops, and prawns as well. Expect to find them with the flavors of the Iberian peninsula, that sweet spot between Spain and Portugal, lots of garlic, and splashes of wine or sherry. If you’re in the mood for something meatier, their lamb burger is also legendary. The wine and cocktail lists also make it very worthy for a drink and snack at the bar, too.

Bivalves and shellfish to your heart’s content can be found at Cervo’s. Photo courtesy of Cervo’s
Bivalves and shellfish to your heart’s content can be found at Cervo’s. Photo courtesy of Cervo’s

For prime people watching …

A hot spot since it first opened in the fall of 2022, Casino is a favorite hangout of the fashion crowd. Filled with beautiful people, great lighting, and maximalist vibes, it’s the perfect place for a girl’s night out or a chic date. The food leans toward the ever-present coastal Italian and is great for sharing, with dishes like wood-fired prawns, lamb ragu pappardelle, and a collection of spritzes. For something more casual, try their other neighborhood spot, Casetta — it opens a little earlier and also boasts a great wine list.

For a solo meal or a casual hang …

Dimes is a contemporary LES institution, an all-day café, opened in 2013 and changed Canal Street forever with its cool girl, California vibes. It’s so essential to the fabric of the neighborhood that a part of it, Dimes Square, was named after it. It’s the place to meet a friend for lunch, grab a quick bowl of their pozole at the bar alone, or bring the kids; all are welcome here. The menu changes often, but you’ll always find nourishing classics like the macrobiotic-influenced black rice and a solidly good plate of salmon. Be sure to check out Dimes Market and Deli across the street for take-home groceries or takeout provisions.

Wine is always a good idea with the spread over at Tolo. Photo by Matt Dutile, courtesy of Tolo
Wine is always a good idea with the spread over at Tolo. Photo by Matt Dutile, courtesy of Tolo

For when you’re craving fried chicken but also wine …

Sitting right on the border of Chinatown and the LES is another newcomer, Tolo. It’s a wine-driven Chinese restaurant from the team at neighboring Parcelle, with a list of more than 300 bottles, many of which skew natural, but with some classics, too. They pair unexpectedly well with plates of seared scallops topped with puffed rice and the signature spicy, savory typhoon-style fried chicken. And if you’re not in the mood for chicken, do consider the crispy sweet-and-sour fish, too. Take the pairing suggestions; Tolo is proof Chinese food can pair with more than just an off-dry white, and the team there knows what they’re talking about.

For when you’re dining with a crew …

Around the corner on Division Street is Kiki’s, one of the few Greek spots on the LES. It’s perennially packed with groups feasting over plates of saganaki, lamb chops, and feta-topped fries. The food is good, but most importantly, it’s fun in there. The lights are dim, and the crowd is loud, especially since many are just starting the night there. It’s so popular that, five years ago, they opened a spot across the street geared toward takeout. Oh, and they also do brunch and lunch.

For that last-minute prime-time table …

Quietly tucked next door is Bacaro. Opened in 2007 by Kama Geary, it’s been drawing crowds of cool kids and locals ever since. The menu is filled with Italian classics like plates of fritto misto, meatballs, and burrata. Depending on the night, the vibe can skew intimate date or party you want to join. It’s popular for groups and the downstairs dining room is a standout place to secure that birthday dinner party. They do a great happy hour with spritzes and snacks like mushroom crostini as well.

Tapas always hit the spot over at Ernesto’s. Photo courtesy of Ernesto’s
Tapas always hit the spot over at Ernesto’s. Photo courtesy of Ernesto’s

For when you’re in the mood for tapas …

This restaurant lies on the far reaches of the LES, on a block that you’d likely miss if it weren’t for its existence. At Ernesto’s, the food is Basque, with dishes like Spanish salt cod, brothy rice with clams, and their famous Iberico ham topped potato chips. Be sure to get a round of gildas to start and try glass or bottle of wine from their heavily Spanish learning list. Around the corner, they also recently opened Ernie’s, for a more casual, no reservations vibe. Also, if you happen to be curious about sherry, this is the place to try it; they have one of the best selections in the city.

For when you’re craving pizza …

Hands down, the award for the neighborhood’s best slice goes to Orchard Street’s Scarr’s for its new school, ingredient-driven take on the classic crispy yet tender New York slice. Owner Scarr Pimentel slung pies at Joe’s Pizza and L’industrie before opening his own spot in 2016. Order a cheese slice at the takeout window or sit down at the now much larger and Resy-taking restaurant for a whole pie and a Caesar salad. Note: In a much different venture, the original location across the street is now home to a Sushi Oku, an omakase counter that is worth visiting as well.

Whatever you decide to order from Dhamaka, you won’t be disappointed. Photo courtesy of Dhamaka
Whatever you decide to order from Dhamaka, you won’t be disappointed. Photo courtesy of Dhamaka

For Indian food far beyond butter chicken …

With so much attention on the latest concept from Unapologetic Foods — Naks — you’d think the buzz of their beloved Dhamaka would’ve died down by now, but not so. Peep into the Essex Market location of this lively Indian restaurant any night of the week and you’ll see it packed with tables piled high with unfussy, hard-to-find regional specialties like spicy goat kidneys and testicles (trust us, it’s worth an order) and fried fenugreek dumplings. It’s a neighborhood must.

For when you’re in need of comfort food …

Head to Forsyth street’s Mắm for some of the city’s most impressive Vietnamese food. Expect to pull up a stool or sit at a communal table to try something from their ever-rotating menu. Depending on the day, it might include a comforting, steaming bowl of phở or a platter of Vietnamese charcuterie and housemade tofu to be dipped in shrimp paste. Go early, go often, and know that everyone is here for the food. Pro tip: Be sure to check their hours online.

Kyle Beechey is a New York-based freelance writer and dinner party enthusiast who lives on the Lower East Side. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.