The best restaurants on the Lower East Side

Our critic-approved roundup points you to the best restaurants on the Lower East Side, including trusty favorites and the latest hot spots

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Spicy red chili ramen at Ivan Ramen
Lower East Side pioneers wd~50 and Freemans paved the way for many a hot table in the neighborhood: powerhouses like the hyped Dirty French at the Ludlow and the charging force that is Keith McNally’s Cherche Midi. But don’t dismiss classic eateries from the pre-hipster era, including one of the city’s best Jewish delis.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Lower East Side

Azasu

Whet your appetite with Japanese street food at Christy and Gaku Shibata’s low-key izakaya. Shareable plates include panko-crusted ebi fry with tartar sauce and savory takoyaki pancake balls with octopus. A predinner shot of sake will warm your belly for the main course.

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Lower East Side

Birds & Bubbles

After your brown-spirits pilgrimage, opt for late-night haute-low drunchies from City Grit doyenne Sarah Simmons at her fowl-and-fizz charmer. Slip in before close for Southern-twanged dishes, like crawfish étouffée and frizzled, buttermilk-brined bird, served as a special with a split of champagne from the 40-bottle–strong list, essential for toasting a day well spent.

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Lower East Side

Cherche Midi

Keith McNally’s latest biz-casual power bistro is quite the scene come nighttime. Go for lunch instead, when things are less pompous and you can actually see the gorgeous cream-toned digs (suspended globe lights, press-tinned ceiling) without herds of well-heeled diners blocking your view. Sink into a leather banquette and stick to Shane McBride’s decadent French stalwarts like creamy, custardy pot de fromage and tarragon-laced bouchot mussels.

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East Village

Dirty French

The zip code’s hottest ticket is this Ludlow Hotel bistro blockbuster, from Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick. Among the ritzy brasserie items—zapped with Moroccan and New Orleans spices—are duck à l’orange dusted in North African ras el hanout and two sessions of côte de boeuf (market price), as a ribeye and a char-grilled skewer with a fat cap. Torrisi ventures are celeb bait—Beyoncé and Jay Z are Carbone regulars—so people-watch over cocktails at the adjacent Lobby Bar before grabbing dessert.

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Lower East Side

Freemans

Critics' pick

This Lower East Side restaurant has come to be regarded as the tastemaking cabin-in-the-’hood at the end of the now-legendary alley. In the oft-copied taxidermied environs, the hearty menu additions include a charred tender quail atop buttery grits, and a generous rabbit roulade entrée of boneless bacon-wrapped bunny (the signature bar snacks remain—there wasn’t even a question of tampering with the cult artichoke dip). Simple desserts—caramel-soaked bananas Foster, toasted carrot-walnut cake—are the sort you’d find in restaurants without a pastry chef. But they’re good enough.

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Lower East Side

Ivan Ramen

The mosaic-walled backyard of Ivan Orkin’s noodle den is primed for a lingering group. Soak in the fading warm temperatures over small plates like double-dredged chicken hearts and the wonderfully messy maple-and-apple-topped Lancaster okonomiyaki, a scrapple-waffle bridge from breakfast to lunch.

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Lower East Side

Katz’s Delicatessen

Critics' pick

This cavernous cafeteria is a repository of New York history—glossies of celebs spanning the past century crowd the walls, and the classic Jewish deli offerings are nonpareil. Start with a crisp-skinned, all-beef hot dog for just $3.10. Then flag down a meat cutter and order a legendary sandwich. The brisket sings with horseradish, and the thick-cut pastrami stacked high between slices of rye is the stuff of dreams. Everything tastes better with a glass of the hoppy house lager; if you’re on the wagon, make it a Dr. Brown’s.

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Lower East Side

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream

One of the best parts of Nicholas Morgenstern’s critics-darling parlor, aside from its far-flung flavors (banana-curry, salt-and-pepper–pine nut), is the late hours. Bustling until midnight on weekends, the scoop shop is a picture-perfect after-dinner retreat, with locals perched at spinning counter seats for behemoth banana splits.

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Lower East Side

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Start your day off with a little something old and a little something new at this sit-down spin-off of iconic century-old appetizing store Russ & Daughters. All the classics are accounted for but repackaged as composed plates: silky smoked fish is best highlighted in bagel-and-schmear boards, and chocolate-webbed babka loaves are sliced and griddled as French toast. A few roe-topped latkes, and you’ll have enough fuel for a whole day of LES exploring.

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Lower East Side

Schiller’s Liquor Bar

The drink menu famously hawks a down-to-earth hierarchy of wines: Good, Decent, Cheap. Not one of them will run you more than seven bucks a glass. As at Balthazar and Pastis, folks pack in for the scene, triple-parking at the bar and sipping elaborate cocktails. Views are star-studded: Sightings may include Gandolfini and Wintour. Whether you’re downing white sangria or scarfing steak frites, you can’t help thinking that the vicar of vibe, Keith McNally, has triumphed once again.

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Lower East Side

Comments

6 comments
doug_samuel
doug_samuel

You should include the new Patacon Pisao! What a cool spot!

Gerry L
Gerry L

Also doubt you'll have a Gandolfini sighting at Schiller's.

Doobie D
Doobie D

Les Enfants Terrible is also closed. Who edited this?

Nehal G
Nehal G

Sorella is closed! I say again.. Is this list even up to date?

champange c
champange c

What, no Blacktree?! Love this place in LES: www.6sqft.com/new-yorker-spotlight-mac-sinclair-and-sandy-hall-of-black-tree-the-les-farm-to-table-favorite/