East Village restaurant guide: The best places to eat now

Our East Village restaurant guide points you to critic-approved places to eat in the neighborhood, including trusty favorites and the latest hot spots.

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The East Village has a knack for sprouting reasonably priced eateries that draw cult followings. No East Village restaurant guide would be complete without mention of David Chang’s enduringly popular Momofuku Noodle Bar, which spawned his mini empire, and other top toques—including Peter Hoffman with Back Forty and Daniel Boulud with DBGB Kitchen and Bar—have set up shop in the nabe. Northern Spy Food Co. has become a locavore staple for its earnest (and delicious) devotion to seasonal cooking. Also consult our curated lists of cheap eats and great brunch places.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to East Village

Back Forty

  • Critics choice

Chef-restaurateur Peter Hoffman (Savoy) is behind this seasonal-eats tavern, where farmhouse chic prevails in the dining room (vintage tools adorn the walls) and on the menu. Gastropub fare—like the pleasantly gamey grass-fed hamburger or pork jowl nuggets, frozen in a crisp jacket of batter—is uniformly solid. Veggies shine too: Baby cauliflower gratin is layered with leeks and Gruyère, and the exemplary brussels sprouts are slicked with cherry butter and served with

  1. 190 Ave B, (between 11th and 12th Sts)
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DBGB Kitchen and Bar

  • Critics choice

Chef Daniel Boulud doesn’t do decent, so-so or almost great. Even as he branches out around the world—with outlets in Palm Beach, Beijing and Vancouver—the perfectionist chef is forever tinkering with even his most venerable spots.

Which is why it’s hardly surprising to discover that the food and service at DBGB—his first project downtown—are improving week after week. Though the affable dean of New York’s French cookery installed protg Jim Leiken to run

  1. 299 Bowery, (at E Houston St)
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Degustation

  • Critics choice

Forget trying for a table at Momofuku Ko. This counter-only fine-dining operation from Jack and Grace Lamb (Jewel Bako) delivers the kind of inventive, seasonal small-plates cuisine that has fans clamoring—only without jumping through hoops to secure the impossible reservations. Talented Wesley Genovart churns out impeccable contemporary Spanish dishes that can work diners into a state of euphoria. A velvety appetizer of a slow-poached egg with serrano ham, chorizo and superbly

  1. 239 E 5th St, (between Second and Third Aves)
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Desnuda

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Though eating out is an inherently pleasurable activity, truly fun restaurants are few and far between. Desnuda, a tiny wine and ceviche bar in the East Village, is one of those rare places. The limited bar seating puts patrons face-to-face with the personable chefs, and the ensuing friendly banter seems built-in to the experience. Dishes that followed, such as the audacious smoked-oyster shooters, were just as engaging. Right before your eyes, chef Christian Zammas burns tea

  1. 122 E 7th St, (between First Ave and Ave A)
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Hecho en Dumbo

  • Critics choice

Beyond to-go tacos and bulging burritos, New York’s Mexican options were once pretty bleak. And the more ambitious restaurants were pricey and fussy. In the past few years, however, a new breed of cantina has helped bring life to the genre. These rollicking places—serious about cooking, yes, but also devoted to tequila-shot benders—aren’t Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex; hip-Mex is more like it.

Hecho en Dumbo joins Cabrito, La Esquina and Barrio Chino in this new pantheon.

  1. 354 Bowery, (between Great Jones and E 4th Sts)
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Ippudo NY

  • Critics choice

This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is packed mostly with Nippon natives who queue up for a taste of “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara’s tonkotsu—a pork-based broth. The house special, Akamaru Modern, is a smooth, buttery soup topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork and pleasantly elastic noodles. Avoid nonsoup dishes like the oily fried-chicken nuggets coated in a sweet batter. Long live the Ramen King—just don’t ask him to move beyond his specialty.

  1. 65 Fourth Ave, (between 9th and 10th Sts)
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Kajitsu

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Diners often compare eating great food to a religious experience, but at Kajitsu—possibly New York's only kaiseki restaurant to offer the centuries-old Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine known as shojin, from which modern-day Japanese cooking is thought to have developed—there's something literal in the restaurant's connection to the divine. As you step through the sliding paned-glass doorway, the sparse, hushed interior—earthy beige walls, a stone floor and weighty dining

  1. 414 E 9th St, (between First Ave and Ave A)
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Kyo Ya

  • Critics choice

The city’s most ambitious Japanese speakeasy is marked only by an open sign, but in-the-know eaters still find their way inside. The food, presented on beautiful handmade plates, is gorgeous: Maitake mushrooms are fried in the lightest tempura batter and delivered on a polished stone bed. Sushi (we tried the salmon) is pressed with a hot iron onto sticky vinegared rice. The fish is topped like a still life with its own microgreen forest. The few desserts—including an extra

  1. 94 E 7th St, (between First Ave and Ave A)
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Momofuku Ko

  • Critics choice

Make it through the reservations ringer (the system mandates booking six days in advance, at 10am, only via momofuku.com) to gain access to chef David Chang’s minimal 12-seat spot. Here, the chefs double as waiters, serving eight or so dazzling courses from behind a counter. The ever-evolving menu features raw fluke, in a coating of tangy, mellow buttermilk, poppy seeds and sriracha chili sauce. A frozen foie gras torchon is brilliantly shaved over lychee puree and pine-nut

  1. 163 First Ave, (between 10th and 11th Sts)
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Momofuku Milk Bar East Village

  • Critics choice

Pastry whiz Christina Tosi conjures up homey sweets at this bakery spin-off down the block from Momofuku Ssäm Bar. East village hipsters, fawning foodies and in-the-know tourists line up for the cultish goodies, including crack pie (toasted oat crust with a gooey butter filling), cereal-milk soft serve and compost cookies made with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips.

  1. 251 E 13th St, (between Second and Third Aves)
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Momofuku Noodle Bar

  • Critics choice

The relocation of chef David Chang’s flagship marks another step in the toque’s evolution. The signature elements are in place (light-wood decor, a dozen-deep crowd, the Asian-tinged chow), but Chang steps up his game with a larger space, the addition of table service and some new dishes. The excellent cold smoked duck with quince-soaked mustard seeds exists alongside Chang’s hall-of-fame pork buns and democratized offal. Soft-serve ice cream in imaginative flavors (eggnog,

  1. 171 First Ave, (between 10th and 11th Sts)
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Momofuku Ssäm Bar

  • Critics choice

Momofuku Ssäm Bar Chef David Chang’s latest feels like two restaurants fused into one: a Korean Chipotle, and a self-aware joint serving designer ham and pricey platters. Waiters hustle to noisy rock music in this 50-seat space, which feels like Megu compared with its predecessor’s crowded counter dining. Chefs create concoctions priced to sample, including the wonderfully fatty pork-belly steamed bun with hoisin sauce and cucumbers, and the house ssäm (Korean for

  1. 207 Second Ave, (at 13th St)
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Motorino

  • Critics choice

The East Village branch of chef-owner Mathieu Palombino’s Williamsburg Neapolitan pizzeria offers a shorter menu and sells pies by the slice.

  1. 349 E 12th St, (between First and Second Aves)
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Northern Spy Food Co.

  • Critics choice

Part of the problem with eating well—healthfully, deliciously and environmentally correctly—is that it’s expensive. Enter Northern Spy Food Co., a restaurant that serves locally sourced meals at reasonable prices (no dish costs more than $15). Chef Nathan Foot’s frequently changing menu is based almost entirely on what’s in season (Northern Spy is an apple indigenous to the Northeast). Rounding out the farm-to-table experience is a general store filled with locavore

  1. 511 E 12th St, (between Aves A and B)
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Peels

  • Critics choice

This homespun eatery, from the fashionable folks behind Freemans, offers a southern dining experience with urban polish. A downstairs café and lunch counter features baked goods, salumi and sandwiches. Upstairs, a more spacious dining room evokes a living room on an antebellum estate. Despite the domestic feel, even the homiest food tastes like a professional cooked it: Cheese grits, served under delicate shrimp and a fried egg, are as rich as polenta, and the buttermilk fried

  1. 325 Bowery , (at 2nd St)
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Yerba Buena

  • Critics choice

Serious cocktails and sultry candlelight set the tone at this elegant Pan-Latin eatery. Toloache chef Julian Medina’s distinctive fare includes a Cuban sandwich, expressed as a delicate pizza and topped with a crumble of suckling pig; the same meat stars in a delicious entrée with habanero salsa, cracklings and yuca puree. Desserts—including the city’s 10,000th molten chocolate cake—stumble toward convention, but thankfully, the rest of our expert meal ensures that this

  1. 23 Ave A, (between 1st and 2nd Sts)
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Users say

3 comments
JM de Jesus
JM de Jesus

Mi Casa es Su Casa Restaurant 140-142 Orchard Street Bet. Rivington St. and Delancey Street. This is the revenge of fine dining in the East Village. The Latin American (Ecuador, Spain, and Caribbean) cuisine takes on a whole new dimension at this new and cozy little restaurant. Operated by Head Chef and owner Jairo Morales, and Sous Chef Extraordinaire Sabdiel Cortez, the restaurant brings fine dining back to an area loaded with cheap, fast food, offerings. This ain't the cheapest meal in the area but it was well worth the money. Try the Iberian Ham and shrimp stuffed garlic tostones appetizers. The Chuleton is a pork chop filled with mashed yucca over a bed of Asian rice is exquisite. The aged steaks and the Churrasco platter (named entrañas in Ecuador) just melt in your mouth. For dessert, I had a trés leches cupcake that was absolutely mouth watering and sublimely delicious. These are home baked on premises by the chef's wife. Now I have heard from some of my white acquaintances that it's all the same $% to white folks, but I refuse to believe that there are no sophisticated palates among all of the trendy and affluent Caucasian twenty something’s roaming that area of the LES at night. If you want a cheap taco, go elsewhere ( I hear there's a great truck on 14th Street off of 8th avenue) but if you really want to impress your significant other and have an amazing culinary-and dining-experience, then head on over there. It's well worth the money. JM de Jesus

Matt Murry
Matt Murry

man, east village is the BOMB! alphabet city also has some pretty legit stuff too. if you know someone who lives there itd be better since they can show you around, if not check out this listing of awesome places to eat at I loooove going to the East Village to eat, seriously one of my favorite places to hang to grab some unique eats. I actually read this yahoo article that this guy listed for cheap places to dig that are actually good, pretty informative check it out here: http://voices.yahoo.com/10-best-cheap-eats-yorks-east-village-12116782.html

Arthur Ashby
Arthur Ashby

Wacky Wok on Avenue D at 9th street in the East Village is a special place to eat and deserves attention. All the ingredients are there for enjoyable meals: An imaginative menu full of healthy, tasty and wholesome food choices at extremely reasonable prices.