Best Lower East Side restaurants
The 45-seat restaurant is a sister to chef Jeremiah Stone and pastry chef Fabian von Hauske’s avant-garde tasting-menu den, Contra, two doors down. Wildair is low-pressure, set with sardine-packed bar tables, a fuzzy midaughts soundtrack and neighborhood affability. Their snacky, à la carte menu is packed with low-key innovations.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. Then, slurp up a beautiful bowl of ramen swimming in flavorful broth.
This Ludlow Hotel bistro blockbuster, from Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, is serving some of the cleanest French fare in town. 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, as a ribeye and a char-grilled skewer with a fat cap.
Anthony Mangieri cranks out the pies, while partners Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra, the chef-duo behind Wildair and Contra, provide the small plates and desserts. Small wood tables fill the heavily tiled room for a clean yet warm feel that is perfect for a casual meal. You’re here for the Neapolitan pies that rival Naples’ best.
Run by former Top Chef contender Leah Cohen, the joint has a familiar setup, with plenty of canned beer, hot chilies and hip-hop. Chef Leah Cohen has been turning diners on to funky Southeast Asian flavors since 2012 with a pig-centric menu. Enclosed backyard seating is available year-round, and the restaurant prepares a traditional Filipino brunch on the weekends with bottomless mimosas.
Already one of New York's most beloved destinations for fried bird since opening in 2006, Sarah Sanneh's down-home den is spread its Brooklyn wings and landed in Manhattan. The second location of the lunch-counter–style joint mirrors its Williamsburg sibling but also touts its new neighborhood, with dishes like herb-chicken dumpling soup and a sweet-and-savory sourdough glazed doughnut.
Chef Amanda Cohen is one of the most prominent champions of vegetarian cuisine, well before vegetable-forward was the gastro buzzword on every menu. Cohen bucks the hackneyed health-nut tenets of vegetarianism, shellacking her plants in butter and cream, and added a jolt of joy to an otherwise sober demographic.
In the 15-seat space—featuring communal tables, globe lambs and a multiwood bar—find Vietnamese iced coffee on tap and pastries like plum-and-ginger Danishes and parsnip-and-cajeta toast for breakfast. Dinner dishes include duck-confit hand pies, winter falafel with minted cauliflower, and cashew grits with braised pork.
This soba shop's name translates to "heartwarming," but it could also be dubbed heart-healthy for its fiber-rich, low-fat fare. Chef Yoshihito Kida, who owned a soba restaurant back in Japan, makes the buckwheat noodles in house, while Chef Mika Ohie focuses on sides and appetizers, like a cold house-made tofu with scallions, ginger and bonito.
Whether you’re craving a seasonally flavored muffin or a cold treat from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, this stroller-friendly bakery-café has what you need. Fill up on soup, salad or a sandwich for lunch; a burger, fried chicken or catch of the day for dinner; and eggs Benedict during the popular (i.e., crowded) weekend brunch.