Time Out readers have spoken, and below are the venues they named their absolute favorite in the LES & Chinatown. So the next time you’re in the area and in need of food, drink or retail therapy, make a beeline for these places and you won’t go far wrong.
For more great things to do in the Lower East Side check out our full Lower East Side guide.
For more great things to do in Chinatown check out our full Chinatown guide.
Azasu is a casual neighborhood izakaya located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We serve Japanese comfort food and bar snacks – the sort of food best eaten with a drink in one hand and chopsticks in the other. Family-style pork gyoza, crispy fried chicken karaage, comforting Japanese curries, rice, and noodles come to the table alongside icy mugs of Japanese beer and frozen yuzu cocktails. Our food loves booze, so the drink menu overflows with Japanese whiskies, frozen shochu drinks, and Japanese Hoppy (a popular non-alcoholic beer spiked with shochu). Our hand-picked list of almost 20 types of cup sake (individual glass jars of sake with metal pop-can tops) is the only one of its kind in NYC. Azasu is a place where you can stop by for quick beer and a plate of gyoza after work or linger late over shared plates and a round of cocktails (or four) with friends. See you soon. Kampai!
Nicholas Morgenstern (Goat Town, the General Greene) serves dishes inspired by the California coast at this Lower East Side eatery, having transformed the former El Rey café-bar into a modern lunch counter. 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. For beverages, aguas frescas (like cucumber limeade with juniper seltzer) are made in-house, and beers such as Westbrook White Thai witbier and Evil Twin's Ryan and the Beaster Bunny saison are on draft.
Owner Lee Chan claims this is Chinatown’s first design store. Instead of the usual Chinatown staples, Uniqulee focuses on one-of-a-kind finds. Look for locally designed dish towels ($15), Selenite candle holders ($39), cast-iron piggy banks ($89), hand-crafted banana fiber bowls ($34–$69) and more. Just about every visit to the shop will feel like the first time as Chan plans to reset the layout and displays every couple of weeks.
Venue says: “The Basement at Max Fish can be booked for private parties. It has it's own private entrance, bar, and DJ.”
At this bar-cum-art-gallery decked out with bright, bold paintings and skater paraphernalia, find crazy concoctions like dark and stormys kicked with Five Alive juice.
In recent years, a lot of the cooler bookings have moved from Pianos to Brooklyn or down the block to venues such as Cake Shop. Still, while sound is often lousy and the room can get uncomfortably mobbed, there are always good reasons to go back—very often the under-the-radar emerging rock bands that make local music scenes tick.