The Lower East Side is jam-packed. And everyone knows that on the weekends it can be a bit difficult to navigate the crowds. It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you want to go dancing after midnight (Pianos), eat California-style (Dimes), hit up a new classic (Mission Chinese Food) or find a small spot for a drink (Clandestino), the neighborhood has something for all desired vibes—so much so that it’s nearly impossible to create a guide, but here are a few favorites that will give one a good sense of a neighborhood full of both history and a million things to do, eat and drink.
138 Orchard St.
Get reservations and enjoy a set menu, one with meat and one focused on vegetables, for $89. The menu includes vague descriptions such as “duck, morel, spruce” and “radish, yuba, sorrel,” but a singular and delicate experience is clear and guaranteed.
86 Allen St.
Amanda Cohen’s vegetarian haven (with a vegan menu) has a tasting-menu format, a woman-winemaker-centric beverage selection, and some of the most innovative desserts in the city. Sit at the bar for a look into the open kitchen.
25 Clinton St.
Ramen by way of a chef from Long Island might not sound too appealing, but this standby continues to deliver. Do not leave without tasting the tofu Coney Island, a dish of fried tofu, raw white onion, enoki mushrooms and yellow mustard that perfectly conveys the vision here.
Les Enfants de Bohème
177 Henry St.
There have been countless times while either waiting for tables nearby, or wanting one more drink, or attending a cozy birthday gathering that I have ended up at this unassuming neighborhood spot that there are just not enough of in New York anymore. Cocktails, wine, beer, simple French cuisine—it’s all here.
188 Suffolk St.
A divey bar with a cocktail soul—the kind of place where you either begin or end the night. There’s a focus on local spirits, beers, and honey from the Catskills. This is another neighborhood spot that, despite being quite new, feels like it’s been around for ages.
Una Pizza Napoletana
175 Orchard St.
Not all pizza is created equal, and Una Pizza Napoletana is one of the good ones. From small plates like Sorana beans and marinated white anchovy to a very solid selection of pies to a lauded dessert menu, it’s a perfect addition to a very busy slice of the neighborhood.
142 Orchard St.
Known for its ciders and natural wines, this restaurant has a food menu perfectly matched to those types of acidic, funky beverages. There are breakfast radishes with seaweed butter, Maine lobster with buckwheat crepes, and panna cotta with strawberry granita.
43 Clinton St.
Teeny-tiny and cash only, but worth it for a cocktail lineup focused on French liquor like Calvados and brandies, as well as a small menu of food from the folks behind Le French Diner. This is a spot where one can escape the insanity of the neighborhood on weekends.