Skyline view of the Lower East Side neighborhood in New York City.

City Guide / New York City

New York City Neighborhood Guide: Lower East Side

By Ruthie Fierberg | Oct 25, 2021

If you’re thinking about moving to New York City, you’ll first have to decide which neighborhood is right for you. The Lower East Side is perhaps the trendiest part of the city and a major hub for nightlife, music, and young artists (at least those who can afford to live in this part of Manhattan!). 

The neighborhood encompasses from The Bowery to FDR Drive (east to west) and below Houston Street to the Manhattan Bridge, which means it borders the East Village, NoLiTa, and Chinatown and has traces of the grit, cuisine, and shopping of each of those neighborhoods with a little polish of its own. Historically, the area was the unofficial shtetl for Jewish immigrants at the turn of the century. The boutiques, high-end restaurants, underground music venues, and velvet-roped nightclubs make it one of the most desirable neighborhoods for young people in Manhattan.

Thinking about moving to the Lower East Side? Here’s our guide to the best restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, outdoor attractions, gyms, nightlife, and transportation in this part of New York.

Best restaurants in the area

It’s honestly hard to go wrong on the Lower East Side when it comes to food. The Skinny bar is not only fantastic, but it offers the deal of the decade. Every weekday. they offer a $10 food and beverage combo, including offerings like tacos and margaritas and wings and draft beer. Yum!

The holy trinity of delicious and cheap LES food is the Punjabi Deli for Indian, Sushumai for Japanese, and Mi Salsa Kitchen for Cuban. Los Feliz is this writer’s absolute favorite restaurant in the city (do not miss the squash blossom quesedillas or the plantains). 

Headed by award-winning chef and ridiculous creative Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy is New York’s only vegetable-only restaurant, with a divine tasting menu to boot. Also, there’s no need to tip, because they pay and treat their workers fairly!

Tramezzini has been voted one of the best sandwich shops in the city, serving their self-proclaimed “softest sandwich.” Cervo’s is the spot for authentic Spanish and Portuguese seafood, like the classic prawns a la plancha. 

Try Austrian comfort food (i.e., legit pretzels and gulasch) at Café Katja. Congee Village is a LES staple—you have to try their Cantonese porridge. You can also spend your splurge at Gem for extravagant farm-to-table food. 

For a taste of old New York, hit up the landmark Katz’s Deli. If you’re with a group and want a bunch of choices from local vendors, you’ll find something to please everyone at Essex Market. For the best brunch in the Lower East Side, go to Sonnyboy, Freemans, or Clinton St. Baking Company.

Where to get groceries

The biggest supermarket in this part of Manhattan is the Whole Foods on the corner of East Houston and the Bowery. The Lower East Side also has a Key Foods farther east on Columbia Street and a new Trader Joe’s farther south on Grand Street. 

Tan Tin Hung Supermarket is a local Asian grocery store, specializing in Southeast Asian ingredients. 

For health nuts, check out Orchard Grocer, a New York-style vegan delicatessen with prepared foods and a supermarket section. If you’re looking for a gourmet grocer, Union Market is your best bet.

Where to get coffee

The famous Café Grumpy hosts one of its many locations on the Lower East Side. Caffe Vita has fantastic espresso and sources its coffee farm-direct from 11 countries around the world, while  Kodawari sources its beans from small co-ops and independent farmers. (Kodawari means “obsession” in Japanese, so they get their coffee right!) 

Bluestockings, a bookstore run by run by queer and trans folx and sex workers, offers an inclusive space that’s more about the vibes than the beverages—but you’ll love their coffee and tea as you browse their shelves!

Want a nitro brew? Head over to The Hideout Chai Bar. Downtown Coffee is best if you like your coffee to be a drink and a dessert. For the java elite, Roasting Plant roasts on-site and the LES location is the chain’s origin!

Outdoor attractions

Go for a run or a bike ride along the FDR for a refreshing view of the East River. If you travel south, you’ll hit Pier 36, or you can always take your path across the Williamsburg Bridge via the pedestrian or cyclist lane. Wander along Allen Street to find murals commissioned by The New Allen, which aims to turn New York streets into galleries. 

Local gyms and workout spots

Equinox has an outpost on Orchard Street, the north border of the neighborhood. At the opposite end of the spectrum (in location and price) is the public, free outdoor gym at Pier 35. 

The Manny Cantor Center is a community center offering personal training and group classes, as well as facilities to come in and lead your own workout. WillyB Fitness offers classes in four modalities: functional fitness, mobility, Olympic weightlifting, and HIIT. 

F45 is another option. The “F” stands for functional training and features a blend of circuit and HIIT workouts and every class is 45 minutes. 

Founded and managed by formerly incarcerated individuals, CONBODY is a “non-stop, bodyweight, prison-style, fitness method.” Not only will CONBODY get you fit, but the studio de-stigmatizes the formerly incarcerated community, provides services to those transitioning out of prison, and collaborates with other organizations to do so. Look good and feel good!

Nightlife

The Lower East Side is a hotbed of nightlife, with swanky bars, dive bars, speakeasies, live music, rooftop hangouts, and more late-night fun. Pianos is a long-established spot that hosts live acts on the first floor and a DJ on the second. Pre-pandemic, there was always a line, but it was worth it for the fun inside!

The Bowery is lined with cocktail bars and music venues such as Bowery Electric for live music, Phebe’s for drinks with a DJ, and The Wren for just drinks and a solid vibe. Garfunkel’s is a coveted speakeasy located through a vault door at the back of The Burgary featuring the apex of mixology in their cocktails (just note that this venue only takes reservations). 

If you want a dash of history with your speakeasy, The Back Room is one of only two speakeasies that operated during Prohibition that still serves customers today—plus, Monday nights are jazz nights with a live jazz band and swing dancing. For a taste of ’20s entertainment, hit up the variety show at The Slipper Room

The PUBLIC Hotel regularly hosts live DJs and lesser-known artists for live sets—check out the full calendar here. Rooftop93 offers some of the greatest views of downtown ideal for a sunset cocktail.

Things to do

The most famous museum of the Lower East Side is the Tenement Museum, which is located in two real tenement-style buildings and offers guided tours through the apartments. To continue with some history, visit the Museum at Eldridge Street. The National Historic Landmark is the first synagogue ever guild in America by Jewish immigrants, circa 1887. Explore architecture, cultural artifacts, and learn about Jewish immigrant life. 

For art buffs, check out great contemporary—and often immersive—art at the New Museum. You might also like to try the Museum of Street Art or the International Center of Photography. A temporary installation that sounds kitschy but is actually beautiful is the Immersive Van Gogh. (Yes, just like in “Emily in Paris.”)

Transportation

A monthly Metrocard ($127 for 30 days) is the best bang for your buck and works for subways and buses around New York. It’s rare to have a car in the city—particularly in Manhattan. The B/D and F/M trains are your main subway lines through the Lower East Side (farther into Manhattan or Brooklyn). The J/Z at Bowery will take you into Brooklyn. You can also use the MTA buses, CitiBike, or catch a cab, Lyft, or Uber for a direct route from point A to point B. 

Land a great apartment in the Lower East Side

If you like the idea of moving to an apartment in the Lower East Side, Landing offers fully furnished apartments with flexible lease terms, concierge services, seamless transfers, and all the amenities you need. Browse our available apartments in the Lower East Side, or contact us to learn more about how a Landing membership works.

Still looking for the right New York City neighborhood for you? Browse our other New York City neighborhood guides. 

blog-cta-city-new-york-city

About the author

Ruthie Fierberg

Ruthie Fierberg is an independent arts journalist, editor, moderator, on-camera host, producer, and theatrical consultant based in New York City. She is the creator and host of the podcast Why We Theater on the Broadway Podcast Network, which digs into the onstage works we love to create the offstage change we need. Find more at ruthiefierberg.com and follow her IG: @ruthiefierceberg / Twitter: @RuthiesATrain.