Once a haven for bohemian culture in New York, Manhattan’s East Village has morphed into a bustling home to high-end restaurants, brunch spots, and a veritable destination for noodles. While a number of high-profile chefs have opened establishments In the neighborhood, it remains a locale for the creative, the under-the-radar, and the experimental. These are the 20 best restaurants in the East Village, Manhattan.
Bar, Restaurant, Asian, American, $$$
The Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko boasts a sleek bar and open kitchen, allowing diners to watch chefs prepare and serve more than a dozen courses of David Chang’s creative, Asian-inspired fare. The tasting menu changes often and with the seasons, but the famed shaved foie gras with lychee remains a staple. Reservations are imperative and start exactly 15 days in advance, so mark your calendar.
Edi & the Wolf, designed to resemble a traditional Austrian tavern, provides a respite from the busy city streets. It’s decidedly dark — the walls, ceiling, and floor are layered with wooden planks — but the space is brightened up by a creeping hanging garden. Diners come for traditional Austrian dishes like the flattened yet crisp wiener schnitzel and soft rounds of spätzle.
Since opening in 1983, Café Mogador has become an institution in the East Village. It’s the area’s hub for Moroccan fare: kebabs, falafel, and tagine. Order a couple of small meze — bowls filled with tabouli and spicy carrots — followed by lamb shank tagine flanked by mounds of couscous.
Prune is the kind of neighborhood restaurant everyone wishes was on their corner. Owner and chef Gabrielle Hamilton infuses the menu with her experiences cooking and eating in France, Italy, and Greece. The result is a spread of internationally inspired comfort foods like roast chicken and butterscotch pudding. The restaurant is certainly small, meaning there’s usually a wait; but it’s worth it, especially during brunch when the massive Dutch-style pancake, crowned with blueberries and whipped sour cream, touches down on every table.
Maharlika Filipino Moderno functions as a destination for homesick Filipinos as well as newcomers. While Maharlika insists that it is not a fusion restaurant, the menu offers a variety of dishes that incorporate influences from around the globe. The menu ranges with everything from fried chicken and ube (purple yam) waffle, served with anchovy butter and macapuno syrup, to balut (fertilized duck egg) and beer-battered spam fries.
Just a few steps down from street level on East 9th Street is the teeny, sunken Superiority Burger, a haven for vegetarian and vegan food. The counter-service operation is helmed by chef Brooks Headley, who left fine dining kitchens to open a burger joint. The main attraction is the eponymous burger (a dense patty made from quinoa, chickpeas, and walnuts, piled with muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles), which should be paired with the burnt broccoli salad or the daily special, which in the past has included things like corny rice with spring beans.
Mifen, otherwise known as Chinese rice noodles, are the move at Hunan Slurp. Here, steaming bowls swimming with long strands of rice noodles come in a slew of options, but the house specialities are the fish filet (hunks of flaky white fish, mushrooms, and greens) and the hometown lu fen (rounds of beef, barbecue pork, tofu, crispy soy beans, and cucumber).
Hidden on a quiet section of East 9th Street is Sobaya, an unassuming destination for house-made soba noodles. Here, long ribbons of soba swim in hot or cold bowls of soup; there are plenty of pre-constructed bowls to choose from, like the hot wakame (seaweed, kelp, and sesame seeds), or the cold ikura oroshi (salmon roe and grated radish). Don’t miss out on the early bird dinner special, offered Monday-Thursday from 5:30pm-7pm, featuring five courses for $22.
David Chang’s Momofuku empire may be omnipresent now, but his success stems back to Momofuku Noodle Bar, which opened in 2004. The modern restaurant is done up in brown — with maple stools and high-top counters to match — with an open kitchen shrouded in plumes of smoke. Unsurprisingly, the move here is noodles: everything from pork ramen topped with a soft poached egg, to ginger scallion noodles and beef noodle soup. But you can’t take a trip to Noodle Bar without ordering pork buns: soft buns swiped with hoisin sauce and filled with hunks of pork and thinly sliced cucumber rounds.
It’s all about the pizza at Bruno, where wheat berries are milled and ground to star in the dough. The pies here are funky and creative. The Speak & Pear is topped with rounds of mozzarella, caramelized onion, and sage, and the earthy Pickled Peppers is flush with poblanos, ricotta, shallots, and peanuts. The market-driven restaurant doesn’t just offer pizza, however. Several small plates, like a creamy hand-pulled straticatella plopped on hunks of charred bread and a couple of rotating pastas, round out the menu.
Thanks to its prime location on 2nd Avenue and 24-hour service, Veselka has grown to become the late-night pit stop for dinners in Manhattan’s East Village. It’s here in the early hours of the morning where you’ll join the cacophony of the dining room, which offers a mix of Ukrainian specialities like bright pink borscht and platters of potato and cheese pierogi, along with plenty of American standards: eggs, coffee, and stacked pancakes.
Rustic Greek home-style cooking reigns at this East 7th Street restaurant, a narrow spot where sandy ceramic pots hang precariously from the ceiling. Beneath the eccentric decorations of this East Village restaurant, you’ll be treated to warm triangles of pita bread and a drink list flush with Greek wines. It’s worth focusing on the mezes, which feature dishes like giant beans swimming in honey-flecked tomato-dill sauce, and flaky phyllo rounds brimming with cured beef, tomatoes, and cheese. But don’t miss out on the whole grilled fish soaked in olive oil and lemon juice.
It’s with good reason that Málà Project is always busy: dry pot. This communal, Chengdu-style dish is a fun, DIY project. Choose from over 70 ingredients (everything from the innocuous, such as broccoli and beef tenderloin, to the more adventurous, such as pig intestines and chicken heart). The kitchen sautées everything you choose with 24 spices, and you can select the dish’s spice level (from non-spicy to fiery).
Perched on Avenue A is Harry & Ida’s, a funky shop that looks more like a general store than a destination for sandwiches. The tin-stamped ceiling and brick interiors are offset by wooden shelves carting bottles of jam, spices, and oils. In the back you’ll find the sandwich counter, which is best known for the pastrami sandwich: hunks of spice-rubbed pastrami are piled on a hero, along with buttermilk-fermented cucumbers, rye berries, and anchovy mustard. There are plenty of other sandwiches, too – Squash! Chicken! Eel! – plus eclectic sides like matzo chips.
Chef Thomas Chen showcases Asian-inspired New American fare at his cozy East 5th Street restaurant. The two cuisines are effortlessly fused here: crispy deviled eggs are garnished with a hint of chili, and the snow crab is flush with noodles, squash, and dashi butter. But you’d be remiss not to come in at least once for Chen’s popular Pig Out: crispy berkshire pork for two, flanked by arugula salad, fruit, candied walnuts, and peanut noodles.
Brooklyn’s pizza darling finally has a bona fide outpost in the East Village that slings Detroit-style pizza. The exceedingly popular pizzeria, known for thick, towering pies baked in rimmed pans, brings an eccentric collection of pizzas to the neighborhood: the Emmy, slick with red sauce, is piled with banana peppers, red onions, and ranch, while Curry Row, flush with Brooklyn Delhi achaar, onions, peppers, cauliflower, and chutney, pays homage to 6th Street’s Indian restaurants. The famed double-stack burger is also available.
Crif Dogs has long been slinging hot dogs for the boozed-up folk on St. Marks Place (as well as the hungry, cocktail-sippers at the speakeasy hidden through Crif Dog’s telephone booth). These aren’t just any ol’ hot dog: they’re charmingly funky — the antithesis of those you’ll get at a summer cookout. Bacon-wrapped dogs are heaped with cheese and a fried egg. Buns arrive with a schmear of cream cheese, scallions, and everything bagel seeds. There’s even a corn dog, deep-fried and served on (what else?) a stick.
Sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng are the duo behind Mimi Cheng’s, a Taiwanese spot on 2nd Avenue pleating house-made dumplings. The menu is slim, narrowed down to merely a couple of dumpling varieties (chicken with zucchini, pork with baby bok choy and cabbage, and a vegetarian option swollen with kale, egg, mushrooms, and carrots); these can be fried or steamed. Be sure to check out the rotating monthly special, which in the past has included chicken parmesan and a brunch rendition plump with egg, sausage, and cheese.
Alex Stupak’s downtown tequila bar and tortilleria is a lively convergence of imbibers and taco fanatics. The menu flirts with bar snacks and a couple of larger dishes, but stick to the tacos and sides. The namesake al pastor boasts a wonderful dichotomy of crisp and fatty pork, garnished with slivers of pineapple. But if you’re willing to be adventurous, opt for the cactus or cheeseburger taco. Then order a side of white beans streaked with chilmole and queso flecked with Berbere spices.
In a city where it’s often difficult to find a good bowl of pho, there’s Madame Vo to quench your cravings. The Madame Vo features a beef broth simmered for 24 hours, peppered with rice noodles, brisket, bone marrow, and meatballs; it’s big enough to feed at least two. Pair a bowl with caramelized chicken wings slick with garlic fish sauce and flaky fried spring rolls teeming with shrimp, crab and pork.