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Once a haven for bohemian culture in New York, the East Village has morphed into a bustling home to high-end restaurants, brunch spots, and a noodle destination. 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 24 best restaurants in the East Village.
Prune is the kind of neighborhood restaurant everyone wishes was on their corner. Owner and chef Gabrielle Hamilton infuses the menu with her experiences of cooking and eating in France, Italy, and Greece. The result is a spread of internationally inspired comfort foods including 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 below 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 such as corny rice with spring beans.
Hidden on a quiet section of East 9th Street is Sobaya, an unassuming destination for house-made soba noodles. Long ribbons of soba swim in hot or cold bowls of soup; there are plenty of pre-constructed bowls to choose from, such as 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 to 7pm, featuring five courses for $22.
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).
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 a light-brown palette – 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 Momofuku Noodle Bar without ordering pork buns: soft buns swiped with hoisin sauce and filled with hunks of pork and thinly sliced cucumber rounds.
Thanks to its prime location on 2nd Avenue and 24-hour service, Veselka has grown to become the late-night pit stop. In the early hours of the morning, you’ll join the cacophony of the dining room, which offers a mix of Ukrainian specialities including bright-pink borscht and platters of potato and cheese pierogi, along with plenty of American hangover 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 from the ceiling. Beneath the eccentric decorations, 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 such as 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.
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, beloved for the pastrami sandwich: hunks of spice-rubbed pastrami are piled on a soft hero, along with buttermilk-fermented cucumbers, rye berries, and anchovy mustard. There are plenty of other sandwiches, too – squash, chicken, and eel – plus eclectic sides such as 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 Mark’s 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 dogs: 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.
The home-cooking at Madame Vo likely doesn’t resemble the stuff you whip up in your apartment. The garlicky chicken wings caramelized in fish sauce, coconut juice-braised spare ribs, and Vietnamese fried rice with meaty prawns, sausage, and egg look as good as they taste, which, incidentally, is delightful. Visit this East Village eatery to be inspired to up your own home-cooking game (and snap a few shots for the ‘gram in the process).
It’s certainly easy to walk by Hi-Collar without noticing it. This corridor of a space is so narrow that it barely houses the slim bar and some 10 wobbly stools perched inside. By day, Hi-Collar is a kissaten (a western-style Japanese cafe), hawking coffee brewed from your choice of bean, tea, and a small assortment of food items including omurice (a jiggly omelet sliced open over rice), katsu sandwiches, and plump pancakes. By night, Hi-Collar morphs into a bar, where (high-) collar shirts are swapped for sake. Choose from a laundry list of sakes, plum wine, whiskey, shochu, and cocktails, along with charcoal-grilled squid and vinegar-cured mackerel.
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.
After chef Soogil Lim flexed his French culinary skills at New York City’s Daniel, he opened his own restaurant blending French technique with Korean flavors. The menu is slimmed down, highlighting an explosion of culinary fusion: seared foie gras is flanked by mounds of crispy rice, brussels sprouts, and mushroom soy sauce; beef tartare gets an upgrade with Korean pears, a shimmering egg yolk, pickled chayote, and slabs of brioche; and for dessert you’ll slice into tarts brimming with passion fruit curd and basil-infused champagne mango.
This one-room restaurant near Cooper Square flaunts a mix of both Chinese and Cajun food. You can sport bibs and gloves while diving into big, shareable bowls of glistening crawfish. Or peel hunks of chicken and fishcakes off skewers, scoop plump crawfish tail meat out of a Chinese-inspired jambalaya, and let your lips sting from spicy snow crabs, ready to be dunked in a sauce consisting of 13 spices. Knock it all back with a round of sudsy beer or inexpensive soju.
Still out and about in Manhattan’s East Village? Take a look at our guide to the best things to do in the East Village.