At the center of Alphabet City, locals spend their time outdoors in Tompkins Square Park. The cozy little park is the perfect place to sit on a bench and read, sprawl out on the grass, or just people-watch. Be sure to check out their farmers’ markets from 9 am to 6 pm for locally-sourced fresh produce and specialty foods. They also have annual events like the upcoming Halloween Dog Parade.
If you’re craving a New York bagel, you’re in for a treat. Stop by Tompkins Square Bagels for fresh bagels, cream cheese, and lox. Try some of their unusual cream cheese flavors like birthday cake, wasabi, or espresso. They also serve classic breakfast foods and sandwiches all day. Located right by the park, this is the perfect spot to get a bagel and coffee in the morning, or have a late afternoon snack and walk in the park.
The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space tells the story of the Lower East Side’s growth, specifically the changes that community spaces have gone through over the years. Through photographs and other exhibits, this small museum highlights the evolution that can occur in urban spaces. MoRUS is a must-see if you’re interested in the history of Alphabet City and the greater LES area. Saturdays at 3 pm the museum give tours of Alphabet City’s squats and gardens, and Sundays at 3 pm, they give a Radical Alphabet City tour.
If you’re looking for a unique ice cream venue, this is the place to go. As you enter the store, the unicorns and rainbows all around you have you smiling, before you’ve even had your ice cream. Big Gay Ice Cream’s menu is full of fun and inventive sundaes like the Salty Pimp – which combines vanilla ice cream with caramel, salt, and a fudge dip – and the Mermaid, a sundae version of key lime pie.
Open 24 hours, seven days a week, this little biscuit shop delivers sweet and savory biscuit treats for affordable prices. Empire Biscuit combines Southern-style biscuits with delicious toppings. For a full meal, try a biscuit sandwich with fillings ranging from egg and sausage to veggie stuffed pablano to pulled pork, and for a sweet treat, try their classic lemon curd and brown butter biscuit.
One of the most iconic eateries in Alphabet City is Panna II. This Indian restaurant has a vibrant atmosphere and is perfect for group outings. Strings of red Christmas lights cover the entire ceiling, bathing the room in warm light. As you walk by Panna II on the street, you can even see the red lights through the windows.
The Community Gardens of Alphabet City are great places to think and relax. Situated in empty plots around the area and kept by local gardeners, these spots combine the virtue of community with the beauty of nature. The 9th Street Community Garden Park is the largest garden, but you can find smaller gardens by walking through the neighborhood and keeping an eye out for a bit of greenery.
Ninth Street Espresso only offers basic coffee and espresso drinks, which allows quality to take priority. They source and roast their coffee in Brooklyn, so coffee drinkers with refined tastes can take heart in the comfort of fresh, locally-sourced beans. It might not look like much from the outside, but the windows let light in, making this a bright spot for work or a coffee date.
UCB Theatre has launched the careers of popular comedians such as Amy Poehler, but it’s also a great place to start if you’re interested in becoming a comedian yourself. This comedy club features up-and-coming comedians, and also offers training for longform improvisation and sketch writing classes.
Open since 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Café has become a legendary spot in Alphabet City. The café presents artists and writers who work across a range of mediums, including poetry, visual arts and performing art. If you’re looking to perform, sign up for one of their open mic nights or poetry slams. Even if you don’t feel artistically inclined, the Nuyorican Poets Café is a great place to get inspired.