A number of immigrant communities have called the Lower East Side of Manhattan home over the years. Today, a diverse group of restaurants reflect that rich cultural history through their menus. We take a look at 10 outstanding lunch spots to try on the Lower East Side.
This famous Lower East Side deli is undoubtedly a tourist attraction, but it also offers unquestionably good sandwiches. Lines are long but move quickly, and the wait is made easier when employees behind the counter carve off thick slices of pastrami or corned beef for hungry customers to sample. At this New York institution, sandwiches are big enough for two, and priced accordingly. Head to Katz’s Delicatessen for a plate of homemade pickles and a hefty Reuben dripping with dressing, then watch as tourists clamor to take pictures of the restaurant’s ‘When Harry Met Sally’ sign.
Dudley’s has something for everyone. Excellent burgers are perfect for big appetites, while health nuts can opt for kale or farro salads. Sides include crispy brussel sprouts and fries. The restaurant also offers breakfast items, like oatmeal or pancakes. This casual restaurant is ideal for lunches with picky co-workers.
Chef Ivan Orkin opened two successful ramen restaurants in Tokyo before returning to his hometown of New York to open Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop and the Lower East Side’s Ivan Ramen. Here you’ll find a small, curated menu. Bowls of ramen are $15 to $16 each, and for an additional cost, customers can add egg, tomato or chicken confit to their bowls. Every element of the shop’s ramen bowls is simple but well executed, from the chicken broth base to the soft-cooked eggs.
Chef Danny Bowien, the mastermind behind Mission Chinese, opened this upscale Mexican restaurant in 2014. Lunch here is on the expensive side, but ingredients are high quality and the service is generally excellent. Their rich, spicy mole chicken wings are addictive. Delightfully gooey burritos burst with guacamole, cheese and a filling of your choice; choose the pork or masa-fried fish, which provides a nice textural contrast. Bowien is known for frequent menu changes,so head over to the spacious restaurant to order these dishes while they’re still available.
Russ & Daughters Café is an offshoot of the appetizing store Russ & Daughters, a landmark in the Lower East Side. The café, located just a few blocks away from the original Russ & Daughters, sells Jewish deli classics, like knishes and matzo ball soup, as well as new inventions, like challah bread pudding. Like the original shop, this café also specializes in smoked fish. Prices are high, but so is the quality. Try the Pastrami Russ, a twist on the deli favorite featuring pastrami-cured salmon.
The MasalaWala brings South Asian street food to the Lower East Side. A large menu offers everything from traditional samosas to Indian wraps. With a focus on small plates and snacks, the restaurant encourages sampling and sharing different dishes. Take advantage of The MasalaWala’s daily ‘canteen-style’ lunch, which includes an entree, rice and soup or salad starting at just $8. Diners can also use the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi, making this unconventional Indian restaurant an excellent choice for a business lunch.
Come prepared to stand in line for lunch at this 32-seat restaurant, which serves breakfast all day long. Order any of the pancakes, which a number of news outlets, including New York Magazine, deemed best in the city. The fluffy flapjacks come with a smooth, warm, maple-butter sauce that makes the long wait seem worth it. The restaurant also excels in recreating Southern favorites, like fluffy buttermilk biscuits, creamy grits and crispy fried green tomatoes.
Pizza is a contentious topic in New York City, but this small pizzeria offers consistently good slices at fair prices. Nonna’s offers round and square pies with toppings ranging from classic to creative. The Patate Pizza features mozzarella, potato, rosemary, ricotta and olive oil atop a thin, crispy crust. The Orchard Pizza, complete with bacon, Granny Smith apples, gorgonzola and walnuts, is a deliciously indulgent version of a bistro salad. Employees are friendly and the pizzeria has a small seating area for dine-in customers.
Offering $5 paninis and $7 pasta dishes, this café makes authentic Italian affordable. Owner Gaia Bagnasacco can be brusque, but that adds to the charm of this eclectic, homey restaurant. Sauce-smothered pastas are baked and served in tin bowls. The antipasto features a deliciously high quality variety of meats, cheeses, focaccia and arugula salad served on a butcher paper-covered platter. Go to the counter to order, but decide what you’d like to eat beforehand to ensure a smooth transaction! Deciding isn’t difficult, everything on the menu is hearty, homemade Italian comfort food.
Spitzer’s Corner offers brunch seven days a week, making it the perfect lunch spot for New Yorkers who missed their morning bagel. With a lengthy list of beers on tap and large portion sizes, this gastro pub is the ideal spot for a long, leisurely lunch. Customers return again and again for the restaurant’s signature truffle mac and cheese and the ‘epic’ fried chicken sandwich. For a lighter lunch, choose the lemon ricotta pancakes.