Neighborhood guides: Live like a local in The Lower East Side, New York
17 May 2022
The Lower East Side (LES) has managed to avoid the glossifying of Manhattan. Quite a feat, considering the neighboring ‘hoods that surround this urban yet urbane neck of the woods – East Village, Nolita, and Chinatown – have transformed in recent years. It’s the gritty vibe that attracts the tourists, and its laid-back sense of cool has many locals fighting to stay put.
Arguably one of the ‘hippest’ parts of New York City, the LES is bursting with nightlife, music, boutiques, high-end restaurants, low-key cafes, and underground music venues. From The Bowery to FDR Drive, Houston Street to the Manhattan Bridge, there is something to keep you energized and entertained around every corner.
Here are our favorite spots:
Dirt Candy is New York’s first vegetable-only restaurant – the kitchen is essentially a laboratory for its award-winning chef, Amanda Cohen, who, every day, pushes veg further than anyone else in the world. New York Magazine named it ‘the best restaurant on the LES’, and who are we to argue with that.
Bluestockings is the LES bookstore run by queer, trans and sex working folk. It has been a central part of the feminist, LGBTQ+, and sex working communities in the neighborhood for the past 23 years, and continues to provide a nonjudgmental and supportive place for marginalized people. You’ll also find a cafe inside, although note: it's more about the vibes than the beverages.
For an elevated evening on the LES, look to Contra – Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske (also of Wildair) are striving to create and define a new food identity specific to New York City. They describe their set-menu as "ambitious," so expect everything from uni paired with verbena to skate with beets.
As well as Contra, chef duo Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske opened a more casual wine-bar-meets-restaurant spot, which is just as much a standout. All tables are communal high-tops and the place only accepts walk-ins, so if there’s a wait, trust us, both the food and the wine list are worth it.
The LES used to be a mecca for all things hip-hop and kicks back in the day. Sneakerheads from all five boroughs would flock to this part of town to cop the latest drop, and many would – and still do – start their pilgrimage at Alife. Ring the bell to enter the dark wood-panelled interiors, lined with an amazing collection of sneakers from Nike and adidas, as well as Alife's cool collaborations.
A New York institution, Katz’s is a legendary Jewish deli, originally opened in 1888 under a different name, and across the street from its current location on Houston and Ludlow. It even made its Hollywood debut with the iconic orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh
Located in a gallery-like space on the LES, Maryam Nassir Zadeh is more like a showroom than a boutique. Expect to find totem-like objects arranged on the floor, striking pieces of contemporary yet luxurious jewellery, and plenty of up-and-coming labels to browse. MZN put designers like Jacquemus on the map, so if shopping is the name of your game, do not skip this store.
Do not let the name confuse you – your average Duane Reade, this is not. The oh-so vibrant storefront of Stanley’s conceals a wellness experience, offering a curated selection of medicinal teas, tonics, elixirs, nutraceuticals, and natural beauty solutions.
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space provides exhibition opportunities to hundreds of independent curators and emerging underrepresented artists. Located inside the Essex Street Market, it allows local artists a distinct opportunity to directly engage with the culturally minded community from the surrounding areas.