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June 15, 2010 3:32 AM   Subscribe

NYC Filter: I'll be staying on the edge of the L.E.S. and NoLIta for 4 weeks. What neighborhood-unique shops/sights/foods must I enjoy while I'm there? (Anything in South Manhattan welcome, but LES-centric preferred.)

FWIW: so far, I've got Nike Sportswear's boutique at 21 Mercer and J. Crew's Liquor Shop (over towards Tribeca, but still).
posted by the NATURAL to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Essex St Market, at Essex just north of Delancey. Eat at Shopsin's if you dare (I've never been, but some people love it.. others hate hate hate hate it). Otherwise, it's a cute little indoor market, been there since the dawn of time. Or 1940.

LES has lots of other good food - DT Works for delicious sweets, Clinton St Baking Co for long brunch lines and wonderful overhyped pancakes, Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop for the best sandwiches ever. If you're into juice or smoothies, Juicy Lucy is a relatively cheap juice bar (as far as that goes in NYC) with locations at 1st & 1st and Ave A btwn 5th and 6th. It's a real gem. Doughnut Plant, Luke's Lobster, Caracas are other must-eat places, for doughnuts, lobster rolls, and Venezuelan arepas, respectively. The latter two are actually in the East Village.

The Tenement Museum is on Orchard St just below Delancey, and it's really good. They offer a few different tours, see if any appeal to you. Of course there's also the New Museum, if that's your thing.

Apparently all I do is eat, as I can't come up with anything else around here. Al of those places can be found on Yelp, where you should also try looking for fun things to do. The LES is fairly packed with clothing boutiques, if you're interested in shopping you'll have no shortage of things to do.
posted by alphasunhat at 4:45 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Tenement Museum -- it's definitely worth a visit.

Another fun place to eat is The Meatball Shop.

And I really like Nolita House for its cozy atmosphere + good beer and comfort food.

You'll pass a lot of enticing stores just walking around, but there's a pretty good list of shops as well as bars and restaurants here.
posted by bethist at 6:26 AM on June 15, 2010

LES, let's see, here's my typical itinerary for a day in the LES: Teany for awesome tea (hot or cold), Economy Candy old school amazing candy store, Babeland for sex toys, and then ABC No Rio for an event. Enjoy!
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:35 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: The Lower East Side and Nolita are really great areas filled with restaurants, bars, boutiques, live music venues. You'll have a great time. Also a very short walk from Soho (just across Bowery) and the East Village (just north of Houston).

My favorite restaurants and food stores in the area: Clinton Street Baking Company (Southern and good for brunch), Stanton Social (small plates, recommend brunch only), Russ & Daughters (traditional "appetizing" store with great smoked salmon), Cafe Katja (Austrian), Freemans (American and hidden down an alley), Katz's Deli (don't lose your ticket), 'inoteca (Italian wine bar), Kuma Inn (Thai-Filipino fusion and BYOB), Bao Haus (Taiwanese street food, casual), the aforementioned Shopsin's (unless you have allergies or are a picky eater or are easily offended), Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop, Economy Candy (but be careful if you're buying something that might not have great turnover -- it could be old). Also there's a Whole Foods on Bowery and Houston.

In Nolita, I really like Peasant (Italian), Public (especially for brunch, has an eclectic menu), and the tiny wine bar inside of Public, the Monday Room (but it's pricey). Avoid Rice to Riches (too sweet, overpriced), the pizza at Pulino's (too cracker-y).

You can always look up menus (usually with prices) on menupages.com, BTW, and if you've an iPhone, they have an iPhone application. I also recommend installing the Yelp application for the iPhone so you can look up addresses, phone numbers, and hours while on the go.

A semi-new thing to do on the weekends is go to the Hester Street Fair. It's a tiny outside market with artisanal food vendors like Sigmund Pretzel shop, Newyorkina popsicles, Luke's Lobster Rolls, An Choi for banh mi, Mile End, macarons, cookies, pies, a stand making omelets to order as well as a number of vendors offering paper goods, jewelry, clothing, etc. It's tucked away in Seward Park between Grand and Canal Streets.

My favorite bars: Marshall Stack (beer), Painkiller (tiki drinks), Milk & Honey (semi-private, cocktails). Have also heard good things about the cocktails at Freemans and Clinton Street. You can also walk to the East Village to hit the notable cocktail spots (get there early, no standing allowed, places hit capacity early): Death & Co, PDT, Mayahuel would be my top three. Louis 649, Summit Bar, Cienfuegos, the bar at Yerba Buena, are good too. Haven't tried Black Market yet.

Closest coffee is probably Gimme Coffee, but cross into Soho and you've got Caffetteria, Ground Support, Local, City Girl, and La Colombe (who has really great olive oil cake). I'm not a fan of Aroma. Roasting Plant is fun but I don't think the coffee is as good as the others.

If you go into the West Village, there's also Jack's Stir Brewed and Joe the Art of Coffee. In the East Village, you've got Bluebird, Abraco, 9th Street Espresso, Think Coffee (cold brewed iced coffee). My husband also has a soft spot for minibar these days since they have seating and free wifi and outlets, which you don't find a lot in Manhattan. (Shhhh.)

For bakeries nearby you've got Sugar Sweet Sunshine in the LES and also in Soho, there's a ton. Village Tart, Caffe Falai, Ceci-Cela, Balthazar Bakery, Oro Bakery, Columbine, or Birdbath. Joe has donuts from Donut Plant, and I think Ground Support & City Girl have pastries as well. Not really impressed by Baked by Melissa's mini cupcakes.

The pastry counter at Dean and Deluca will have a lot of options from different purveyors around town. And there's also Grandaisy bakery (which is run by the ex-partner of the guy who does Co. and Sullivant Street Bakery). Kee's Chocolates is in Soho and probably the best chocolates in the city (skip MarieBelle and Vosges). Bespoke is also very close to you and excellent, but a little hard to find.

You can also go into the East Village for Chikalicious Dessert Club, Butter Lane and Momofuku Milk Bar.

My favorite boutiques are In God We Trust, Odin Nearby also are the MoMA Store, Project 8, Save Khaki, Vercon, Kiosk, Earnest Sewn, Bblessing. There's tons of cool stuff if you just wander around, too. We often wander the area south of Houston and north of Delancey, just popping into whatever looks cool on Orchard and Ludlow. For whatever reason, we just really like those six blocks. Best indie shops on the LES.

My favorite live music venues: Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom. There's also Pianos (booking is so-so), the Living Room (no cover but usually a drink minimum), Cake Shop (literally a record store + cafe + venue in the basement with horrible sightlines), and a few others nearby. Check out ohmyrockness.com for a schedule. Tip: you can skip the service fees by buying tickets directly from the Mercury Lounge box office but they're cash only and have limited hours. But they book not just the Mercury Lounge but also Webster Hall, Terminal 5, Bowery Ballroom, and a few other venues. Shows do sell out and often they sell out very quickly!

See also:
What to eat in New York City that you can't easily find elsewhere? Part 1 and Part 2
How can I channel my inner Ferris Bueller and have one great day, except in New York?
The basics of visiting NYC
posted by kathryn at 6:49 AM on June 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

Catch the Saturday night burlesque show at the Slipper Room. Haven't been for years, but I recall it being a good time, and it's only $5 to get in!
posted by kmtiszen at 6:51 AM on June 15, 2010

BTW, Clinton Street has pancakes all day. They're on the dinner menu. Also on Sundays they now serve the brunch menu from 9am to 7pm or something like that. New York City brunches hard.
posted by kathryn at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2010

If you like Japanese food (or even if you don't), St. Mark's Place in the East Village is really fun. I like Kenka, but there are a million restaurants.

If you're interested in decent Indian food served in maybe the weirdest environment on Manhattan, go to Panna II or the identical place next door.

If you like cheap shots, go to Cheap Shots.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:05 AM on June 15, 2010

Well this is really SoHo, but I love it. If you like old, dead things you will too.
posted by Evangeline at 7:13 AM on June 15, 2010

Already mentioned above, Abraco not only has the best coffee I've ever had, but they have really really great baked goods. I've never been disappointed with a choice, but I always keep coming back to their olive oil cake.

One of my favorite restaurants is Prune (save room for ricotta ice cream with salted caramel croutons), but if there is a long wait, JoeDoe is across the street and a great alternative. And they have beer cocktails.

There is also the Union Square Farmer's Market. Try to go early on a Saturday.
posted by spec80 at 7:40 AM on June 15, 2010

St. Mark's Place has a bunch of cheap drinking establishments with food but I actually prefer Village Yokocho, which is located between 8th and 9th just off 3rd Ave on an angular street called Stuyvesant.

Cheap Shots is currently not in operation.

Already mentioned above, Abraco not only has the best coffee I've ever had, but they have really really great baked goods. I've never been disappointed with a choice, but I always keep coming back to their olive oil cake.

I think the only thing I haven't liked was some sort of donut.

Second Prune (but the brunch wait can be murder -- go for weekday lunch or dinner) and the Union Square Greenmarket but it's a madhouse after 11am on Saturdays. I actually prefer to go on Wednesday mornings for that reason. It's almost as comprehensive but not quite.
posted by kathryn at 7:55 AM on June 15, 2010

Bluestockings Bookstore is good for an hour or so, and, at least when I was there, the a/c was nice.
posted by Danf at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2010

Monday nights starting at 10:00 p.m. at Arlene's Grocery in the LES there is free live-band rock and roll karaoke. Really high quality singers most of the time, and entertaining otherwise. Just good free entertainment. If you actually want to sing, get there well before 10 to sign up and there will still be a wait before you actually get up on stage with the band.
posted by slide at 9:03 AM on June 15, 2010

- Walk across the Williamsburg bridge. The pedestrian entrance is accessible from the intersection of Essex and Delancey, if I remember right. The walk is do-able, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and is beautiful: the view of the city from up-high on the bridge in the middle of the river, open sky above you, water beneath.

- Take a newspaper or cup of take-out coffee to Tompkins Square park (located around Avenue A and 7th Street). Hang out on the grass or a park bench. Enjoy the human liveliness and beautiful old trees.
posted by Paquda at 10:34 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: For Italian food in a more casual and less expensive (but still obviously labored-over and adorable) atmosphere than Peasant (which is great), I really love Frankie's Spuntino on Clinton Street. It's a small dining room (and a teeny-tiny kitchen), without a lot of elbow room, but check out the website--maybe it will be your thing, too.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: My answer to "what should I do in NYC" is in this Google Map.
posted by enrevanche at 11:38 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: If you want the best Indian food you'll get outside India, go to this little hole-in-the-wall joint downstairs on 1st street between 1st ave and Avenue A. You'll know it from the line of cabs parked out front and all the cabbies inside eating. There's maybe two stools - don't plan to sit down there - and vegetarian delights galore. It's one of the hidden treasures of the East Village.

Rice to Riches is also fun, if you like rice pudding, and/or want to eat some dessert in the break room of the Starship Enterprise.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 12:13 PM on June 15, 2010

Doughnut Plant - alredy mentioned above, but worth a single post to make sure you note it. Get the creme brulee (in your selection!). The doughnuts are available at some other places, but the plant itself has the best range, including seasonal specials. I ate two in one visit, but in retrospect, I wish I had eaten more!
posted by AnnaRat at 6:35 PM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: Nthing Bluestockings; also St Mark's Bookshop, McNally Jackson and Shakespeare and Company (two cats, the tabby and white downstairs one is the friendlier)
posted by brujita at 12:04 AM on June 16, 2010

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