20 Essential East Village Restaurants
From hot new openings to neighborhood institutions.
As one of the most popular neighborhoods in New York City, the East Village is known for its eclectic mix of lively nightlife spots, bohemian energy, dive bars—and most notably—an impressive restaurant scene featuring a diverse array of cuisines and cultures. From the Little Tokyo corridor, to the neighborhood’s storied history as a refuge for Eastern European immigrants, landmark buildings and businesses reflective of the area’s past are still visible today. In addition to its history, the area has been featured in countless films and TV shows from Rent to Russian Doll as the pulsating heart of NYC's youth culture. (And we won’t argue with that.) It’s also a breeding ground for culinary trendsetters—restaurant empires from Momofuku to Empellón got their start here. Whether you’re a college freshman on a budget or have your heart set on a stellar dining experience, the East Village offers something for everyone.
With summer in full swing, there’s no better time to flash your vaccination card and enjoy some great food by exploring new openings or neighborhood institutions. Here’s our roundup of 20 essential restaurants in the East Village from new to standby.
From the team behind nearby cocktail bar Mister Paradise comes Electric Burrito, a fast-casual spot that opened this spring and is known for its signature french fry-stuffed Southern California-style burritos. Sporting a concise menu of specialty and breakfast burritos, tacos, and nachos, co-founders Will Wyatt and Alex Thaboua bring Thaboula’s San Diego roots to the neighborhood with standout options like egg n’ cheese, chorizo, and the Hot Rod with carne asada. Chase it down with a housemade Pico Pop soda, a must-try bottled drink made from pico de gallo tomato water and that tastes like liquid gold salsa.
Tapping into chef Shenarri Freeman’s Virginia upbringing, Cadence, a plant-based soul food restaurant under Overthrow Hospitality that opened this spring, reconfigures traditional Southern cuisine. A vegan herself, chef Freeman’s menu keeps true to beloved Southern dishes with flavorful renditions like palm cakes with chickpeas, heart of palm, and chipotle aioli slaw; smoked grits with torched oyster mushrooms and rosemary butter; or the popular southern fried lasagna made with red wine bolognese, pine nut ricotta, and spinach. Pair everything with a wine list highlighting Black-owned wineries from the U.S., France, and South America.
After losing their jobs due to the pandemic, owners Asher Sendyk, Chris Wagenlander, and Hai Oliveira decided to combine their love of katsu and open their own spot. Evil Katsu originally started as a pop-up out of Pretty Ricky’s, and the permanent East Village location debuted this July. The katsu here comes in a variety of forms: from pork, chicken, or portobello sandwiches; chicken or portobello bento boxes over garlic rice with two sides, house pickles, and tonkatsu sauce; as well as eight-piece chicken bites. Summer items include chilled dishes like the udon noodles made with heirloom tomatoes and shiso, or the silken tofu topped with fish flakes, ginger, and garlic.
Channeling the culture and energy of the bustling Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown is Thai restaurant, Soothr. Opened during the pandemic and pronounced “Sood”—which translates to recipe—the restaurant was created through the vision of three close friends who grew up in Thailand. The core concept of “from our hearty family recipes to your table” is shown through their menu of authentically crafted dishes. Pair an order of koong karee (shrimp in a thick egg sauce) with the best-selling cocktail Dara Citrine (tequila, mezcal, tamarind chili salt). If you’re looking to host a larger party or private event, the back garden is also available for reservations.
Standing by the motto of “genuine cosmic Texas cooking” is Yellow Rose, a San Antonio-style taco spot and bakery. This plant-forward pop-up turned restaurant opened this spring and churns out flour tortilla tacos (bean and cheese, barbacoa, and shredded chicken verde are among the popular choices); white bean chalupas; and an array of smaller dishes like tomatillo salad and Spanish rice arancini. Dessert-wise, don’t miss the Texas sheet cake made with candied fried pecans, sea salt, and Texas olive oil. Round out your meal with a Mexican Coke or a vodka-spiked shrub soda for an extra kick.
Opened right before the start of 2021, sushi restaurant Rosella has created a menu focused on sustainably sourced food. In an effort to reduce negative environmental impact, the seafood and ingredients served are chosen locally and thoughtfully, while food waste within the kitchen is minimized by utilizing all parts of the produce and fish. Start off with appetizers like the bluefin tuna crudo with mango, coconut milk, and dill; and the striped bass ceviche with citrus, strawberry, and avocado before choosing a rice or noodle bowl or from an array of little and big rolls. For a more decadent experience, make a reservation for the tasting menu which is served by the chefs at the counter and includes 15-18 courses of sushi, sashimi, small plates, and dessert.
How to book: Make a reservation through Tock
Born on the coast of Seoul, chef Kay Hyun blends together flavors from Korea combined with inspiration from Spain and South America at her tapas spot, Mokyo. After the success of her first restaurant, Thursday Kitchen, chef Hyun opened her new eatery right before the onset of the pandemic and focuses the menu on contemporary twists to nostalgic dishes like the corn dumpling with truffle salsa verde, fennel, and parmigiano; oxtail spring roll with wagyu, smoky gochujang, and onion puree; and pork jowl with chayote squash, kabayaki butter, and kalamata aioli. Chase your tapas with a sake sampler, glass of plum soju, or a rice wine mojito. Before the night finishes, channel the spirit of childhood summers past with a pop rocks-topped mascarpone dessert.
Over the last 83 years, B&H Dairy Kosher Restaurant has been cooking old-school comfort classics in the heart of the East Village. In fact, the menu of largely vegetarian Eastern European kosher dishes has changed very little since the restaurant opened in 1938. With nearly 600 loaves of challah bread baked in house per week, the restaurant is indisputably a neighborhood favorite. Drop in for a tuna melt, summertime cold soups (special nod to the borscht), or a farmer cheese-filled blintz.
Describing itself as a restaurant with “a balanced meat-centric menu” instead of a traditional steakhouse, Bowery Meat Company is a part of Mercer Street Hospitality (Lure Fishbar, Hancock St.) and touts high-quality meats and stiff drinks. Kick off your meal with starters like jumbo shrimp cocktail, salmon tartare, and a variety of oysters. For entrees, pick from the impressive beef selection (larger steaks for two are available) or branch out with the caciocavallo-loaded duck lasagna (feeds from 2-8, depending on your appetite). Complement your dinner with an extra dirty martini or explore the extensive whiskey list. Large format to-go meals are also available to order online.
Downtown Bakery Cocina Mexicana is the East Village’s answer to a no frills, real-deal Mexican spot. The small restaurant is known for serving fantastically messy breakfast, lunch, and dinner burritos. Keep in mind, there’s no seating inside, so these beauties will have to be taken to go. While you’re there don’t miss crowd favorites like the torta de carne enchilada (marinated lean steak in guajillo sauce) or mole poblano chicken (a spicy stew with shredded chicken breast prepared in mole poblano).
This taco spot and bar from chef Alex Stupak is located right on St. Marks across the street from Tompkins Square Park. With plenty of seating that offers some of the area’s best people-watching, at Empellón Al Pastor, enjoy high-caliber food in a super casual environment with orders of the namesake Al Pastor tacos (spit roasted pork and pineapple), in addition to options like cheeseburger, chicken, and a chef’s special. Corn dogs, pork fried rice, and nachos are also on hand, and happy hour runs Monday to Friday from 4 pm-7 pm with margaritas, select beers, tequila shots, and $4 fries. All summer long on Thursdays, swing by for weekly bar snack specials.
How to book: Walk-in
On a mission to show the diversity and complexity of Vietnamese food is husband-and-wife duo, chef Jimmy Ly and “Madame” Yen Vo, of Madame Vo. The restaurant's menu takes a contemporary approach to traditional home cooking, street-style dishes, and regional specialties. Load up with the signature appetizer platter (sugarcane shrimp, grilled pork, spring rolls, banh hoi noodles, and more) or grab a hit-the-spot classic vermicelli bowl. Special summer menu items include the chao tom sandwich (a take on the classic Vietnamese shrimp burger) and iced pandan latte with coconut milk (a vegan version of Vietnamese iced coffee).
With a second location also in Bryant Park, MáLà Project is a Chinese restaurant founded by four close friends—Ning (Amelie) Kang, Meng Ai, Yishu He, and Evan Toretto Li—and focuses on traditional Chinese dishes. The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the restaurant’s specialty dry pot. Whether you want to share or go it alone, the dry pot is wok-fried over high heat with 24 spices and a medley of Chinese herbs. Choose your spice level preference along with choice of meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, and noodles (crowd favorites include: sliced lamb, beef tenderloin, fish balls, and pineapple). Sip on a chili pepper infused, baijiu-based In The Mood For Là-ve cocktail, while enjoying the botanical 90's China inspired dining room (events are posted here).
With its flagship location in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, Mama Fina’s House of Filipino Sisig (pronounced SEE-sig) brings authentic Filipino cuisine to the East Village. Owners Carmen and Sam Sta Maria’s restaurant centers around the Filipino dish of sisig (sizzling pans of chopped meat, crispy skin, and fat), and the menu consists of traditional recipes from chef Maria’s mother Delfia Dolor (aka Mama Fina). Among the can’t-miss dishes are the pork sisig with crispy chopped pork belly, onions, and chili; pusit sisig with crispy chopped squid; and crispy whole red snapper in sweet and sour sauce.
Opened in 2004, Momofuku Noodle Bar was chef and restaurateur David Chang’s first restaurant in the neighborhood that would ultimately launch his empire—and to this day, remains one of the very last (and most popular) of his many spots that have come and gone in the East Village throughout the years. With a second location at Columbus Circle, the original spot serves a rotating roster of noodles, bun varieties in addition to the signature pork, and small plates. Swing by for a bowl of ramen or indulge with your crew in the fried chicken meal that’s served Southern-style with caviar, chives crepes, crème fraîche, white BBQ sauce, and potato chips.
With Oiji, chef and owner Brian Kim (Bouley, Gramercy Tavern) cemented his expertise in the category of refined and authentic Korean cuisine. Delicate and carefully curated dishes—like the foie gras with crispy rice or chili lobster with chilled ramyun and sugar snap peas—define the restaurant's rotating menu. A current summer specialty dish is the Wagyu “samhap,” which consists of sea urchin, aged kimchi, and Korean mustard, with tableside-torched Wagyu. Streetside, air conditioned private dining hubs are also available, and be sure to order the signature dessert, honey butter chips, which caused quite the buzz when it first debuted as is also available to make at home.
Whether you're a proclaimed vegetarian or vegan or just in search of a meatless meal, Superiority Burger is your plant-based haven. The cozy, counter-service spot from Brooks Headley serves off a small menu featuring items like the popular veggie burger, faux Sloppy Joe, and burnt end broccoli salad. Walk-up service is open Wednesday to Friday from 5 pm-9 pm and weekends from 1 pm-7 pm. Grab a bottle of wine to-go and enjoy your meal at the nearby Tompkins Square Park.
In the heart of East Village lies Veselka, a Ukranian coffee shop and eatery that’s one of the neighborhood’s most iconic culinary institutions. Located on a stretch that’s also known as Little Ukraine, its name translates to “rainbow” and has served the community for over 60 years. The popular restaurant is best known for pierogies, borscht, and goulash, and in addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, is a great brunch destination as well. Pull up a seat and take full advantage of summer drink specials, seasonal lobster or blueberry pierogies. If you’re ever in the Lower East Side, fill your pierogies craving at their newest location at The Market Line food hall.
How to book: First come, first serve basis
Head to The Wild Son for a laid back spot of chill evening drinks and weekend brunch. The casual bistro is a part of Endless Hospitality Group (Good Night Sonny, The Wayland) and offers a range of menu items like sandwiches, salads, and breakfast with a healthy spin, plus juices and cold brew. During the week, happy hour runs Tuesdays to Fridays from 4 pm-6 pm. We recommend starting your summer Friday off right with a shared plate of charred shisito peppers and a If Summer Was A Drink cocktail (gin, watermelon, pink peppercorn).
Named after Taiwan’s international calling code, at 886, co-owners Eric Sze and Andy Chuang bring izakaya dining with traditional Taiwanese cuisine and modern American twists. In a narrow, neon-lit, artwork-covered dining room, notable menu items include The Notorious T.F.C. (a spicy fried chicken sandwich consisting of a whole chicken leg, daikon slaw, and sesame bun), as well as the lo ba beng (braised pork belly with a soft boiled egg over rice).