Best breakfast: Clinton Street Baking Co.
4 Clinton St
Whether you opt for the wild blueberry, banana walnut, or chocolate chunk varieties, the pancakes are the stars of the show here -- especially if you visit during February (pancake month), when a different specialty pancake is offered every day of the week. That said, though, the entire breakfast menu is damn delicious, and there's even a "breakfast for dinner" section if you're still jonesing for huevos rancheros after the sun goes down.
Best sandwiches: Cheeky Sandwiches
35 Orchard St
With a handful of stick-to-your-ribs po-boys ranging from braised short rib to from-scratch fried chicken, not to mention the homemade buttermilk biscuits, this sandwich shop pretty much guarantees you'll be falling asleep when you get back from your lunch break. So, maybe save your visit for a Saturday?
Best vegetarian: Dirt Candy
86 Allen St
Not only are the dishes here fantastically delicious, they're almost too beautiful for you to eat. Almost. Once you've shed a tear and downed your carrot waffles, broccoli dogs, or Brussels sprout tacos, you'll start weeping all over again when you get the check: Dirt Candy's joined the no-tipping revolution, and the small administrative fee tacked onto your meal proves you've done your part to change the world.
Best pizza: Rizzo's Fine Pizza
17 Clinton St
The original Rizzo's in Astoria has been pumping out pizza perfection since 1959, and the LES location hits the same level of quality -- except instead of a classic pizza shop atmosphere, the Clinton St spot sports exposed brick walls and a swanky beer and wine bar. Try one of the classic square pies that made Rizzo's famous over 50 years ago, and wash it down with a $5 pitcher of suds.
Best frozen treats: Ice & Vice
221 E Broadway
This self-proclaimed "experimental ice cream shop" puts out small batches of frozen delights in wildly original flavors, ranging from the seasonal ('K'arrot Hole) to the semi-traditional (Milk Money). There's even a "Roulette" menu, where things get even weirder -- think smoked whiskey barrel wood and Cracker Jack brittle.
Best burger and fries: Black Iron Burger
540 E 5th St
When there's a burger on the menu called "The Masterpiece," it's a sign you're in the right place -- and when half of the signature burgers feature double 4oz patties, that's another sign. Both are true here, as well as the fact that you can order the french fry equivalent of a loaded baked potato: it's a side made for sharing, but don't let that pressure you into actually sharing.
Best Argentinian: Balvanera
152 Stanton St
It's not just about steaks and Malbecs at this Argentinian eatery: it's also about provoleta, scallop crudo, and distinctly un-Argentinian dishes like bucatini carbonara. That said, though, it's still very much about steaks and Malbecs.
Best late-night eats: Wolfnights
99 Rivington St
Burgers and dollar pizza tend to get the most hype as far as late-night, post-drinking food goes, but one bite of "The Howling" will convince you that wraps are a legitimate contender, as well. All of the wraps are glorious in their own right ("The Beast" features grilled steak and fried pasta) but what really seals the deal is the fact that you can pay an extra $4 to have a Wolf Attack™ (basically loaded tater tots) stuffed inside your wrap. You may not survive the night.
Best Chinese: Yunnan BBQ
79 Clinton St
If the wait at Mission Chinese Food's too long, or you're actually not into overhyped, Americanized Chinese restaurants (possibly both), you'll find salvation in the skewered pork belly and lamb meatballs at this trendy spot. Bonus points if you double down on the sticky rice, because there's no such thing as too much sticky rice.
Best donuts: Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St.
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a plant that sprouts donuts from its branches; fortunately, there is an LES bakery churning out innovative donuts (like the Jelly-Filled Square Doughnut) based on a treasured family recipe. Between the myriad yeast, cake, and filled varieties on the menu, it's easy to see why this is one of our favorite donut shops in the entire city. Plus, you can get your donuts delivered -- provided you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens.
1. Dirt Candy86 Allen St, New York
2. Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant4 Clinton St, New York
3. Yunnan BBQ79 Clinton Street, New York
4. Balvanera152 Stanton St., New York
5. Ice & Vice221 E Broadway, New York
6. Doughnut Plant379 Grand St, New York
7. Black Iron Burger245 W 38th, New York
8. Wolfnights99 Rivington St, New York
9. Cheeky Sandwiches35 Orchard St, New York
10. Rizzo's Fine Pizza17 Clinton St, New York
Amanda Cohen was one of the first downtown chefs to prove that vegetarian food can be cool. Dirt Candy, her five-time Michelin star restaurant on the Lower East Side, serves an outstanding vegetable-only menu that will make you ditch any and all of your carnivorous cravings. Expect some of the most creative plant-based dishes you'll ever taste, like Korean fried broccoli, jalapeño hush puppies, and Brussels sprouts tacos. Know before you go: there's no tipping, but menu prices are inflated about 20%.
What began as a wholesale bakery is now an all-day restaurant with a rolodex of accolades for its pancakes and a brunch scene that never tires. It's hard to say what makes the pancakes here so good, but it's likely a combination of the texture -- light and fluffy on the inside, crispy and golden on the outside -- and the warm maple butter that puts syrup to shame. Weekend mornings are known to have hour-long waits, so your best bet is to show up a half-hour before the first seating at 9am, or stop by to put your name down about an hour before you want to be seated. You'll get a text 10 minutes before your table is ready. If all else fails, you can order the pancakes (and other house signatures like brioche French toast and buttermilk fried chicken) at Clinton St.'s dinner service.
Formerly known as Yunnan Kitchen, this Lower East Side spot is one of the coolest Chinese restaurants in New York. The menu centers around family-style servings of barbecued pork, chicken and fish, and features better-than-standard sides like duck egg fried rice and noodles cooked in clam broth. Punch bowls and Asian-inspired cocktails, like Chinese Micheladas and chrysanthemum mint juleps, are refreshing complements to the spicy food.
In addition to the traditional Argentine focus on lots and lots of meat (skirt steak, strip loin, bone-in rib eye), this spot is making moves to please the veggie lovers out there with a focus on meatless dishes as well, including burrata with grilled peaches and ricotta cavatelli with tomato confit, lava beans, spinach, and fiore sardo cheese.
This self-proclaimed "experimental ice cream shop", formerly a Vendy Award-winning stall, puts out small batches of frozen delights in wildly original flavors, ranging from the seasonal (Crack O'Lantern) to the semi-traditional (Milk Money). There's even a "Roulette" menu, where things get even weirder -- think smoked whiskey barrel wood and Cracker Jack brittle. Their flavors have featured other crazy ingredients like lemon bread croutons, milk-braised carrots and white wine oatmeal.
Doughnut Plant laid its roots in owner Mark Israel's Lower East Side basement in the ‘90s, and grew to be a leader of New York City’s new-wave donut craze. DP now has outposts in three boroughs and Tokyo, and its popularity continues to spread thanks to seasonal specialty items (coconut-lime and rose petal) and beloved inventions (a jelly-filled peanut butter doughnut). But it’s the game-changing creme brulee doughseed with a crisp shell and creamy vanilla innards that takes the cake -- or glazed icing -- every time.
This branch of Black Iron Burger is a welcoming, rustic stop in the midst of bustling Midtown. Its iron-branded, griddle-cooked burgers are endlessly customizable, from housemade sauces (like Caesar mayonnaise and tahini yogurt) to Alpine-smoked bacon and wasabi horseradish cheddar. Pair it with 10 craft beers on tap and homemade malted milkshakes.
Feeling hungry like the wolf on the LES? Run, don't walk, over to Wolfnights, a quirky and super cheap sandwich shop serving up filling flavor combinations.
Cheeky Sandwiches bring the best flavors from New Orleans to the Lower East Side, offering a heavenly variety of po' boys as well as sweet and savory sides. The secret behind the sandwiches is the bread, shipped directly from John Gendusa Bakery in New Orleans. The Creole and Cajun spot wouldn't be complete without its Big Shot soda, Zapp’s potato chips, beignets, Chicory coffee, and other NOLA natives and staples. The small snack shop is full of charm and warmth, decorated with a white picket fence in front, brightly painted shutters, and red bar stools to match.