{NYC} Lower East Side eats & drinks

The Lower East Side is another New York neighbourhood we really loved, so much so that we spent several afternoons and nights sampling its cool bars and great eats. The LES is a grungy yet gentrifying area (noticing a theme here?!) that was the first home of many Jewish settlers in New York and went on to house many other immigrant communities in densely populated tenement housing. These days it still seems to have a bit of an edge and has a thriving bar and restaurant scene, with vibrant Ludlow Street the centre of the action.

Where we drank
Schillers – a gorgeous, atmospheric bar by the owner of Balthazar (in Soho) and Pastis (in the Meatpacking District), with a vintage European style and great cocktails. And a quirky bathroom with a communal, retro sink that seemed to be a drawcard for some nosy drop-ins!
Los Feliz (Tequileria & Taqueria) – moody, dark and mirrored with a tequila and margarita menu as long as your arm – we loved sitting at the bar talking (and drinking) tequila at this decadent looking place. Their jalapeno-infused tequila was amazing!
Spitzer’s Corner – a cool, rowdy bar with craft beers, satisfying pub food and long tables crammed with cool college kids. Here we were strangely asked for ID, which they then scanned with a machine (hello paranoia, we’re 31!) but then noticed everyone else was being asked too. NYC bars can be really strict and we’re glad we took our passports with us after an earlier scare at DBA in the East Village (we managed to talk our way in despite being ID-less, luckily!)
Allen & Delancey – an upmarket gothic/chic bar that was perhaps my favourite of the whole trip. Here we sat by the front window having extra-dirty martinis pre-dinner at Little Giant and wishing we lived in New York.

Where we ate
Katz’s Deli – “I’ll have what she’s having!” Katz’s is the famous Jewish deli where ‘that’ scene in When Harry Met Sally was filmed. This wasn’t somewhere initially on our radar, but when we stumbled across it decided to give it a try, especially given we’d never eaten Jewish deli food before. Sampled – a hard salami sandwich that was about 20cm high (slice upon slice of meat stacked up high – pretty disgusting actually!), a yummier potato knish (like a big mashed potato patty, fried) and matzo ball soup – a silky, delicate, doughy dumpling in a comforting broth. Katz’s has been going since 1888 and is something of a New York institution. I’d go back for the soup but skip the salami!

Sugar Sweet Sunshine – Years after Magnolia Bakery appeared in SATC sparking a cupcake eating frenzy, the trend refuses to die. We spotted many cupcakeries while out and about in the city and sampled several, only to be disheartened at the sickly sweetness of them all (which is saying something, coming from a dessert devotee). I think it’s something to do with the fact the icing (or frosting) is equally as high as the cake part rather than thinly spread over the cake like the old school Australian kind. At Sugar Sweet Sunshine we tried the red velvet, pistachio, lemon and ‘Ooey Gooey’ – chocolate with almond buttercream (the lemon was the best). I really wanted to like these but I think the reality didn’t live up to the less cloying cupcakes of my imagination.

Little Giant – a ‘seasonal American’ restaurant that was one of our best New York eats. Cosy and unpretentious, Little Giant embodies the slow food ideal that has taken hold of the NYC food scene, where locally grown, seasonal, and preferably organic produce is used. I had the mushroom and cauliflower with poached egg and truffle oil to start (heavenly) followed by sea scallops with grapes, cauliflower puree and hazelnuts. We shared some sides like a gourmet version of mac and cheese (now I understand American’s fascination with this dish – though I still think I only like the gourmet version!) and three desserts between four of us – meyer lemon fritters, sticky toffee pudding and a chocolate mint sundae. I highly, highly, highly recommend Little Giant if you’re in NYC!


12 Responses

  1. Xander November 23, 2009 / 6:32 am

    I know what you mean about the cupcakes. I think the problem is that it became such a huge trend, so now tons of people are putting out cupcakes, often without really thinking the baking through. So they might have some creative flavours, but they’re too often just big sticky sweet piles of icing on top of a small piece of cake.

    I do have to admit that I love making cupcakes, though. We’ve tried out a few flavours that went well… We made a lime and crushed pepper cupcake that has pairs an unusual bite with tart fresh lime zest, and a sea salt and cashew cupcake that is luxuriantly buttery, but not overly sweet. -X

  2. Cate November 23, 2009 / 5:53 pm

    Those cupcakes, I’ll have to brave it one day and indulge in a dozen (or so).
    You ate well in New York, I’m going to have to visit all these eateries next time I’m there.

  3. HoustonWok November 24, 2009 / 4:51 am

    Oh what is there not to love about the NYC,the aggressive, fast life,city that never sleeps thats filled rude taxi cab drivers. But that’s what you come to love about NYC, there’s miles and miles of great food, city life at it’s finest. Did you enjoy the matzo ball soup?

  4. Leela Cyd November 25, 2009 / 5:35 am

    although i’m vegetarian, Katz’s is my spiritual home. The eggcreams take me back to my happy place… too bad about the intense frosting ratio on the cupcakes. I’m super gross and could lick the frosting off and skip the cake . . .

  5. kristine November 26, 2009 / 1:20 pm

    this is where i stay when i am in new york – and i love it. but i want to made an addition to your list – the clinton street bakery, with its world famous blueberry pancakes. very niiice. apart from that though, you’ve listed several i dont know, and i am making a mental note to try them all when i go back in march.

  6. Fly Girl December 1, 2009 / 4:40 am

    It sounds like you hit a lot of the really good spots and I totally agree with you on the cupcakes. Another bakery I’d recommend is Mr. Lee Lee’s for his legendary rugelah.

  7. A Girl in Asia December 1, 2009 / 9:56 am

    Xander – those flavours sound really good! Did you write about them on your blog a while back? Will have to have a look in case you have the recipes up ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cate – glad you found some inspiration for your next NYC visit!

    HoustonWok – yes, I did enjoy the soup – definitely comfort food, would be great in winter

    Leela – I was going to order an eggcream to see what all the fuss was about – wish I did now…

    Kristine – The Clinton Street Bakery was actually on my to do list – if and when there’s a next time in NYC will have to try and go, it sounded great

    Fly Girl – and Lee Lee’s will also have to go on my agenda for next time (and there’d better be a next time!)

  8. Glennis December 10, 2009 / 12:03 am

    Your cup cakes looks delicious and so does some of the other interesting food.

  9. ana December 17, 2009 / 6:27 pm

    Nicee tips for NYC, love trying new cafe’s and restaurants;)

  10. Simone January 5, 2010 / 3:12 pm

    Yumyyy!!! Give me sweets I will give you the world :))).

  11. Cairns Hotels January 6, 2010 / 4:45 pm

    Those cupcakes are delicious, can I have one?

  12. Nishant February 11, 2010 / 10:14 pm

    So they might have some creative flavours, but they’re too often just big sticky sweet piles of icing on top of a small piece of cake.

    Work From Home

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