Looking to grab a bite while wandering the LES? We have got just the place! Our list below gathers five of the best options in the area, from historic Jewish delicatessens to new-school fried chicken shops and affordable, delicious dumplings for when you need something comforting. Stroll the streets and see what grabs your eye, or pop into one of the spots below for a satisfying meal that is sure to impress.
Lower East Side Dining in New York City
Russ & Daughters Cafe
Open for over one hundred years, Russ & Daughters has established itself as an iconic Jewish deli brand in the NYC food scene. Their Lower East Side location is the first to offer sit-down style dining and table service. Breakfast and brunch fans will be especially happy with the selection of smoked fish, classic matzo ball soup and fresh-baked bagels, bialys, challah and other pastries. The Deviled Eggs with smoked trout roe is a good starter to share as a table, as do the platters with whitefish salad and smoked fish. The challah bread pudding and babka french toast make great sweet options, while the Lower Sunny Side latkes and egg scrambles are good for savory eaters. Their breads and pastries are able to be ordered and taken home to enjoy later with coffee or as an afternoon snack.
Feeling adventurous? Check out La Contenta, where Chef Luis Arce Mota is using classic French techniques to create amazing Mexican cuisine. The unusual pairing results in delicious dishes like their featured Pollo en Mole Poblano, Icelandic Cod al Pastor and several varieties of enchiladas. The colorful and energetic restaurant also features a robust cocktail program with a series of micheladas. Time your visit to catch their daily Happy Hour with food and drink specials, or come by for weekend brunch, available from Thursday to Sunday. Regular visitors suggest making a reservation in advance for weekends and saving this spot for date night or celebration due to the colorful decor and festive atmosphere.
With four locations around NY and one in LA, Sweet Chick claims to serve up “the best chicken and waffles on planet earth.” These bold claims are backed up with a menu of fluffy Belgian waffles in a variety of sweet and savory flavors, paired with your choice of boneless or bone-in fried chicken. They also offer a vegetarian version so everyone can give their namesake dish a try. If you aren’t feeling that dish, they also have classics like shrimp and grits, fried chicken sandwiches and even fried catfish. First-time visitors are advised to try the mac and cheese and buttermilk biscuits or to add on the jalapeno cheddar hush puppies for an explosion of southern flavor.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
Vanessa’s Dumpling House is just known as Vanessa’s to those who are in the know. They have been serving up hand-made Chinese snacks across four locations for over two decades and have a stellar reputation as an affordable and delicious spot to get your grub on. Their slurpy noodles and hot soups are perfect for cold weather days, and the dumplings and steamed buns make a fast and easy meal. The location is small, so you may want to get your order as takeout. Note that you can order a frozen bag of the dumplings to take home and make when a craving strikes. Some standouts from the large menu here include the chive and pork dumplings and spicy beef dumplings. Note that they also offer vegetarian and vegan options as well.
Whether you go for the photo ops or their massive pastrami on rye, you can’t really go wrong at Katz’s Delicatessen. It’s a classic for a reason, open for over a hundred years and deeply entrenched in the culture and cuisine of New York City. No matter when you go, there’s bound to be a waiting line filled with a mix of local first-timers, regulars and tourists. Look up their ticket system to know the ordering procedures before you go, and know what you plan to order. The portions here are notoriously massive and made for sharing, so try to convince a friend or two to come along. Their sandwiches are famously stacked with plenty of protein, or you can purchase by the plate or pound. The matzo ball soup, all-beef hotdogs (loaded with sauerkraut and mustard), and knishes are also popular orders. Add on a slice of NY cheesecake and Dr. Brown’s soda to really make it a meal.