Despite the fact that this is one of our longest neighborhood guides in existence, narrowing down a list of the best 35 restaurants in the East Village still wasn’t easy. Extremely worthy candidates live on every block, like a BYOB Puerto Rican cafe that’s been around for decades and serves the juiciest rotisserie chicken for miles, a new Thai restaurant on 13th Street with a secret backyard, or a chef’s table experience that’s worth saving up for. You almost can’t run out of amazing restaurants to try in the East Village, and by the time you think you’ve been to them all, another great place will have already opened up. So consider this list a starting point for restaurants - both old and new - you should prioritize.
The East Village is spoiled by this casual Central Texan spot, because there’s simply no place quite like it in New York City. Yellow Rose specializes in pressed-to-order tortillas made with Sonoran flour. You can see these blistered, perfect discs in action via one of their excellent bean and cheese tacos or a version stuffed with braised carne guisada. But we’d also encourage extracurricular snacking on things like airy doughnuts on weekends, beef chili speckled with charred peppers, zingy vegan queso made from cashews, and Texas sheet cake you’ll want to hide in your fridge and eat at midnight. Stop by for breakfast tacos in the morning or a casual dinner with a friend at night.
One of the irreplaceable gems of the East Village, this basement-level cab stand has been selling vegetarian Indian chaat and curries on Houston Street since the early 1990’s. Bring about $10 in cash, and you can have an incredibly fulfilling meal here - whether that’s by way of a steaming bowl of chana masala and potatoes, or a brown paper bag filled with crunchy fried pakora. If you’re having a tough day, stop by and ask for “samosa chaat with the works.” What follows is a mound of food piled-high with cut-up samosas, masala chickpeas, cooling yogurt, fresh raw onions, sweet chutney, and spicy sauce. Suddenly, all the NYU students partying on the balcony next to your building won’t seem so annoying.
Alphabet City has some of Manhattan’s most delicious Latin food outside of Washington Heights. And if you aren’t familiar with this Dominican cafe on East 10th Street that’s been operating for over 20 years, you’re overdue for a visit. We especially like their namesake Rinconcito mofongo, which comes with heaps of bright-red longaniza, pernil, strips of pan-fried mozzarella cheese, and pork cracklings mixed into a pile of mild green plantains. As a requisite side or appetizer, get a pastelito stuffed with pulled chicken. And for more great Dominican food in the neighborhood (including a chilling, bright morir soñando), try Rossy’s Bakery.
Every entree at this Ethiopian spot on Avenue B near Tompkins Square Park comes with two vegetable sides. While we recognize that you’re an adult and can do what you want, we can’t stress enough that one of those sides should be the shiro wot: Haile’s chickpea mash that coats everything it meets with garlicky creaminess. We like to plop a thick layer of shiro wot on each torn piece of injera, and then top it with other delicious things like tart red beets or tender dark meat chicken that’s been slow cooked in onions, berbere, and spiced clarified butter. If you’re with a group, stick to the combination platters. Otherwise, our solo go-to order at Haile is the spicy beef tibs with shiro wot and green beans on the side.
Think of Superiority Burger on East 9th Street as a place where vegetables are treated like well-regarded musicians on tour. They come and they go - always with a bang. In addition to Superiority Burger’s sandwiches (like the heaping tofu-fried tofu or a yuba verde concoction), they also serve refreshing gelato and sorbet, impossibly-light focaccia on weekends, and a burnt broccoli side that never gets boring regardless of how many times you eat it. Give the restaurant a follow on Instagram to keep up with their daily-changing specials, since the team pretty much bases their menu off of whatever they find at the Union Square Greenmarket. Plus, the captions read like your brilliant-but-unhinged uncle got a hold of social media.
Like many fine dining restaurants, Momofuku Ko in the East Village shifted their menu during the pandemic to offer a la carte options (including some fantastic thin-crust, New York-style pizza) in addition to their tasting menu. This is very good news for everyone in the East Village, since it means you can order our favorites from the Ko bar menu - like cold fried chicken and a burger with foie gras - as well as other dishes typically reserved for a $200+ Ko experience. Whatever else you get, try the cold fried chicken, which is fried four times, coated in a spicy-sweet yuzu kosho glaze, and then refrigerated. It’s available by the piece, like nigiri or a Rolex. You’ll want at last two pieces all for yourself (they each cost $6).
There are enough Japanese restaurants in this neighborhood to warrant another fully dedicated guide. But if it’s a la carte sushi that you’re after in particular, try this Avenue A spot that focuses on sustainable fishing. While at Rosella, you’ll meet fish from unexpected sources, like bluefin tuna from North Carolina or applewood-smoked steelhead trout from inland farms. All of it is delicious, and will nullify your preconceived notions about where fantastic fish should come from. If you’re looking for a place to start, the chirashi is a great way to get a sampling of their sashimi.
This Kosher lunch counter is the kind of classic neighborhood place that makes us say, “goddammit I love New York City ” every time we pass by. It’s been open since 1938 and is now run by a couple who met in the East Village (they’re named Ola and Fawzy, make sure to say hi). The Eastern European breakfast and lunch menus are extensive, but ordering pierogi is always a good choice. Get them filled with potato or sauerkraut and mushroom, and you’ll spend your afternoon living in a sour cream-allium-filled paradise. Otherwise, try one of the soups or giant sandwiches (like the tuna melt on toasted, homemade challah). Feel free to bring your own newspaper and tattered hat for a full New York experience.
If you pride yourself on trying the best Thai restaurants in the city, Soothr’s food is required eating. It opened in early 2020, serving central Thai dishes you may not have seen elsewhere in Manhattan, like sukhotthai tom yum noodles and specialties from Bangkok’s Chinatown hub. Whatever you do, order the koong karee. This curry has a pleasantly gooey shrimp and egg consistency, and every rich bite tastes like shrimp paste just called curry powder to say “I love you.” Whether you stop by for a meal in their gazebo-esque, kind-of-secret backyard in the East Village or spend a night with a takeout tub on the couch, your Soothr experience will be headline news during your next catch-up phone call with a friend.
We first stumbled upon Foxface accidentally after eating a terrible meal nearby, and our lives have been different ever since. This unsuspecting window on the corner of St. Marks and 1st Avenue specializes in crunchy, pressed panini sandwiches with ambitious ingredients. Other than the “Smoking Fox” (which tastes like a Cubano without cheese and is always on the menu), their offerings change every day. We’d recommend going out on a limb and trying the specials, like one with smoky-sweet carrots, tender brisket, fresh dill, and dill butter, or a seafood sandwich, or something with lamb with walnuts and sour cherries. There isn’t any seating at Foxface, but, for an excellent and truly eclectic East Village meal, bring your food into the connected Prohibition-era absinthe and mead bar next door, William Barnacle Tavern.
Come to this iconic BYOB Puerto Rican restaurant in Alphabet City for crispy-skinned rotisserie chicken, beans and rice, and fresh avocado salad. Adela Ferguson, the woman at the helm of the business since it opened in 1976, sadly passed away a couple of years ago - but the family-run place still feels as welcoming and homey as ever. If you want to supplement your rotisserie chicken with something else, try the garlicky, piping-hot mofongo with pernil or a couple alcapurrias. Bring cash - they don’t accept credit cards.
Malai Marke is our favorite place to eat Indian food on East 6th Street. That’s a significant claim, considering the restaurant’s one-block radius has historically been home to tons of Bangladeshi and Indian spots. The bulk of the menu is dedicated to expertly-spiced Northern regional specialties, like creamy black lentil dal makhani and lamb burra kabob cooked in a tandoor. But you’ll also see coastal dishes made with coconut and fish and Indian-Chinese chili chicken that are both worth trying. Even on busy East Village weekends, you can usually get a table at Malai Marke.
Au Za’atar is famous on Tik Tok for their tableside shawarma towers. Even if generally shy away from anything with a Foodie hashtag attached to it, don’t let that deter you from coming here. Au Za’atar’s Lebanese classics are excellent, especially the creamy labne topped with olives and a slick of olive oil, and the grilled mix platter with sumac-dusted fries. If you’re eating with a couple of people, opt for a bottle of Lebanese wine and the shawarma tower on a vertical spit (which comes with fries, grilled tomatoes and onions, herb salad, plenty of pita, and enough food for leftovers). You’ll have a great time if you’re looking for a fun, meat-filled group dinner.
In the early 20th Century, the East Village was largely made up of Ukrainian, Slovak, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants, but there are only a few remnants of that history left. One such landmark is Veselka, a well-known Ukrainian diner that opened in 1954 and now bloats with tourists nearly every hour (although they’re not currently operating 24-hours a day anymore). Despite its crowds, Veselka somehow retains the magic of an old-school neighborhood joint - ceramic plates with the restaurant’s logo, unlimited coffee pours, remarkably fast service, and all. Our favorite approach is to come early, and order an omelette and kielbasa, or have a late-night strawberry-cheese blintz on a random Tuesday. Stick with the Ukrainian food here for best results, like the stuffed cabbage, borscht, or potato pierogi.
If you’re Googling “Fun restaurants east village,” 886 epitomizes what you’re looking for. The neon-lit narrow space could easily be converted into the city’s smallest nightclub, and the outdoor dining area pretty much always feels like a Taiwanese-beer-fueled St. Marks party. But the real reason you come here is for the excellent Taiwanese food, like their big fried chicken sandwich and braised pork with soft-boiled egg over seasoned rice. Nothing on the menu costs over $15, so it’s a great spot for an affordable meal with a couple of friends - and on weekends they set up stools and tables in the middle of the street when traffic is blocked.
The original Lhasa in Jackson Heights is one of our favorite places in the city to eat momos, specifically of the beef and chive variety. So if you live anywhere near Lower Manhattan, consider Lhasa’s new East Village location a blessing. Like their original Jackson Heights spot (which tragically closed in 2021 because of a fire), Lhasa on 1st Avenue and 11th Street serves a menu of excellent round dumplings with both meat and vegetable fillings. You’ll also find some noodle dishes and thenthuk, a hearty soup with a light brown broth and tons of beef and hand-ripped noodles. It’s understandably difficult to choose between momos here, so make it easy on yourself and get one of Lhasa’s combos. We particularly like the non-veg combo, which comes with eight lightly-crispy dumplings filled respectively with chicken, beef, and a mix of beef and chive.
Consider Medan Pesar a gift to anyone looking to spend less than $10 on an incredible, filling meal. It’s the only place in the East Village currently serving a full menu of Malaysian dishes, like nasi lemak with beef rendang and curry laksa noodles. The tail-on shrimp and soft rice noodles absorb this laksa like they’re being tested on the intricacies of spicy, coconut curry. But the best bites of this dish involve the long pieces of fried Japanese tofu, which quickly transition from crunchy and firm to soft and buoyant after swimming in the laksa for a couple of minutes.
This St. Marks institution serves a menu full of Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, and Taiwanese specialty dishes. But your focus should be the namesake xiao long bao with nearly-translucent skin and a loose, light-brothed center. The pork and spicy wasabi pork varieties (with a thinner skin and a bit less soup than what you’d find at Joe’s or other Chinatown faves) both have an extra savory meatiness that nicely contrasts the light broth. If you’re looking to expand beyond the classics, The Bao offers a whole variety of soup dumpling flavors, like “super spicy xiao long bao,” salted egg yolk, a semi-sweet black sesame, and one filled with pork and black truffle.
You can buy a lot of things for $55. A new pair of Converse, for example. Or a huge set of high-end colored pencils with which to create amateur portraits of your friends and family. But none of those things would bring as much joy as the $55 omakase at Sushi By M. The quality of the fish here is top-notch, and the omakase comes with 12 pieces of things like seared albacore, creamy scallop, and wagyu with uni. The tiny space is also about as casual as a kitchen counter at a friend’s house, and at the end of your meal, you’ll have the option to pay $18 more for a handroll stuffed with waygu, seared toro, and two types of uni. Eat it all in one bite.
Great breakfast burritos are a rarity in this city, and this Pueblan counter-service spot does them extremely well. Theirs are packed tight with steamy scrambled eggs, black beans galore, onions, peppers, and jack cheese to bind everything together. The morning is our preferred time to visit this small, cash-only bakery, but their tortas and tamales with mole poblano are worth trying, too.
There’s plenty of great Szechuan food in the East Village. For instance, you could go to Szechuan Mountain House where your meal starts with complimentary homemade pickled cabbage, or try dry pepper chicken from Han Dynasty on 3rd Avenue, or vegan mapo tofu from Spicy Moon on East 6th Street. But Málà Project’s dry pot specialties make it the most remarkable Szechuan spot for an in-person dining experience in the neighborhood. One night, you could come for a great dinner consisting of bacon fried rice and a dry pot with broth-filled beef balls, bok choy, and lotus root. And you could go back the following week for a dry pot full of tofu skin, four different kinds of mushrooms, and frog, and end with fried pumpkin cakes for dessert. No matter how many times you eat here, the spicy dry pot always feels exciting, and it’s one of the absolute best places to celebrate a birthday in the East Village.
Raku’s udon works for any mood. The hot, miso-based tantan, for example, is the spicy porky cure to a hard day at work. And the refreshing yamakake cold udon with mountain yam and bonito flakes is what you want when it’s 85 degrees out. While one of these giant pots is definitely enough for a full meal, the small plates are great, too. So we recommend sharing a bowl of udon and getting a few other things, like lemony chicken tatsuta-age or the spicy cucumber salad. This is a good spot for a low-key date, or a quick solo meal - as long as you bring cash. The biggest perk: it’s usually easy to get a table even on weekends.
A delicious fried chicken sandwich from Bobwhite Counter on Avenue C will cost you roughly the same amount of money as a large bubble tea ($6.79). This sandwich is about as simple and straightforward as fried chicken concoctions get, with crispy breast blanketed by two or three bread and butter pickles and a swipe of mayo, served on a lightly toasted roll. You can also get a plate of fried chicken with a biscuit and a side for about $13. Regardless of your choice, come to this Avenue C institution for Southern food that’ll make you wish there was chicken-and-biscuit-flavored toothpaste so you could fall asleep with that taste still in your mouth.
The Serbian menu at this Avenue C spot consists of things like pork schnitzel, lamb shank, and chicken liver rolled in bacon. So, yes, the food is definitely on the heavier side, but it’s very good, and there are a bunch of non-meat things like cheese pie, mashed potatoes, and various salads. It’s great for a weeknight when you need to catch up with a friend, and it works well for a fun Friday night out where you’re aiming to spend around $30. Get a table in the dark, brick-walled dining room, order some Serbian wine, and eat something like a big patty of ground beef stuffed with cheese.
You can find some of our favorite summer rolls in the city at Hanoi House - a casual Vietnamese restaurant on St. Marks right by the park. In addition to the summer rolls, we always order the rich beef pho. It comes with a combination of filet mignon and brisket, and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it for at least 32 hours.
Ruffian is worth visiting just for the wine. With over 250 mostly-natural options organized into categories like “Beach Sipping,” “Stoop Sipping,” “Rootsy” and “Kool-Aid,” this is one of the best places to drink and learn about wine in the entire city. That said, you could also go to Ruffian just for the vegetarian food. The menu constantly changes, but all of the of Mediterranean dishes are shareable - like a dish with smoked carrot and cannellini bean dumplings in a fennel ginger broth.
Mama Fina’s is officially named Mama Fina’s House of Sisig. And that’s probably because the sisig here is what you should prioritize. The pork one is our favorite, but they serve delicious chicken and milkfish options as well. The setup here is a bit confusing: you order at a counter and then go sit in a dining room that looks a place where highly-regarded knights would eat during the Renaissance period. But the Filipino food makes Mama Fina’s well worth knowing about for a casual group dinner near Tompkins Square Park.
Oiji is a great Korean restaurant that’s good to keep in mind if you have a last-minute date. It’s in a dark room with brick walls and a bar in the corner, and we’ve usually had luck walking in without a reservation and getting a table. Get the fried chicken, the ssam platter, and their only dessert - vanilla ice cream with honey butter potato chips. It’s a huge portion, but if you say please, they might halve it for you. In other words, you have no excuse not to try this.
Of the trio of Frank restaurants, we like Supper the best. It feels a little more grown-up than Lil Frankie’s and Frank, and it still serves the spaghetti al limone that at least one person you know has photographed and questionably captioned with “get in my belly.” Supper is exactly the sort of place you’ll want to be on a Sunday evening for a large quantity of homemade pasta and some red wine. There are always exciting-sounding specials, but you can also rely on the gnocchi and aforementioned excellent spaghetti al limone. Just know that they only accept cash.
There are a lot of things we look for in a group-dinner restaurant, and Thursday Kitchen has most of them. It’s a fun, casual restaurant where you can get a glowing drink in a pouch shaped like a Capri Sun, and the menu consists of a bunch of shareable small plates, none of which cost more than $15. The only real downside is this place doesn’t take reservations, and there’s pretty much always a wait. So get here early, and be sure to order the steak and soft shell crab.
If you’re looking for a place to have a group dinner, Huertas checks off many boxes. You can actually get in, you can actually sit in a comfortable booth, and most importantly, Huertas serves consistently good Spanish food. The majority of the tapas dishes here are big enough for you to share and get more than a single piece of an octopus tentacle (we especially like the saffron rice with shrimp and bacon, and the patatas bravas). One last box that Huertas checks is that there’s an off-menu hot dog. These definitely aren’t Spanish but you should probably get two.
This Filipino restaurant serves one of the best burgers in the neighborhood. The juicy patty is a mix of beef and pork, and it’s topped with spicy ketchup, aioli, and a fried egg. It’s incredibly rich, so if you have any intention of going to a bar or staying awake through whatever show your significant other is making you watch, then you should share it, and get a few other dishes, like the smoky noodles with mixed seafood and shrimp romesco sauce. The colorful space and large format cocktails make it a good option for casual group dinners, and there’s a backyard with hanging lights and a few tables as well.
Your family is coming to visit, and you need a dinner spot in the East Village where they can ask about wine pairings without hearing about lunar cycles and Gaia Theory. Go to Hearth, which feels calmer than most spots in the neighborhood. There’s a quiet, spacious dining room, a great wine list, and American-Italian food that focuses on sustainable and housemade ingredients. After you share some wine, garlicky calamari, and gnocchi, your family will hopefully temporarily stop asking why you live in a 300 square foot walk-up in Alphabet City.
In order to have an informed argument with someone about the best burger in NYC, you both need to go to Virginia’s. This squat burger comes on a soft bun with a thick patty, half-melted white cheddar hunks, mayo, and a little molehill of caramelized onions. While the burger is definitely the main reason we’d send you here, this restaurant is also extremely useful to know about for a nice, quiet date night with someone who knows your Hulu password.
The original Joe & Pat’s is in Staten Island and it’s known for its cracker-y crust. And the pizzas at the East Village location are just as good as the original. We especially like the vodka pie with cheese that mixes into the sauce like a tie-dye shirt, but there’s a whole bunch of non-pizza items too - like baked clams and pasta dishes. Even though the thin-crust pies here are incredible, it’s not usually too hard to get a table. Which we won’t question too hard, as not to jinx it.