Eat NYC: The East Village Top 10
When I lived near East Village, I was (oh, so long ago) a young professional with a spare few extra dollars (probably because I was living near East Village). The following are the best balance between fantastic food and not calling home for money every other day because intern wages.
That being said, be ready to splurge a little bit. I was an intern, not an accountant.
I miss this whole list, but I miss you most of all, Bobwhite. Fried chicken is raging as fiercely as ramen throughout the city, but Bobwhite's got the edge of "I actually like coming to this place" over local competition Blue Ribbon. Beer, wine, fried chicken - end of story. My preferred delivery method is Buffalo style, in a sandwich; although if you get a platter, prepare for the butteriest biscuit that ever graced your taste buds. The Counter is small, casual, and comfortable - you'll notice a trend on this list - and it'll treat you right any day of the week. If you're worried about greasy fried food, fear not; Bobwhite fries their chicken like the pros in the South. Crispy, not greasy. Don't think Popeye's. This is comfort food at its very best.
When you eat cheap, you likely don't eat particularly well (as in healthy, wellness). Cheap food can be great, but there're only so many burritos and lamb plates, so much ramen and dollar pizza and crack pie you can eat before there are... consequences. Enter Westville.
While not cheapy cheap, the prices are reasonable for food that both tastes great and makes you feel like you did a good job taking care of yourself for once. The veggie sides make you question your stance on vegetables - I had never before been rendered helplessly indecisive by a choice between cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and asparagus for my last side. And that chopped salad with grilled chicken, halloumi, kale (!?), and a lemon vinaigrette is just straight up astonishing. Go to Westville. Feel good.
While others may be lining up a block away for the worst - the. worst. - bar in East Village, do yourself a favor and walk 13 steps away to Taqueria Diana, haven of all things Mexican and meat. You want al pastor (spit roast pork) any way they got it, but especially via burrito with guac and crema, or topping their massive nacho plate. If you're stumbling out of a bar with a groaning stomach but don't want a burrito because it's "fattening," remember:
- Get over yourself.
- You'll feel better with food in your tummy.
- The Golden Rule of Mexican Food: The later at night, the better the burrito. And this is already a damned good burrito.
In a part of town where it has serious competition, Ost firmly holds its own. Seemingly happily bright no matter the weather nor time of day, and with baked goods from Breads Bakery, a friendly staff, and the uncanny availability of seats as soon as you walk in, everything about this cozy corner spot is just right. One of only a few places I recommend as much solo as with company, it is also an excellent environment to #readandchill.
Like Bobwhite but not like Bobwhite, Ichibantei is another soul food counter that's just going to make you feel all sorts of good. Here you've got the best kind of fusion; not in the trying-too-hard "oh let's put French and Filipino together wow so edgy" way, but in a cultural blend of izakaya and reggae, so-crazy-that-it-totally-works way.
Red counters line the perimeter of the restaurant and encircle a dining bar, while album covers of Bob Marley and...well, mostly Bob Marley decorate the walls. Despite all that and a loud mural that stretches between the restaurant and 1st Ave, Ichibantei goes relatively unnoticed by most of the East Village dining crowd; not empty, but overlooked.
...Which is okay because you want some elbow room to tackle their entrees, most likely fried chicken or pork with rice, salad, and miso soup. The katsu (fried pork) is spot-on, but fried chicken is where the heart is, boneless, tender, and covered in a garlic or teriyaki sauce. Or dry, if you're that kind of person. Get it with a mug of Asahi for $5 and you're on the train to Happy Town.
Get cereal. Act quickly.
So worth that Insta hype. There's not much to say here other than to look up "cereal ice cream" on Instagram and then make it a reality in your life (but don't you dare let it melt all over your hand just for the pic - that's a shame and like why even get it then you first world barbarian). But on your second visit, take a detour for a slice of crack pie - "toasted oat crust with gooey butter filling" - because once you taste the crack, you never go... for ice cream again. Gotcha.
Ippudo is, begrudgingly, the best bowl of ramen in East Village, if not the whole city. If we're talking complete experience though, Minca is my spot. I go on and on about it in the NY Must-Slurp Ramen List, but in short a trip to Minca is a trip to Tokyo. It's tiny and cash-only, with lots of options that you won't find on any other menus in town; including and especially their tsukemen (dipping ramen). Minca is an easy, delicious escape from the mundane, modern bowls of everywhere else.
If you are mentally prepared to splurge and get your mind blown by a sandwich, Harry & Ida's has got the goods. Step 1: Pastrami. This ain't your Katz's pastrami sandwich, neither. The Pops Pastrami has cracked rye berry, anchovy mustard, and dill, in addition to slabs of what may be the best pastrami in the city. Yeah, it's that good.
Not a meat eater? That's cool, because the mushroom sandwich is what I was really talking about when I said mind-blowing. Three different types of smoky 'shrooms, kelp mint pesto, capers, and watercress all conspire to astound your taste buds. I like food, but this one's still got me flabbergasted. In a good way.
I don't have a word cool enough to capture how cool KGB Bar is. Ode to New York past, homage to Soviet expatriate society, sanctuary for the city's literary elite, it's all of the above and a bar. Authors from around the city come in to read their work aloud in exchange for drinks; fiction on Sundays, poetry on Mondays, and other events throughout the week. Upstairs is the Red Room, a speakeasy-style lounge that plays host to jazz and swing musicians, and the dancers that inevitably follow. In a building that started as a casino owned by Lucky Luciano during Prohibition, bought by Ukrainian socialists in the McCarthy era, and now a literary bar (on the second floor!) in a vision of Parisian cafe society post-WWI, KGB Bar is a place that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn't exist in 2016 (full story by the owner here). But it does. I think you've got it from here.
Where does an artist, poet, or writer eat after a night at KGB? Why, the nearest dollar pizza joint, of course. The struggle remains real.
However, all dollar pizza joints are not equal, though your wallet is telling you contrary. If you're in the vicinity of 1st and 14th, and don't want to wait appx 12 years for Artichoke down the block, Vinny Vincenzo's is your destination. Their dollar slice, be it ingredients or their oven or whatever, tastes downright better than anything else around. Thin crust, bubbling cheese, the right amount of sauce, by popular demand nearly always just out of the oven; it's going to hit the spot. And yes, they have artichoke pizza, too.
Oh, I worked for the NYC Wine and Food Festival. This should explain some things.
What NYC neighborhood list would be complete without a bagel? Am I right?
*Pause for laughs*
Although Black Seed Bagels moved in on 1st Ave last year, Tompkins Square Bagels on A and 10th is still the king of the hood, and everyone knows it. The perpetual line moves quickly enough so be ready to order, because God help you if you hold things up (the staff are great, but the people behind you in line may not be so forgiving). TSB has everything you could ever want on a bagel, pretty much all of it handmade, all of all of it delicious. Get it to go and sit in the park across the way if the weather permits; there's hardly a better way to start your day.
Yep, that's it. If I missed your chosen Chinese takeout or speakiest easy, that's because this is a list of 11 in a neighborhood that has literally hundreds of food and drink purveyors. Hundreds. But hey, comment below with your favorite haunts and maybe I'll include them on EV Top 10: Pt II! Not likely, but maybe.
Worth a shot.