Exploring New York City’s Vibrant Lower East Side

Exploring New York City’s Vibrant Lower East Side

New York City’s Lower East Side had once been known for slums and tenements, but now it has some of the coolest bars in the city and has become an interesting place to visit. There was a time when some considered this neighborhood to be a no-go, but its recent revitalization has transformed it into a walkable, condensed neighborhood where anything is possible.

It was once the largest Jewish quarter in the world, stretching between Houston Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River, and the Bowery. From bagel shops to Puerto Rican restaurants, waves of different nationalities have carved their footprints there since then.

Having evolved from a seedy neighborhood into the hippest district in New York City, the Lower East Side offers brunches that are more like late-night dance parties, photo galleries, and prohibition-style cocktail bars. Steam rises from manhole covers on the Lower East Side, miles from the brownstones and penthouses of the Upper East Side, and steel stairways connect the buildings. The thick air hangs with possibilities.

Place To Drink

In this neighborhood, you can grab a beer or sip a cocktail at any number of places – the hard part is deciding where to go first.

When it comes to unusual vintage-inspired cocktails, Dirty French used to have the edge, but now it has quite a few rivals. A big bank account is probably necessary to be a barfly here, so this is probably for the best. You can pop in for one and move on if you’re tight on cash. 

Down the road, Hotel Chantelle, with its rooftop, is equipped with French street lamps, traditional park benches, and a retractable roof that recreates a mini Paris.

There are several cocktail dens in the area -often hidden behind velvet curtains- with their own cocktail cheerleaders, most of which are opened by New York’s most well-known mixologists. 

You can also check out Nitecap, a fancy bar with a lively after-hours crowd, and Attaboy, which evokes Art Deco ’30s charm. The Suffolk Arms, however, takes its cue from the humble British pub and has a love letter menu to the spirit of the ’90s, vodka.

Locals love Pianos for something a little less pretentious. This good-time bar is open until 3 am, often followed by $1 slices of pizza from around the corner, which is always a good choice after a late-night drink.

You might walk past Cake Shop without noticing it, but it’s one of the ‘cool kids’ in the neighborhood. Besides being a record store and music venue, it also has a small bar that serves craft beers.

Eat

During her role in When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan filmed in the Katz Delicatessen on the corner of Ludlow St, and it was probably the only late-night eatery available. It is now mainly visited by tourists interested in seeing where the famous scene was shot.

Sweet Chick serves chicken and waffles, while The Meatball Shop offers meatballs, and the Lower East Side is overrun with tiny eateries offering fashionable foods of the day. The veggie-French fare at Le Turtle or Thai-Australian fusion at Lucky Bee. It’s hard to beat Russ & Daughters’ bagel shop for a taste of Lower East Side history – selling smoked salmon bagels to customers for over a hundred years. There’s also a cafe where you can get matzo ball soup, hot off the stove.

You can also enjoy a Saturday lunchtime party at the dimly lit Sons of Essex, with giant pancake stacks, carafes of mimosas, and delightfully big bowls of hangover-busting potato salad.

Dance

Having a good time late at night on the Lower East Side is a surefire way to have a good time. There’s no better way to let it all hang out than at No Fun, a townhouse shop-based bar club. The crowd is young and spirited, dancing to a mix of pop hits and classics from the ’80s.

Over at the Mercury Lounge, things get a bit more indie and musically serious. Since the 1990s, the small music venue has showcased new talent. Cheap gigs, good beer, and just enough grime to make it worth the trip. The downstairs live venue at Arlene’s Grocery (arlenesgrocery.net) is also known for its sticky floors and rock. With one of the city’s most out-there lineups, the Slipper Room puts on cabaret, burlesque, and cutting-edge performance art to take the edge off grunge.

Do

There are plenty of hip designer boutiques, gallery spaces, and photo galleries to make the Lower East Side a vibrant nightlife destination. On Ludlow Street, Anastasia Photo shows a variety of exhibitions, including Olympian photography and American drone wars. Assembly, a super hip unisex clothing store, is further up the street. Although there are plenty of places to enjoy a cocktail in the area, Dressing Room Bar & Boutique offers a vintage shop along with local designers- Tuck, Oyster, and Out of Print- along with an in-house bar.

Stay

The hipster Lower East Side is centered on Ludlow Street. With its Chesterfield sofas and exposed brickwork Hotel Ludlow creates a hip atmosphere. The hotel is a favorite of A-listers who want to maintain a low profile. In addition to having a graffitied lobby, Hotel Indigo has a rooftop bar over the road.

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