November 2, 2016

Fun and Hip Things to See, Eat, and Imbibe on the Lower East Side

For a neighborhood with a history as varied as its occupants, the Lower East Side (LES), is becoming quite the trendy place to visit—or live for that matter.

by Nicole Haddad photographer Nicole Haddad

For a neighborhood with a history as varied as its occupants, the Lower East Side (LES), is becoming quite the trendy place to visit—or live for that matter. From its pre-revolutionary days as a farm, to a haven for a diverse group of immigrants with its many tenements spanning from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, to its days as an artistic and politically-inclined neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century, the neighborhood is a historical hot spot. Today, the area where influencers such as Eddie Cantor, the Marx Brothers, and George and Ira Gershwin grew up and which the Beat poets immortalized, is chock-full of popular bars, restaurants and cafes, avant-garde boutiques, chic new hotels, and art galleries galore.

The lobby at Hotel Indigo.
The lobby at Hotel Indigo. Photograph courtesy of Hotel indigo lower east side.

Getting There The Lower East Side is bounded by Bowery to the west, Houston Street to the north, the FDR Drive to the east, and Canal Street to the south. The easiest way to get there is the J, M, or Z trains to the Essex Street Station or the F train to the 2nd Avenue or Delancey Street Station.

Markets The Essex Street Market is a historic culinary destination that began in 1940 and now offers everything from gourmet cheeses, to fresh fish and more—it even has an art gallery. The seasonal Hester Street Fair's outdoor marketplace, which runs through October 29th, hosts a variety of food vendors, festivals, live music, and more.

Museums The Tenement Museum tells the history of the neighborhood's immigrants and particularly of 97 Orchard Street—a tenement building built in 1863 that was home to nearly 7000 working-class immigrants. In 2007, the New Museum relocated to 235 Bowery and solidified the rise and move of major art galleries and artists to the Lower East Side. The building's Tokyo-based architects, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, were awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2010 for their work.

Foodie Nation Some of our favorites include Clinton St. Baking Co. (especially for brunch); The vegetable-focused Dirt Candy headed by chef Amanda Cohen; Casa Mezcal for authentic Oaxacan cuisine; Balvanera, which is the first project by Argentine Chef Fernando Navas, formerly of Nobu Miami and the recipient of an externship at world-renowned El Bulli; Schiller's (Chef Shane McBride, also of Balthazar, helms the kitchen); The charmingly laidback Café Katja; Russ & Daughters (go for the lox); Dirty French in the Ludlow Hotel. And of course, Katz's Deli, a neighborhood staple since 1888.

The Liquid Cure For a more relaxed speakeasy-type atmosphere, visit The Back Room or Attaboy. Bar Goto serves Japanese-inspired cocktails and bites, and for those who love the taste of mezcal, visit Casa Mezcal and then descend down to the Botanic Lab (underneath) for innovative cocktails with appealing names such as the Cucumber Rumbo. Subject offers highbrow cocktails with a convivial atmostphere. Looking for a hip basement lounge with craft cocktails? Chloe 81 is your bar.

The Art Scene The Lower East Side's art scene, old and new, is exploding: Galleries to watch include: CANADA; Sperone Westwater; Lehmann Maupin; Cuevas Tilleard; Muriel Guepin; Rachel Uffner; Nicelle Beauchene; Miguel Abreu; James Fuentes; Sargent's Daughters.

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