Saturday, April 15, 2006

East Village/Lower East Side

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Around the Clock (A.T.C.) [8 Stuyvesant St. (bet. 3rd Ave. and 9th St.) 212-598-0402]
Good and cheap, A.T.C. will get the job done right for brunch or for a late-night snack. It's open 24-hours-a-day and offers large portions for sandwiches and all the standard breakfast options all the time. I had the Lafayette (grilled chicken, mozzarella, tomato, pesto) sandwich on Challah and it definitely did the deed.

Blue 9 Burger [92 Third Ave. (bet. 12th and 13th Sts.) 212-979-0053]
Although it's definitely no In-N-Out Burger, it's probably the most similar thing you can get on the East Coast. The menu is simple and the burgers are greasy, but as long you eat them while they are hot, you will enjoy yourself. Make sure to get the "special sauce," which, like at In-N-Out, is some variation of Russian dressing. The fries are solid as well.

Buenos Aires [513 E. 6th St. (bet. Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-228-2775]
A quaint neighborhood steakhouse, this authentic Argentinean restaurant offers up excellent steaks at realistic prices. Try the Jamon Serrano to start, but avoid any salads. This place specializes in meat. I went with the Bife de chorizo (Shell Steak) and had more than enough to fill me up. But if you have an even bigger appetite, I recommend the Bife de costilla (Ribeye Steak). The atmosphere is very nice as well, and I especially enjoyed seeing soccer games on two flat screen TVs!

Cafe Mogador [101 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-677-2226]
A worthy rival to Zerza, Cafe Mogador offers East Village diners another excellent option for Moroccan food. Start off with an order of the Mixed Platter, which consists of a variety of different Middle Eastern spreads and is a great appetizer to share among friends. I would then recommend the lamb cous cous, which features some succulent meat and vegetables. Finish off your meal by relaxing with an order of the sweet Moroccan tea.

Caracas Arepa Bar [91 E. 7th St. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-228-5062]
From what I have read, this tiny place might be the only authentic Venezuelan restaurant in the city (except for its To Go sister cafe next door). Caracas offers a variety of Venezuelan specialties, but the arepas (think stuffed english muffin, but made of corn flour) are the signature dish. Along with my assistant, I tried the De Guasacaca (guacamole and cheese), the Reina Pepiada (chicken and avocado), and the De Pabellon (beef, black beans, plantains, cheese). All the fillings were fresh and tasty. The arepas themselves were very good as well. They were a little too hard for me the first time I went, but the second time, the arepa consistency was just right for my delicious La Del Gato. For appetizers, start with the Guasacaca (Venezuelan Guac) and the Yoyos. All in all, Caracas will offer you a great meal for a great price.

Carne Vale [46 Avenue B (bet. 3rd and 4th Sts.) 212-777-4686]
If you're in it for the salad, this is not the churrascaria for you. But if you're in it for the salad, you shouldn't be in a churrascaria. For $35 at Carne Vale, you can get all the meat you want all night long. And while you are at it, try drinking some Caipirinhas. For those unfamiliar with how these things work, you start by serving yourself at the salad bar, which features salad along with hot and cold appetizers. The selection here is good in this regard, but small. After you warm up, the main event starts as soon as you flip your food coaster to green. At this point, servers start coming around to your table every couple of minutes with skewers holding all different cuts of meat. Take what you like, use the special Brazilian sauce, and become a carnivore. My favorite meats were probably the Beef Ribs and the Sirloin. Be wary of the Flank Steak because it is very salty (albeit tasty). Eat until you can eat no more and make sure to watch the belly dancing shows that happen periodically. Finally, for those who are curious, the interior of the place is darkly lit and features comfortable leather chairs.

Chipotle [19 St. Mark's Place (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-529-4502 (See for more locations)]
This Mexican fast-food chain has hit the Big Apple and us New Yorkers are better off for it. Offering cheap, tasty, and enormous burritos, along with other Mexican favorites, Chipotle is a splendid place for lunch.

Crooked Tree Creperie [110 St. Mark's Place (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-533-3299]
An adorable little place in which to enjoy crepes, salads, and sandwiches. And you should definitely have some wine or sangria while you're there. I tried my crepe with the old reliable combination of Nutella and bananas. It was a great dessert and the restaurant did a good job of making me feel like I was away from the madness that can be New York. Prices are reasonable.

Dumpling Man [100 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-505-2121]
A solid option if you don't want to go down to Chinatown, Dumpling Man serves up pretty tasty and filling dumplings for reasonable prices. For the standards, they offer pork, chicken, shrimp, and vegetable either steamed (my preference) or seared on one side. I tried all but the vegetable and I would say that chicken was my favorite. The standard dumpling sauce, along with some Sriracha should be all you need, but they do offer some special sauces if you like. Overall, it's a pretty good place for a late-night snack.

Gyu-Kaku [34 Cooper Sq. (bet. Astor Pl. and 4th St.) 212-475-2989]
A great place for groups, but also somewhere you could dine alone, this outpost of the Gyu-Kaku chain has some of the most delicious BBQ south of 32nd street. The menu has a lot of options for what you can throw on the grill (you have to cook it yourself), but I would recommend sticking mostly to the beef. The best option, of course, is anything Kobe. We had the Kobe Kalbi and it was simply fantastic. Almost as good however, and much cheaper, was the Harami, marinated skirt steak. A third good beef option is the regular Kalbi. Be careful when you are ordering because each portion is not that big and the tally does add up. It's worth it though. And if you can get there early or late, they have happy hour pricing on one meat each day Monday-Thursday.

Hasaki [210 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-473-3327]
It's yet another sushi restaurant in the East Village and guess's delicious! Hasaki offers a wide variety of fresh fish, along with some creative non-sushi entrees. I had an Angus Beef special in which I cooked the meat myself on a hot stone. It was excellent, albeit a little bit of a hassle. The best deal, however, is probably the Sushi Five ($22), in which you get 5 pieces of sushi, along with two rolls, so I would strongly recommend that option. The restaurant is pretty small, so you might have to wait at a peak time, but the food is definitely a cut above some of the more standard places.

Katz's Deli [205 E. Houston St. (at Ludlow St.) 212-254-2246]
A nice place to bring your hipster friends after you hang out with them on the Lower East Side. You can bond over a corned beef on rye (overpriced, but tasty), a bowl of matzo ball soup, and maybe for the more adventurous, a tongue sandwich. Huge, well-lit, and serving beer, it's a good late-night option.

La Paella [214 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-598-4321]
Relive your time in Spain (or imagine what it might be like) as you enjoy tapas, sangria, and paella at this charming little restaurant. For the tapas, you're best off going with a big group so you can try a lot of different dishes without breaking the bank, but if you can't do that, pick the few that look best to you. I really enjoyed the stuffed squid with squid ink and tomatoes and the Basque salad (lots of smoked salmon). For the main course, you should probably get paella. I have tried both the Paella Basque and the Paella Negra. I personally preferred the Negra, but you have to like the whole squid ink thing to enjoy that. Both are very filling. For drinks, the sangria is delicious, although there didn't seem to be much alcohol in there. On the whole, you should have a very enjoyable dinner. Another option, however, would be to go for lunch, as the $12.99 lunch special (soup/salad, paella, ice cream) from noon-4 pm every day is a great deal.

La Palapa [77 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-777-2537]
After walking past this place countless times, I finally went in to eat here. It turns out that the food is pretty good, although not spectacular. Make sure to start off with some Guacamole which is excellent, but you might need two portions because each one is not that big. I tried both tacos and quesadillas. I preferred the quesadillas and would recommend the Bistec, which was noticeably better than my other dishes. It is also worth noting that the margaritas are very tasty and the food is generally spicier than most Mexican places I have been to.

Le Miu [107 Avenue A (bet. 6th and 7th Sts.) 212-473-3100]
An absolute pearl of a restaurant in the East Village, Le Miu offers Japanese food with a twist. By that I mean that Le Miu provides its patrons with a creative array of dishes that you won't find at any ordinary Japanese joint. And when you combine excellent food with a sleek, modern atmosphere and good service, you have a place worth returning to multiple times. For appetizers, my dining companion and I began with the Grilled Marinated Duck Breast and the Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab, which was particularly delicious. For main courses, we split the Miso Marinated Baby Lamb Chops and the Chef's Sushi Platter. Both were exquisite and presented beautifully. The only thing that might scare people away from here would be the prices, but the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food and I highly recommend that anyone who reads this review pays the restaurant a visit.

Minca [536 E. 5th St. (bet. Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-505-8001]
If you're looking for a hearty bowl of ramen noodles, look no further than Minca. But before you order the noodles, there are a couple of very good appetizers you should try for variety's sake since you are probably not going to finish the whole bowl of noodles anyway. The shrimp gyoza is simply excellent, made fresh right in front of you. In addition, and I can't believe I'm writing this, the radish salad is very refreshing. The peanut-influenced sauce is wonderful. As for the ramen, I ordered the Shoyu Ramen and I was very pleased with my selection. My friends had the Minca Ramen and Toroniku Ramen, both of which were very good as well. These dishes were all extremely filling and pork-based, just so you know what you're getting into. Finally, Minca is a good choice for dinner because of its affordability, as the most expensive dish on the menu only costs $12.50.

Momofuku Noodle Bar [163 First Ave. (bet. 10th and 11th Sts.) 212-475-7899]
Well-known for its famous clientele, Momofuku is not your ordinary downtown noodle bar. It is cleaner, more crowded, and way more expensive. Is it better? Probably. Is it worth the difference in price, not to mention the potential long wait? Probably not. That said, I greatly enjoyed my $11 order of Tsukemen (chilled noodles, Berkshire pork, vegetables, dipping broth) and it was certainly very filling. But you know what I enjoyed even more? The Steamed Pork Buns. These were simply sensational (they reminded me of good Peking Duck). You must order them. On the whole, I recommend that diners visit here every so often, but do not make it your regular go-to place in the area if you are looking for a better overall value.

Momofuku Ssam Bar [207 Second Ave. (at 13th St.) 212-254-3500]
This is one of the more polarizing restaurants that I have been to, but as is often the case, I am somewhere in the middle on it. To begin with, if you don't like meat, don't bother showing up. Seriously. Now when you meat-lovers do show up, be prepared to wait, as the space is small and almost always crowded (this is for dinner, lunch is a whole separate story). If you can, head to the small bar in the back and start with an OB beer (or Hitachino if you want to spend big) and an order or two of the delicious and fatty Pork Steamed Buns (they taste like Peking Duck). Once you get seated, you'll have to decide on your entree, and you'll realize that this place is pretty expensive. But luckily, the cheapest entree ($10) is also the signature dish of the restaurant: Ssam. Basically the Ssam is like a burrito, and the classic option here features Berkshire Pork, rice, onions, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and a red kimchi puree. It's sort of a strange mix of flavors and textures, but they manage to pull off the combination fairly well, even though almost every bite is different from the one before it. Also, the Ssam is a filling option, meaning you won't go home hungry. Of course, as mentioned, there are a number of other options on the menu that I did not get to try this time (although my friend enjoyed the Pork Sausage), including the supposedly high-quality fish offerings, so this is not a complete review. On the whole, however, I would judge the Ssam bar similarly to the Momofuku Noodle Bar. It is somewhere worth visiting, but you probably won't want to make it a regular thing.

OG Restaurant [507 E. 6th St. (bet Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-477-4649]
A wonderful little find in the East Village, this tasty hideaway serves up Asian Fusion cuisine at very reasonable prices. All of the different dumpling options seemed good, but we went with the Signature Shrimp Dumplings and the Curried Beef. We were pleased. For my main dish, I enjoyed the Half Crispy Duck. The scallion crepes that came with the duck were especially creative. The Five Spice Chicken is another solid main course option. Finally, the service was extremely friendly, making the overall experience that much better.

Orologio [162 Avenue A (bet. 10th and 11th Sts.) 212-228-6900]
A wonderful little Italian restaurant in the East Village, Orologio offers up a nice variety of delicious dishes at very affordable prices. If you're in the mood for a salad, start with the Insalata Dirucola Enoli (arugula salad with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts). Then, I would recommend a pasta dish. Two of the better options would be the Spaghetti alla Chitarrina (spaghetti with lamb ragout) and the Tagliolini Bianchi e Neri Piccanti (black and white tagliolini in a spicy tomato sauce). Bottles of wine are mostly in the low $20 range and the clock motif around the restaurant makes for a nice atmosphere. Finally, once you finish dinner, there are a number of fun bars in the neighborhood to cap off your night.

Paprika [110 St. Mark's Pl. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-677-6563]
In case you couldn't tell, I like to eat in the East Village. And I also like Italian food, so Paprika is right up my alley. Set in a cute and cozy Saint Mark's space, Paprika serves up good food at good prices. Start with the excellent Beef Carpaccio, and if you want to split it, they might even do it for you. Then, try one of the pasta dishes, either one of the multiple daily specials or one of the regular menu standards. The Pappardelle with Oxtail Ragu is rich, filling, and tasty, while the Gnocchi is top-notch. If you can still find room, finish off your meal with the delicious Chocolate Souffle cake. Drink-wise, I recommend a bottle of Menabrea beer from Italy as something different, or an affordable bottle of wine as something more standard. Overall Paprika provides a classy Italian dining experience and would make a good date spot (but is also nice as a restaurant for dinner with friends).

Paul's [131 Second Ave. (bet. 7th St. and St. Mark's Pl.) 212-529-3033]
This burger is about as greasy as they come, but it's also very good. It's big and juicy and I recommend that you get it on an English muffin. I know that sounds weird, but trust me on this one. If you want fries, try the sweet potato variety. However, just a burger should be enough to fill you up.

Pylos [128 E. 7th St. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-473-0220]
Enjoy fine Greek food in a wonderful atmosphere at this always-crowded East Village restaurant. All sorts of classic dishes are available, and I would recommend starting with the grape leaves and the meatballs. These two appetizers offer good contrasting tastes and textures and are best to be shared among 2-3 people. For my main course, I chose the Cornish Hen and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was sort of like chicken, but with more flavor. Other good options are the duck breast or a fish dish. Also, I would say that Pylos would be very nice for a dinner date, but make a reservation first!

Sea Thai Bistro [75 Second Ave. (bet. 4th and 5th Sts.) 212-228-5505]
More a social scene than a restaurant, Sea serves up decent Thai food at pretty cheap prices in a dimly lit club-style atmosphere. It was sort of fun hanging out there and drinking with friends, but the service was not particularly good and the food was not good enough to make it a place I would definitely return to. If you know what are you getting into, you might enjoy yourself, but you can find better Thai food in the area.

Sharaku [14 Stuyvesant St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-598-0403]
Located on one of the few true East-West streets in Manhattan, this friendly East Village spot offers good Japanese food at affordable prices. But for the best deal, make sure to go here on a Monday night, when you can get a wonderful prix fixe special loaded with soba, sushi, soup, and edamame.

SobaKoh [309 E. 5th St. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-254-2244]
Top-notch soba in the East Village. You can just get the classic Zaru Soba and you'll probably be happy, but I recommend getting one of the (cold soba) specials instead. I got my soba with soft shell crab and the taste of the shellfish definitely enhanced my soba experience. And if you're in the East Village early, they have a prix fixe menu available until 7 pm every night.

Soba-ya [229 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-533-6966]
A worthy rival to Soba Nippon, and perhaps better than SobaKoh, Soba-ya is well worth a visit for lovers of the buckwheat noodles. The flavor and texture of the noodles here are fantastic, as the full influence of the buckwheat can be felt in every bite. The soba is not cheap for lunch, but it does come with some excellent side dishes (such as salmon or tuna sashimi) that fill out the meal nicely. In addition, the green tea is extremely high quality. Make sure to ask for it. There are other dishes on the menu that are supposed to be good as well, so there is also something for non-soba lovers. Try to come on the early side for dinner because the restaurant is small and fills up quickly.

Sushi Lounge [132 St. Mark's Place (at Ave. A) 212-598-1188]
All sushi is 50% off all day. And it's pretty good too. Also, they have a fantastic happy hour deal on drinks from 10 pm to 1 am every night ($6.25 pitchers of Kirin!). I had the Zaru Soba, which was decent, but not exceptional. All in all, however, this is a solid option for downtown sushi and a good way to conserve funds if you are going drinking in the area.

Zerza [304 E. 6th St (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-529-8250]
Lovely service and great food make this East Village Moroccan restaurant a great place to try something different. The atmosphere, which includes music and sometimes belly dancing, lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. As for the food, there are a couple of good appetizers to try. Depending on your tastes, I would recommend the extremely sweet Saganaki (fried Feta cheese with pure honey) or the Marinated Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese. For my main course, I was desperate for some cous cous, so I ordered the lamb variety. It was excellent. The lamb was succulent and the blend of toppings on the cous cous was wonderful enough to make sure that I cleaned my plate. The tagine was good as well. Try a red Algerian wine, which is sweet and a fine complement to the food. If you feel like relaxing, top things off with a hookah.


  1. My but you have visited many restaurants!! I recommend adding Paprika to your list...

  2. thanks for the recommendation! as you can now see, i finally visited and enjoyed it.