I recently returned from a month long backing packing trip through Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Towards the end of my trip, I started to make a list of the first places I wanted to go to as soon as I got back. My cravings for my favorite restaurants in the East Village are the catalyst for this post. This will be a 3rd and B breakdown of must try places in the East Village. If you try any of these places out based on my recommendations, please leave a comment with your thoughts on the restaurant.
Croxley Ales (Yelp Rating 3.5 stars) – A killer chicken wing place within a block of 3rd and B is dangerously delicious. Prior to moving to 3rd and B, the chicken wing was not a regular part of my diet. However, Croxley’s $0.10 wing nights Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have dramatically increased my chicken wing intake. Everyone has different opinions on wings, but my girlfriend and I both agree that Croxley Ales has some of the best wings we have had in the city. They definitely have the best $0.10 wings I’ve ever had. The only catch with the $0.10 wing night is that each person at the table has to order $5 worth of beverages. Since we are always drinking beer with wings that isn’t a problem at all.
Our go to order at Croxley Ales is an order of fried zucchini to start and then 15 hot and 15 BBQ wings with blue cheese. This has become a meal that we eat more regularly than we should probably admit. Thursday night is $0.10 boneless wing night. We don’t care for the boneless wings; however, they also do a burger and a beer for about $12 on Thursday. I never would have ordered a burger at Croxley Ales until one of my friends did when we went there to watch a game. The burgers are surprisingly good. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to go to Croxley’s for a burger because there are so many amazing burger places to try in the East Village, but it is good to know that they have a good one if you find yourself there in the mood for a burger. They have a ton TVs and show just about any game that you could want.
Cafe Rakka (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – This is my go to place for street meat. Cafe Rakka has some of the best gyros in town, and they have a location conveniently located at the corner of 3rd and B. A gyro from Cafe Rakka is a great alternative to a late night piece of pizza. They also make for great mid day snacks. Cafe Rakka’s falafel is good, but Mamoun’s Falafel is definitely my favorite falafel of all time. If I’m at 3rd and B, it usually won’t walk all the way to Mamoun’s for a falafel, but if I’m on St. Mark’s between 2nd ave and 3rd ave I’ll always pick Mamoun’s for falafel and Rakka for meat. Both Cafe Raka and Mamoun’s have locations on St. Mark’s between 2nd ave and 3rd ave.
Mamoun’s Falafel (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – If you consider yourself a falafel lover, you must try Mamoun’s Falafel. Not only is Mamoun’s Falafel the best falafel I have ever had, their falafel sandwich priced at $2.50 is one of the most reasonably priced sandwiches in the city. If you have never had falafel, you should treat yourself with a trip to one of their locations. I’ve introduced a number of people to falafel at Mamoun’s and most of them have been back many times. You can certainly rest assured that you just don’t like falafel if you don’t the falafel from Mamoun’s. Don’t worry if you get there and the line is really long-it often is. They move the line really quick and get you your food fast. The hot sauce is delicious, but it is REALLY hot… considered yourself warned.
The Cardinal (Yelp Rating 3.5 stars) – I couldn’t have been happier when I found out The Cardinal was opening just a block from 3rd and B. The Cardinal is a North Carolina style barbecue joint that keeps getting better than longer it is open. The barbecue plate is our go to order for dinner. You get to pick three meats and two sides for around $20. This is more than enough food for my girlfriend and I to split for dinner. My recommended order is the barbecue plate with pulled pork, brisket, and ribs with sides of fried okra and greens. Of the meats, the brisket is my favorite, but the pork and ribs are quite good as well. The fried okra is a must and the greens are fantastic if you like greens. The best part is that The Cardinal delivers within the neighborhood.
The Cardinal is also a good spot of brunch. The fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy is a solid dish and it is big enough that it can easily be split by two people. The $5 all you can drink mimosas are great for those Sundays where you want to make sure you don’t get anything done.
*GOOD FOR DELIVERY*
*GOOD FOR BRUNCH*
Great Jones Cafe (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – I had to debate if I wanted to put Great Jones on this list because it is one of the neighborhood’s best kept secrets, and I’d like to keep it that way. Great Jones is easily the restaurant I have frequented the most during my time in NYC. This cozy little cafe serves up world class cajun cooking. I’ve tried just about everything on their menu and I think it is all great. Our go to order is the creole chicken wings to start. Then we order a pulled pork sandwich to split. If you know of a place in NYC that has better pulled pork than Great Jones, please let me know because I definitely want to try it. The pulled pork sandwich is huge so it is more than enough for two people to share. I’d highly recommend that you substitute the potato salad for sweet potato fries. Make sure that you keep the plate your wings came on so you can save the sauce for dipping the pork. They will bring you a side of sauce if you don’t get the wings or forget to keep your plate. It would be a huge mistake to go to Great Jones and not get the wings!
Great Jones is also one of my favorite places for brunch in the EV. My go to order is the Crescent City Smothered Eggs which are scamabled eggs over biscuits with ham, and smothered in sausage gravy. It is the perfect hangover food and my favorite version of biscuits and gravy in the EV. Great Jones is known for having really good bloody marys; however, their mimosas are only so-so and on the expensive side. They have a nice beer selection. If you haven’t tried Gaffel Kolsch, I’d recommend giving it a try on draft at Great Jones Cafe. It is a smooth crisp beer that is really drinkable.
*GOOD FOR BRUNCH*
Apizz (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – There is no shortage of fantastic Italian places around 3rd and B; however, I choose to walk a few extra blocks to Eldridge between Stanton and Rivington because Apizz serves up my favorite Italian dish in the hood. My go to order is the Gnocchi con Ragu di Carne which is homemade gnocchi, honey-braised prime beef short ribs, and tomato ragu. I have tried gnocchi at most of the Italian spots in the EV and this one is definitely my favorite. Apizz is a cool little place tucked away on Eldridge. I’ve taken a number of people here and I’ve had good experiences every time. I do have to mention that my girlfriend’s favorite gnocchi in he EV is from Supper, which I will cover next. Since 3rd and B seems to be a mecca for good Italian places I want to take a second and give a shout out to some of my other favorites in the area: Il Bagato, In Vino, Max, and Piccola Positano.
Supper (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – One of the many great Italian restaurants in the EV. Supper, Frank, and Lil’ Frankie’s are all located in the EV and owned by the same people. The three restaurants have different but similar menus. Lil’ Frankie’s focuses on pizza while Supper and Frank are northern Italian cuisine. As I mentioned before, Supper has my girlfriend’s favorite gnocchi. I agree it is good, but the honey braised prime beef short ribs in the gnocchi put Apizz way ahead in my book. I have had a lot of great dishes from Supper and would certainly recommend checking it out; however, to be honest we don’t go there too often because they deliver to us. The restaurant is a nice place, but it is hard to find a place of this caliber that is willing to deliver so we usually save our Supper orders for the nights we don’t feel like leaving the apartment.
*GOOD FOR DELIVERY*
L’asso EV (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – My girlfriend introduced me to L’asso a couple of years ago; however, it has only recently become part of the East Village family. The original L’asso is on Mott between Kenmare and Spring St. We walked from 3rd and B to their NoLita occasion frequently enough that at lot of staff got to know us. As you can imagine, we were really excited when we found out that L’asso was opening an EV location much closer to home. This hipster run pizza joint is one of our favorite places to bring out of town guests. The EV location is a little bigger than the NoLita location which is good when you want to get a table, but they tiny room that makes up the NoLita location certainly has its charm. Our go to order is the caprese salad and a margarita D.O.C. pizza. Make sure you spend the couple of extra bucks to get the D.O.C. mozzarella on your pizza. I should also mention that the caprese salad is not your normal caprese. It is tomatos and D.O.C. mozzarella chopped up over a bed of arugula. Another great part about L’asso’s new EV location is that they will now deliver to us :)
*GOOD FOR DELIVERY*
Diablo Royale EV (Yelp Rating 3 stars) – Diablo Royale is our go to spot for Mexican. The location is a nice size with a cool back patio so you pretty much never have to wait for a table. The food is great and the servers are always extremely friendly and helpful. I’ll be the first to admit that an order of three tacos with rice and beans for $19 is extremely expensive. However, their tacos are huge so my girlfriend and I usually just split an order of three tacos between us. We almost always walk away from Diablo completely stuffed because we also order the gauc and their chile con queso which means we eat a silly number of chips before the food ever arrives. We spent a good bit of time looking for the best queso dip in the EV and we have both agreed that Diablo is our favorite. The drinks at Diablo are good and they do a lot of good happy hour deals that are worth checking out.
Barrio Chino (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – If you are looking for the Mexican place with the best drinks in the EV/LES area, you don’t need to look any further than Barrio Chino. My only real complaint about Barrio Chino is that it is way too popular. Barrio Chino is an extremely tiny place so it fills up fast and goes on long waits. Don’t be surprised if they tell you the wait is two or three hours during busy times. They only take reservations for parties of eight or more, but it is definitely worth calling to see how long the wait is before heading over. If you go at off times, it usually isn’t too hard to get a table. It is also nice that they take down your phone number and call you when your table is ready so you don’t have to wait right outside the restaurant. They only drink I’ve tried that I didn’t like was the Jalapeno margarita, but that was because it was too spicy for me. My favorite drink is the grapefruit margarita while my girlfriend is obsessed with the elder flower margarita. I cook a lot of chicken at home so I rarely order chicken out; however, Barrio Chino’s chicken tacos are crazy good and definitely worth trying.
Yuca Bar (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – Yuca Bar is a great place for Latin American style tapas and getting bombed on sangria. As soon as spring starts to turn to summer and the outside seating comes back out, Yuca is one of the first places I want to go. They make excellent sangria that is quite strong. The sangria isn’t cheap at Yuca, but they do have great happy hour specials on drinks until 8pm Monday through Friday. Last I checked they also did half off on all tapas on Tuesdays. Sitting outside and drinking at Yuca is one of my favorite ways to spend a summer Friday. I do need to mention that the service is usually painfully slow so I wouldn’t recommend this place if you are in a rush.
Westville East (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – Westville East is my go to place for salads and fresh veggies. The salads at Westville are definitely on the pricey end, but they are my favorite in the EV so I order them regularly. Make sure to ask about their special salads if you are in the mood for salad. The special is usually a steak salad that is quite good. The veggie plates at Westville are a great way to get a veggie fix if you have a craving.
Not only does Westville do a good brunch, they deliver their brunch food hot and in a timely manner. I love Westville’s bake challah bread french toast with strawberries and the dish holds up surprisingly well when delivered. The egg dishes are also great, but the toast does tend to get a little soggy when delivered. If you go to Westville for brunch, you need to try their frozen mint lemonade with prosecco. They aren’t cheap, but they certainly are delicious.
*GOOD FOR DELIVERY*
*GOOD FOR BRUNCH*
Spitzer’s Corner (Yelp Rating 3.5 stars) – Spitzer’s Corner is a great pub that takes down my awards for best burger and best truffel mac n’ cheese. Spitzer’s has over 40 beers on draft and a full bar. The restaurant has a lot of seats; however, they are broken into two different rooms so the place still feels pretty small. I’ve never had much of an issue getting a table here, even during busy hours. A lot of the time it looks packed, but that is because people are hanging out at the bar for happy hour and they can’t get seats because they aren’t eating. They have a regular burger, a kobe burger, and a lamb burger. All three of them are fantastic. The normal burger is the one that wins my vote for best burger in the EV/LES area. Don’t feel like you have to spend the money on the kobe burger, but I doubt you will be disappointed if you do. The lamb burger is great but also expensive. If you go for the lamb burger, spend the extra money and get the goat cheese spread. There are a lot of places with truffle mac n’ cheese in this part of town. Spitzer’s is the obvious best in the opinion of my girlfriend and a number of my other friends. I agree which is why I have given them the award for best truffle mac n’ cheese. Make sure to order a side of fries with whatever you get!
Momofuko Noodle Bar (Yelp Rating 3.5 stars) – There are a lot of David Chang haters out there, but I’m certainly not one of them. I think it is incredibly impressive the way he has been able to build his Momofuko brand as fast as he has. David Chang’s first restaurant was Momofuko Noodle Bar. Its popularity grew so fast that he had to move it to a larger location a couple doors down from the orignal location. The original location of Noodle Bar is now Momofuko Ko. Ko is an eight person tasting menu only restaurant that is critically acclaimed. Noodle Bar’s larger location is still packed virtually every minute it is open. The ramen is the main draw, but there are lots of other fun small plates on the menu that are definitely worth trying. At least one order of steamed pork buns is obligatory when you visit Noodle Bar. They also serve Momofuko Milk Bar ice cream and truffles for dessert. They do fried chicken lunches and dinners for up to eight people, but reservations need to be made in advance. You get 2 and 1/4 chickens plus a bunch of sides. One of the chickens is Korean style fried chicken and the other is southern style fried chicken. They say you get 2 and 1/4 chickens, but I swear it seemed like more than that when they brought it out. I think it is because the extra 1/4 of chicken is all breast meat. Eight of us went for lunch back in December and there was so much chicken that we even had a few pieces left over. Make sure to check out the soju slushie options if you are in the mood for a cool alcoholic drink while you are there. The yuzu plamer is my favortie!
WD~50 (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – As you walk down Clinton St. between Stanton and Rivington, it is likely that you won’t even notice the sign for WD~50. Chef Wylie Dufresne opened this restaurant back in 2003 with with partners Chef Jean-George Vongerichten and restaurateur Phil Suarez. Reservations typically need to be made about a month in advance for good time slots. In true LES fashion, the restaurant only sits 65 people which is a big part of why it is so hard to get a table. The regular menu at WD~50 is fantastic; however, it is totally worth it to shell out for the tasting menu if you are feeling adventurous. I know that a lot of foodies roll their eyes when they hear the words “molecular gastronomy.” I had similar feelings until I ate at WD~50. When molecular gastronomy is done right, it enhances the food instead of just being a way for a chef to show off technique. Chef Wylie is regularly seen working in the kitchen while you were dining. I have been told that if you ask when you make the reservation to meet Wylie and do a tour of the kitchen, they will do their best to accomodate your request.
Clinton St. Baking Co. (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – Clinton St. Baking Co. is an iconic part of the EV/LES area. It is one of the main tourist attractions in this area. I would recommend that everyone eats breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Co. at least one in their life; however, the ridiculous waits at Clinton St. are the reason I’m putting it under my dessert section instead of the restaurant section. On the weekends, waits for two person tables can easily go over 2.5 hours. The waits for four person tables are even crazier. Even on the weekdays, the waits for tables easily get over 1.5 hours. Clinton St. does have the best pancakes I’ve ever had, and all of their baked goods are extremely delicious. There are a couple of ways to beat the crazy Clinston St. waits. If you live close to Clinton St., you can put your name on the list and then head back home to kill time for the couple hour wait. It isn’t a problem if they call your name and you aren’t there. Just check in with them when you get back and they will put you as the next group on the list. Clinton St. also does to go orders in about 10 to 15 minutes, even during the busiest times. Whenever I order to go from Clinton St., I always make sure I’m ready to walk out the door to pick up the order. This place delivers on the weekdays, which is a great option if you want to order breakfast in on a lazy Tuesday.
As you can probably tell, I love Clinton St., but I think it is a little over rated. What isn’t over rated at all is their desserts, particularly the pies. Clinton St.’s $7 massive pieces of pie have become one of my favorite vices. My three favorites are the key lime meringue, chocolate banana cream, and bourbon pecan. No matter how busy the place is, you can buy a piece of pie to go in less than a few minutes. I would also strongly encourage you to try the peanut butter cookies and the chocolate chip scones. I’m not as crazy about their cakes so if you are going for dessert for the first time, I’d recommend you try the pies first.
*GOOD FOR DELIVERY ON WEEKDAYS*
*GOOD FOR BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH ALL WEEK*
Cathcart & Reddy (Yelp Rating 4.5 stars) – Apparently this is the new name for what was Dessert Truck Works. Dessert Truck Works was the home base for The Dessert Truck that used to roam NYC. I didn’t realize the place was changing names until I started to write this blog post. It sounds like the owners are retiring the truck and focusing on growing their LES location. The store is just two door down from Clinston St. Baking Co. at 6 Clinton St and it is definitely worth visiting. This placed loves to boast about their Throwdown with Bobby Flay winning bread pudding; however, I actually think that the warm molten chocolate cake is their best dessert. Virtually every restaurant in NYC has a version of warm molten chocolate cake, but I haven’t found anywhere that has a chocolate cake that comes close to this place. Everything else on the menu is also crazy good; however, the chocolate cake is what brings me back again and again.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato (Yelp Rating 4.5 stars) – If you are in the mood for gelato, this is the place. When I first found this place it was a tiny hole in the wall on Orchard St. with crappy hours. They have since moved to a much larger location on the corner of Houston and Ludlow. It seems like the move has been good for business. This place always seems to have a line, but they do a good job of moving people through quickly. They have a large selection of flavors that range from tried and true favorites to some out there flavors like sweet potato and tarragon. I think their espresso gelato is the best that I have ever had. My go to order is espresso, hazelnut, and vanilla.
Big Gay Ice Cream (Yelp Rating 4 stars) – If you are in the mood for big gay ice cream, this is the place. Don’t be put off if there is a long line when you get there. The inside of the store is really small and they keep the line moving pretty fast. Most of their ice cream is top-notch soft serve. My personal favorite of the soft serve options is the salty pimp which is a vanilla soft serve cone with dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip. I also like the American globs which is the same thing as the salty pimp except the dulce de leche is substituted for pretzels. I strongly encourage you to try their ice cream cookie sandwiches with praline pecan cookies and bourbon ice cream. The bourbon ice cream has an amazing bourbon flavor that isn’t too strong but definitely tastes like burbon.
Ray’s Candy Store (Yelp Rating 4.5 stars) – I probably never would have gone in this place if one of my girlfriend’s coworkers hadn’t recommended it. The place looks pretty dodgy from out front. To be honest the only thing that I have ever order from here is the beignets, but I have gone back many times to get them. Ray’s beignets are little pieces of fried dough heaven. I don’t know the whole story behind Ray’s Candy Store; however, it is easy to see that it has been an East Village staple for a very long time. It is definitely the type of place that becomes more appealing as you smoke more and more weed. If you are looking for health food this isn’t the place; however, if you are looking for good late night munchies, you will be in for a treat.
Momofuko Milk Bar (Yelp Rating 3.5 stars) – If you have never had a compost cookie, you need to add that to your bucket list right now. As the name suggests, they throw just about everything you can think of into the compost cookie and it works well. Milk Bar’s pies are incredibly rich and indulgent in the best way possible. Their soft seve is also rich, but they let you sample the flavors so I’d recommend at least trying a sample since you are there anyways. This is also the place to go if you really like cake. If you just walk in, you will only be able to order their cake truffles which are small cake balls sold in packs of three. They don’t sell their actual cakes by the slice so if you want to try one of the best cakes you will ever eat, you need to order it at least 48 hours in advance. The cakes are worth every penny of their $38 sticker price. The cakes are perfect if you are having people over or going to a party where you need to bring something. We have tried the birthday cake, strawberry lemon cake, and the banana cake. They were all amazing!