There’s excellent variety of food to be found in Alphabet City, the area of the East Village between Houston and 14th streets amid the alphabetically named avenues. All ranges of cuisine types, price points, and ambiance abound, from truly special sandwiches or sophisticated cocktails to a memorable omakase experience or a boisterous German beer hall. Ahead, 18 solid picks for eating and drinking in this far-east neighborhood.Read More
20 Excellent Restaurants and Bars to Try in Alphabet City
A Serbian feast, affordable omakase, myriad Mexican spots, and more
Zaragoza is a minuscule storefront on Avenue A that looks like a nondescript bodega from the outside, but there’s much more than soda, candy, and standard-issue bacon egg and cheeses on offer here. Order some excellent Mexican fare at the counter, like potato flautas, potato and chorizo enchiladas, goat tacos, and chiles rellenos packed with cheese. Wedge into the pint-sized back dining room for an affordable, satisfying feast. Don’t miss the quality cooking ingredients available to take home, like tortillas sold by the pound and various Mexican herbs.
For a genuinely no-pretense, frills-free bar, look no further than Mona’s. The Avenue B stalwart has been kicking it far longer than most local watering holes, and continues to lure in an eclectic crowd with weekly live jazz and bluegrass music alongside a pool table and jukebox.
Perched on the second floor of an unassuming space on Avenue B, Pouring Ribbons serves up some of the city’s most interesting cocktails without the snobbish, fussy attitude usually involved with craft mixology. Cheekily named options rotate often and are themed to topics such as reality TV. The topnotch creations — ranked on ascale from refreshing to spiritous and comforting to adventurous — are served in remarkably varied glassware and trimmed with elaborate, often unexpected garnishes. Snacks allow for grazing, but drinks are the priority here.
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Harry & Ida's Meat and Supply Co.
The sandwich-focused spinoff of Ducks Eatery, Harry & Ida’s is a thoroughly modern riff on the traditional Jewish delicatessen, named for the grandparents of sibling owners Will and Julie Horowitz. It’s intended to channel the aesthetic of a Catskills country store, and the menu is short but strong. The hot pastrami is the dish to get, but the smoked eel and bluefish sandwiches are great options, too.
This true dive has an actual Lucy, now 77-years-old and there nightly, except for the two weeks she closes each year for a break. The place has been around for decades, with Ludwika “Lucy” Mickevicius as owner since 1997. PBR and other domestic beers are available daily from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. alongside two pool tables at this place that remains untouched by trends and changing times. Cash only.
Kura, tucked away discreetly on the eastern end of St. Mark’s Place, is one of the finest East Village sushi dens for shelling out on a superb, straightforward omakase experience. Sushi chef Norihiro Ishizuka slices generous portions of ultra-fresh fish, available as a 10-piece sushi plus hand roll omakase option, or, for additional cooked dishes added into the mix, try the kappo version.
Empellon Al Pastor
Chef Alex Stupak casual Alphabet City spot opened in 2014 and has been serving up affordable tacos and other bar snacks at a fun, margarita-focused bar ever since. The namesake al pastor taco is an obvious order, but also try playful versions like one filled with cheeseburger, as well as chicken nuggets and a breakfast burrito served all night. The weekday happy hour is the cheapest way to enjoy Stupak’s cooking, complete with $3 tacos, $4 beers, and $8 margaritas from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.
The exemplary bar burger is the thing to get at Royale. Since three childhood friends set up shop in 2006, the mellow Avenue C bar has been slinging its juicy, unfussy burger, topped with raw onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and optional American cheese, priced at less than $10. The spacious patio space is another draw, making this a reliable pick for a lowkey birthday or group gathering where beer and burgers are the goal.
Cocktail lovers can find expertly made drinks with experimental ingredients running from pink peppercorn to banana peel at Mace. The low-key drink destination comes from a team who ran acclaimed spots like Experimental Cocktail Clyb and Boilermaker. Try the eponymous “mace” cocktail, made with Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid, a Thai coconut cordial, and mace mist.
Expect spicy, satisfying Northeastern Thai fare at Somtum Der, which serves piquant larb, flavorful noodle dishes, and myriad options to delight carnivores, such as sausage and dried meat. But definitely don’t miss the menu’s many variations of san’s refreshing, tart papaya salad, with versions featuring ingredients such as mackerel and salted egg. Nothing on the menu tops $16.
This low-key bar from the team behind Mother’s Ruin is an ideal stop for dates, friends catching up, or birthday parties. It’s a stylish space but not at all pretentious, and cocktails are a few steps above average mixed drinks, like the cheekily named “no pants dance” (tequila, lime, agave, chipotle, pineapple). Food runs from an eggplant parmesan sandwich to fried brussels sprouts.
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Sunny & Annie's Deli
Far from the standard bodega its exterior and nondescript name suggest, Sunny & Annie’s Deli is filled with a quirky, extensive selection of sandwiches and wraps. There’s the “2009 Obama,” a wrap filled with lemon grilled chicken, grilled pepper, egg, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, fried carrot, onion, balsamic vinegar, and fresh rosemary, while the “pho real” reinterprets the Vietnamese soup in sandwich form. As any bodega should, it has a respectable BEC, and is open 24 hours.
Dig into a Serbian feast at Kafana, which has been serving up the Balkan country’s cuisine on Avenue C for over a decade. Highlights include cevapi, Serbia’s national dish of skinless grilled sausages containing beef, lamb, and pork, as well as smoked, thinly sliced pork neck. Less carnivorous diners can enjoy savory phyllo pies, filled with spinach or feta and lepinja sa kajmakom, traditional Serbian flatbread with a creamy cheese spread. Cash only.
Zum Schneider NYC
It’s usually a party at at this Bavarian-German biergarten and restaurant, where it always feels like Oktoberfest, especially when the scene’s lively in the sidewalk seating area. Opened in 2000, Zum Schneider helped usher in a new wave of German restaurants in NYC. It serves up almost cartoonishly large steins of beer and the hearty fare best suited for soaking up said booze, like generous platters of schnitzel, and multiple types of sausage. For relatively harder-to-find-in-NYC German fare, consider the schupfnudeln: pan-fried noodles with sauerkraut.
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Eleven Madison Park-trained chef Thomas Chen turns out fanciful, laborious creations, often with Asian influences, at his Alphabet City spot Tuome. But his food isn’t fancy simply for the sake of it — it’s also delicious, like the blue cheese miso with cauliflower and grapes, or dashi butter in a snow crab, noodle, and squash dish.
This omakase spot focuses on sourcing sustainable fish, priced more gently ($95 per person) than most options in its category. It was opened in Alphabet City in 2017 by co-owners Josh Arak, David Torchiano, and TJ Provenzano after five years as a pop-up in Brooklyn. Chef and partner Jeff Miller, an alum of Texas’ Uchi restaurants, crafts edomae-style sushi with local ingredients.
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One of the city’s tastiest bowls of ramen can be found at Minca, a ramen shop that predates the likes of Ippudo in the rife-with-ramen East Village and Alphabet City neighborhoods. A highlight is the Tokyo tsukemen spicy miso iteration: the thick broth is served separate from wavy noodles, roast pork, corn, scallions, and more add-ins, for dipping, dunking, and mixing the various components together as desired.
Edi & the Wolf
Austrian fare is the attraction at Edi & the Wolf on Avenue C. The cozy, low-key restaurant, which opened in 2010, is named after its executive chefs, Eduard “Edi” Frauneder and Wolfgang “the Wolf” Ban. Tuck into Austrian classics like spaetzle andwiener schnitzel, as well as some more modern dishes like a burger with gruyere, grilled onion, lettuce, and sweet pepper aioli. The warm space features reclaimed barn wood and a thick, 40-foot-long rope salvaged from a church that’s slung from the ceiling.
Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter
Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter is the place to sate Southern comfort food cravings such as fried chicken, biscuits, mac and cheese, and collard greens. The fast food-style fried chicken is the main draw, served on patterned white and pink plates for added charm. While the Southern spot’s West Village outpost didn’t last, there’s another location further north, in Midtown’s Urbanspace at 570 Lex.
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Mexico City native and chef Roberto Santibanez runs three well-loved outposts of Fonda, in Park Slope and Chelsea in addition to the East Village. The trifecta of locations serve as solid neighborhood favorites that are strong enough to seek out even if there isn’t a location right nearby, with a range dishes such as tacos, salads, skillet-based fajita-style entrees, and enchiladas swathed in rich Oaxacan mole.