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Two rows of receding tenements with a sliver of blue sky in between.
The view down Stanton Street facing east
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

15 Destination-Worthy Restaurants in the Lower East Side

From comforting matzo ball soup to standout souvlaki

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The view down Stanton Street facing east
| Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The Lower East Side as we see it today — extending to Houston Street on the north, Chrystie and Pike streets on the West, and the FDR on the east and south — is now a neighborhood that flaunts its modern restaurants and bars. But some old-time establishments remain, pointing to the area’s rich, decades-long history of restaurants opened by immigrants highlighting cuisines ranging from Chinese to Dominican to Eastern European.

It’s an exciting neighborhood to be sure, and one teeming with dining possibilities. Here are 15 great places to eat there, reflecting a tight mix of established favorites and new and innovative options in a neighborhood that houses a slew of major players, from the iconic Russ & Daughters’s cafe to the newest location of jerk chicken standout Peppa’s.

NYC restaurants can now offer indoor dining at 50 percent capacity along with outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining out, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the NYC Health Department’s website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Saigon Social

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172 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
(646) 609-3202
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The outdoor seating at this modern Vietnamese lunch counter with a corner location in the former Mission Chinese space offers picturesque views of the neighborhood, and lots of one-dish meals diners can wash down with wine and beer. Helen Nguyen is the chef, and her hot fried chicken sandwich concocted along banh mi lines is justifiably famous. But there are plenty of other highlights, too, on a menu that changes frequently, which may include crab fried rice and a brisket pho, brilliant in its simplicity, served with the broth on the side.

A selection of dishes seen harshly lit on a tale at night, including noodles and soup with the broth on the side. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

2. Peppa’s

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96 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
(646) 476-4100

It started out decades ago in Flatbush, when Gavin Hussey opened his jerk chicken stand, sharing space with a fish market. Now, a fourth branch has opened on the Lower East Side, and the jerk chicken, fragrant with allspice, is as good as ever. This gussied-up branch also offers a choice of escovitch fish in a peppery vinegar sauce, a fine fried chicken sandwich, and curry goat, in addition to expected sides like mac and cheese and callaloo, a leafy Caribbean vegetable also known as amaranth. Minimal seating, but why not picnic on one of the benches on tree-lined Allen Street nearby?

Peppa’s jerk chicken on the grill. Louise Palmberg/Eater

3. Souvlaki GR

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116 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-0116
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Yes, this Lower East Side Greek gem has turned into a mini-chain, but the original is still the best and most charming. The interior is made to look like it has been transplanted from an Aegean island, with its brilliant white and blue decor and chunky wood furniture, and the menu specializes in the small dishes called mezze, many of them vegetarian. Other budget-wise choices include rolled sandwiches, of which my favorite is a tubular burger flame-cooked with feta and french fries stuffed inside the pita, for a wonderful starch bomb.

A hand holding up a pita sandwich with fries, onion, and tomato peeking out Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

4. Oh K-Dog NYC

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159 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
(646) 448-4836
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If you were expecting the usual state fair corn dog, forget it. Korean hot dog fanciers have reworked the formula so that now the batter is made of rice, and have introduced all sorts of nifty variations, including various sauces and dips. Squid ink figures in one batter, and embedded potato cubes in another; many customers prefer to roll their purchases in granulated sugar. Sometimes the hot dog is replaced entirely with rice cake or cheese. Lots of choices to make means lots of fun.

A pair of hands hold a hot dog cut in half with white cheese oozing out of one side. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

5. Rebèl

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29 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002

This new Haitian restaurant presided over by chefs Marie Charles and Dominique Hermann makes some very stylish cocktails (don’t miss the Barbancourt rum, which is featured in several), but the food is equally compelling. The restaurant occupies a comfortable corner location with plenty of windows, decorated with paintings, including portraits of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Chadwick Boseman. The food runs to the malanga fritters called akra; fish filet in Kreyol sauce (rich and tomatoey); griot pork confit in big chunks accompanied by piklis, a spicy relish; and chicken wings in a variety of styles. It’s a good place for a snack and a drink or a full meal.

A white oblong plate with a red tinted fish filet and side dishes on a red table. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

6. The Bun Hut

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178 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
(917) 388-2695
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The Bun Hut is one of the city’s rare restaurants from the Bahamas. The bill of fare highlights steamed and folded Chinese bao filled with island specialties, courtesy of chef Kermit “Ray” Mackey. The fillings include cracked conch, fried shrimp, and the vegetarian jackfruit, slathered with a brightly colored sauce that might remind you of a spicier version of Russian dressing. Also available are more typical bao fillings such as pork belly and shiitake mushrooms. Indo-Caribbean rotis stuffed with jerk chicken and curry goat are other standouts.

Fried conch and slaw in a folded steamed bao. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

7. Wildair

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142 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
(646) 964-5624
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Wildair, which began as a side project of chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra, persisted throughout the pandemic by offering an ever-changing flock of small dishes for carryout, and with a modest sidewalk seating area, along with an inspired list of beers and wines by the glass. I ate there often, and memorable dishes included a fried shrimp sandwich on a brioche bun, nectarine and beet salad, a Chinese-influenced French dip sandwich accented with a gingery sauce, and a gem salad with tuna conserve. Any time you drop in for a snack or small meal, this place is full of surprises.

Salad of orange beets and nectarines, chopped into cubes. Robert Sietsema/Eater

8. Russ & Daughters Cafe

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127 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 475-4880 ext. 2
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If you’re familiar with the century-old Russ & Daughters flagship on Houston, wherein dozens of forms of preserved fish are sold, you’ll want to pay a visit to this offshoot cafe further south, which opened in 2014. The menu is a compendium of Eastern European Jewish fare, in a slick diner setting. Highlights include matzo ball soup, pastrami-cured salmon on a bagel, mini potato knishes, a platter with three kinds of herring, and a carob egg cream, Operators are Niki Russ Federman, great-granddaughter of the founder, and her cousin Josh Russ Tupper. Here’s one place that will take you back more than a few decades into Lower East Side history. Note shortened pandemic hours.

A bowl of parsley strew soup with a big matzo ball sticking up. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

9. Cibao

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72 Clinton St # 1
New York, NY 10002
(212) 228-0703
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Decades ago there were probably two dozen Dominican and Puerto Rican cafes on the Lower East Side, with menus that rotated on a weekly basis, and often with similar decor and design: twirling stools along a lunch counter, a heated cabinet for rotisserie chickens, and a press for hot sandwiches. Named after a region in Puerto Rico’s northwest, Cibao is one of a very few remaining, owned by Milagro Thina. Cuban sandwiches make a popular quick lunch, but there are also nourishing meal-size soups, pork roasts, paprika-rubbed chickens, and red and black beans served with yellow and white rice.

A red facade in the harsh angular sunlight with several shadowy figures in front. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

10. Spicy Village

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68 Forsyth St B
New York, NY 10002
(212) 625-8299
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With food originating in the Chinese province of Henan, this tiny cafe facing Sara Roosevelt Park opened in 2012. It’s run by Wendy Lian, with her husband and children, and specializes in Henan’s broad, hand-stretched wheat noodles. Try them with the well-stewed brisket topping, along with a serving of the garlicky cucumbers common in northern Chinese restaurants. The cafe’s most famous offering, however, comes from Xinjiang province: “big tray chicken,” a burbling wok of bird parts in hot oil with enough Sichuan peppercorns to blow the top of your head off (or at least cause a profound metallic tingle on your tongue). Pork-stuffed dumplings are great, too.

A variety of dishes including a wok with hot red oil and chicken, a bowl of noodles, and an inscrutable other dish. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

11. Factory Tamal

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34 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
(917) 691-5524
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As the name suggests, this cafe founded by Fernando Lopez in 2017 specializes in tamales. Some are classic, such as the chicken in mole poblano and pepper strips with cheese, while other fillings are atypical, like bacon and cheese. Look for specials on the chalkboard outside. Tortas, soups, and a killer breakfast sandwich featuring a runny egg on a brioche bun, with lots of customizable options that include avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sausage are also available. Another branch lurks in the East Village.

A chicken mole tamale. Robert Sietsema/Eater

12. Public Village

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23 Essex St N
New York, NY 10002
(646) 476-7501

Though this delightful, postage-stamp-sized place with the bright blue sign characterizes itself as a Sichuan restaurant, it also offers a handful of Dongbei dishes from China’s extreme northeast, as well as others associated with Beijing. Among the Dongbei ones are a delectable dish for gnawers called chicken skeleton, and there’s also a summery cold noodle wrap based on a Beijing bing. From a pleasing list of other noodle dishes, find wang za noodles, which incorporate ground pork, spinach, and, somewhat surprisingly, yellow split peas. Owners and co-chefs are Kiyomi Wang and Karen Song.

A wooden table outdoors seen from above with Chinese food spread across it. Robert Sietsema/Eater

13. Scarr's Pizza

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22 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 334-3481
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Founded by Scarr Pimentel in 2016, Scarr’s is distinctive among New York City’s pizzerias. The menu, with its round and square pies, channels our neighborhood pizza parlors, but the pizzas, available by the slice or pie, are kicked up a notch with artisanal ingredients and flour milled in the basement. The place was an early champion of cupping pepperoni, for example, which catches the paprika oil in the upturn that results from baking the sausage slices. The result is one of the best and richest pizzas you’ve ever tasted.

Two pizza slices, one square with Italian sausage and one cone shaped with pepperoni. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

14. Ernesto's

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259 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
(646) 692-8300
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Tucked away at the southeast corner of the Lower East Side, far from the frenetic bar scene and facing a park, this spare, brick-walled space with modernistic light fixtures makes a great romantic date spot. The menu from chef Ryan Bartlow features Basque fare and dishes from other Spanish regions. Madrid-style tripe comes in a brick-red sauce in a crock, while Iberico ham from acorn-eating pigs is served with homemade potato chips. A special of gorgeous roast mutton was served on a recent visit. The restaurant operates only in the evening, but there’s an all-day cafe for smaller bites and coffee that opens early in the morning. This may be the chillest spot on the Lower East Side.

Cakes and little sandwiches displayed on a white and black marble surface. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

15. Wu's Wonton King

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165 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
(212) 477-1111
Visit Website

Wu’s was a revelation when it replaced the old Wing Shoon five years ago at the quintessential Lower East Side corner of Essex and East Broadway. At its heart is the kind of traditional Chinese coffee shop that specialized in wonton soup, congee, and pork and duck charcuterie — but then more elaborate takes on Cantonese dishes that ran from stir fries to whole fish and beyond were added to the menu. Now Wu’s is a meeting place for a very diverse customer base, which appreciates a broad-ranging menu that previously one had to go to several Chinatown restaurants to find.

A darkened corner storefront with illuminated signs and customers crowding in the narrow front door. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

1. Saigon Social

172 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
A selection of dishes seen harshly lit on a tale at night, including noodles and soup with the broth on the side. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The outdoor seating at this modern Vietnamese lunch counter with a corner location in the former Mission Chinese space offers picturesque views of the neighborhood, and lots of one-dish meals diners can wash down with wine and beer. Helen Nguyen is the chef, and her hot fried chicken sandwich concocted along banh mi lines is justifiably famous. But there are plenty of other highlights, too, on a menu that changes frequently, which may include crab fried rice and a brisket pho, brilliant in its simplicity, served with the broth on the side.

172 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

2. Peppa’s

96 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
Peppa’s jerk chicken on the grill. Louise Palmberg/Eater

It started out decades ago in Flatbush, when Gavin Hussey opened his jerk chicken stand, sharing space with a fish market. Now, a fourth branch has opened on the Lower East Side, and the jerk chicken, fragrant with allspice, is as good as ever. This gussied-up branch also offers a choice of escovitch fish in a peppery vinegar sauce, a fine fried chicken sandwich, and curry goat, in addition to expected sides like mac and cheese and callaloo, a leafy Caribbean vegetable also known as amaranth. Minimal seating, but why not picnic on one of the benches on tree-lined Allen Street nearby?

96 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002

3. Souvlaki GR

116 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
A hand holding up a pita sandwich with fries, onion, and tomato peeking out Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Yes, this Lower East Side Greek gem has turned into a mini-chain, but the original is still the best and most charming. The interior is made to look like it has been transplanted from an Aegean island, with its brilliant white and blue decor and chunky wood furniture, and the menu specializes in the small dishes called mezze, many of them vegetarian. Other budget-wise choices include rolled sandwiches, of which my favorite is a tubular burger flame-cooked with feta and french fries stuffed inside the pita, for a wonderful starch bomb.

116 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002

4. Oh K-Dog NYC

159 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
A pair of hands hold a hot dog cut in half with white cheese oozing out of one side. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

If you were expecting the usual state fair corn dog, forget it. Korean hot dog fanciers have reworked the formula so that now the batter is made of rice, and have introduced all sorts of nifty variations, including various sauces and dips. Squid ink figures in one batter, and embedded potato cubes in another; many customers prefer to roll their purchases in granulated sugar. Sometimes the hot dog is replaced entirely with rice cake or cheese. Lots of choices to make means lots of fun.

159 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002

5. Rebèl

29 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002
A white oblong plate with a red tinted fish filet and side dishes on a red table. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This new Haitian restaurant presided over by chefs Marie Charles and Dominique Hermann makes some very stylish cocktails (don’t miss the Barbancourt rum, which is featured in several), but the food is equally compelling. The restaurant occupies a comfortable corner location with plenty of windows, decorated with paintings, including portraits of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Chadwick Boseman. The food runs to the malanga fritters called akra; fish filet in Kreyol sauce (rich and tomatoey); griot pork confit in big chunks accompanied by piklis, a spicy relish; and chicken wings in a variety of styles. It’s a good place for a snack and a drink or a full meal.

29 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002

6. The Bun Hut

178 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
Fried conch and slaw in a folded steamed bao. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The Bun Hut is one of the city’s rare restaurants from the Bahamas. The bill of fare highlights steamed and folded Chinese bao filled with island specialties, courtesy of chef Kermit “Ray” Mackey. The fillings include cracked conch, fried shrimp, and the vegetarian jackfruit, slathered with a brightly colored sauce that might remind you of a spicier version of Russian dressing. Also available are more typical bao fillings such as pork belly and shiitake mushrooms. Indo-Caribbean rotis stuffed with jerk chicken and curry goat are other standouts.

178 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002

7. Wildair

142 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Read Review |
Salad of orange beets and nectarines, chopped into cubes. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Wildair, which began as a side project of chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra, persisted throughout the pandemic by offering an ever-changing flock of small dishes for carryout, and with a modest sidewalk seating area, along with an inspired list of beers and wines by the glass. I ate there often, and memorable dishes included a fried shrimp sandwich on a brioche bun, nectarine and beet salad, a Chinese-influenced French dip sandwich accented with a gingery sauce, and a gem salad with tuna conserve. Any time you drop in for a snack or small meal, this place is full of surprises.

142 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

8. Russ & Daughters Cafe

127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
A bowl of parsley strew soup with a big matzo ball sticking up. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

If you’re familiar with the century-old Russ & Daughters flagship on Houston, wherein dozens of forms of preserved fish are sold, you’ll want to pay a visit to this offshoot cafe further south, which opened in 2014. The menu is a compendium of Eastern European Jewish fare, in a slick diner setting. Highlights include matzo ball soup, pastrami-cured salmon on a bagel, mini potato knishes, a platter with three kinds of herring, and a carob egg cream, Operators are Niki Russ Federman, great-granddaughter of the founder, and her cousin Josh Russ Tupper. Here’s one place that will take you back more than a few decades into Lower East Side history. Note shortened pandemic hours.

127 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

9. Cibao

72 Clinton St # 1, New York, NY 10002
A red facade in the harsh angular sunlight with several shadowy figures in front. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Decades ago there were probably two dozen Dominican and Puerto Rican cafes on the Lower East Side, with menus that rotated on a weekly basis, and often with similar decor and design: twirling stools along a lunch counter, a heated cabinet for rotisserie chickens, and a press for hot sandwiches. Named after a region in Puerto Rico’s northwest, Cibao is one of a very few remaining, owned by Milagro Thina. Cuban sandwiches make a popular quick lunch, but there are also nourishing meal-size soups, pork roasts, paprika-rubbed chickens, and red and black beans served with yellow and white rice.

72 Clinton St # 1
New York, NY 10002

10. Spicy Village

68 Forsyth St B, New York, NY 10002
A variety of dishes including a wok with hot red oil and chicken, a bowl of noodles, and an inscrutable other dish. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

With food originating in the Chinese province of Henan, this tiny cafe facing Sara Roosevelt Park opened in 2012. It’s run by Wendy Lian, with her husband and children, and specializes in Henan’s broad, hand-stretched wheat noodles. Try them with the well-stewed brisket topping, along with a serving of the garlicky cucumbers common in northern Chinese restaurants. The cafe’s most famous offering, however, comes from Xinjiang province: “big tray chicken,” a burbling wok of bird parts in hot oil with enough Sichuan peppercorns to blow the top of your head off (or at least cause a profound metallic tingle on your tongue). Pork-stuffed dumplings are great, too.

68 Forsyth St B
New York, NY 10002

11. Factory Tamal

34 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
A chicken mole tamale. Robert Sietsema/Eater

As the name suggests, this cafe founded by Fernando Lopez in 2017 specializes in tamales. Some are classic, such as the chicken in mole poblano and pepper strips with cheese, while other fillings are atypical, like bacon and cheese. Look for specials on the chalkboard outside. Tortas, soups, and a killer breakfast sandwich featuring a runny egg on a brioche bun, with lots of customizable options that include avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sausage are also available. Another branch lurks in the East Village.

34 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002

12. Public Village

23 Essex St N, New York, NY 10002
A wooden table outdoors seen from above with Chinese food spread across it. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Though this delightful, postage-stamp-sized place with the bright blue sign characterizes itself as a Sichuan restaurant, it also offers a handful of Dongbei dishes from China’s extreme northeast, as well as others associated with Beijing. Among the Dongbei ones are a delectable dish for gnawers called chicken skeleton, and there’s also a summery cold noodle wrap based on a Beijing bing. From a pleasing list of other noodle dishes, find wang za noodles, which incorporate ground pork, spinach, and, somewhat surprisingly, yellow split peas. Owners and co-chefs are Kiyomi Wang and Karen Song.

23 Essex St N
New York, NY 10002

13. Scarr's Pizza

22 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Two pizza slices, one square with Italian sausage and one cone shaped with pepperoni. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Founded by Scarr Pimentel in 2016, Scarr’s is distinctive among New York City’s pizzerias. The menu, with its round and square pies, channels our neighborhood pizza parlors, but the pizzas, available by the slice or pie, are kicked up a notch with artisanal ingredients and flour milled in the basement. The place was an early champion of cupping pepperoni, for example, which catches the paprika oil in the upturn that results from baking the sausage slices. The result is one of the best and richest pizzas you’ve ever tasted.

22 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

14. Ernesto's

259 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002
Cakes and little sandwiches displayed on a white and black marble surface. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Tucked away at the southeast corner of the Lower East Side, far from the frenetic bar scene and facing a park, this spare, brick-walled space with modernistic light fixtures makes a great romantic date spot. The menu from chef Ryan Bartlow features Basque fare and dishes from other Spanish regions. Madrid-style tripe comes in a brick-red sauce in a crock, while Iberico ham from acorn-eating pigs is served with homemade potato chips. A special of gorgeous roast mutton was served on a recent visit. The restaurant operates only in the evening, but there’s an all-day cafe for smaller bites and coffee that opens early in the morning. This may be the chillest spot on the Lower East Side.

259 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002

15. Wu's Wonton King

165 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002
A darkened corner storefront with illuminated signs and customers crowding in the narrow front door. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Wu’s was a revelation when it replaced the old Wing Shoon five years ago at the quintessential Lower East Side corner of Essex and East Broadway. At its heart is the kind of traditional Chinese coffee shop that specialized in wonton soup, congee, and pork and duck charcuterie — but then more elaborate takes on Cantonese dishes that ran from stir fries to whole fish and beyond were added to the menu. Now Wu’s is a meeting place for a very diverse customer base, which appreciates a broad-ranging menu that previously one had to go to several Chinatown restaurants to find.

165 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002

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