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Nov 28, 1999 06:48 PM

Lower East Side Haunts?

  • g

Hi, I was wondering what are some relatively cheap and good haunts on the Lower East Side (any cuisine is OK). I am usually down there once a week, and need somewhere to chow! :) Thanks a lot!!

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  1. What is up with BYO? I have only learned this term from New Jerseyites--is this than in Manhattan? The only "BYO" places in NYC that I know of are the ones waiting for their liquor licenses, so you have to find as new place for BYO. Of course a few places are BYO but no one ever calls it that, that I know of. Please, someone explain this BYO phenomena to me. Are there lots of BYO places in NYC?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jessica S.
      Rachel Perlow

      I'm not sure why this question was posted in this thread, but here's the explanation anyway. The reason why there are so many BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze (i.e. wine or beer, people rarely bring other liquor) in NJ is that liquor licenses are much harder to come by here compared to NYC.

      Most towns allow only so many liquor licenses out at any one time. Once the maximum amount of liquor licenses are issued, a new restaurant can only obtain one if a restaurant which holds a license closes and relinquishes its license, or by either buying an existing restaurant which has one, or buying just the license itself from an existing restaurant, which may or may not close.

      Usually, even if the new place obtains a license through purchasing it, they have to be approved by some kind of township committee to use it.

      Many restaurants will give you a "complimentary" glass of wine or an after dinner drink, like some sambuca, for your coffee. This will not appear on the bill, but you are expected to add an appropriate amount to the tip. Usually this only happens at places where they know you.

      I appreciate the opportunity BYO brings. You can bring any wine you like without having to pay a corkage fee. Or, have a Tsing-tao (sp?) with your dim sum. Some really fine food restaurants (as opposed the "fancy" places, they usually get the license) in Morristown, NJ, which are BYOB are Cinque Figlie (I've posted on this place before) or Tim Schaefer's Cuisine (CIA graduate, former chef of Creations in Madison before it reverted to Main St. Cafe), I think the Garlic Rose in Madison is also BYOB.

      Most ethnic restaurants tend to be BYOB too. Sometimes for reasons other than stated above. For example, Marakesh (Morrocan restaurant on Rt. 46 in Parsippany) doesn't serve alcohol because of the owner's Muslim beliefs, but they welcome you to bring your own.

    2. Hi Grace,

      You can find LES info by searching the Chowhound archives for terms like Soho and Chinatown (and "Lower East Side"), and for names of any streets you are interested in, since people often post addresses with their reviews. Chinatown in particular is discussed very frequently. My favorite spots in the LES (in no particular order) are currently Ceci-Cela, Cafe Gitane, and Nyonya -- you can search on any of those names for more info.


      1. Try Col Legno. Its an italian restaurant that makes terrific pizza. It's on East 9 St. off Second Ave.

        1. and good...lower east side. Do you consider the East Village (i.e. above Houston) part of the Lower East Side?

          OK. To begin with, Bereket is a very good-value Turkish place on Houston St. and (the name of the street just east of Allen slips my mind - it's late), and a favorite of my girlfriend. Lately, I've also enjoyed Dima Cafe on 2nd Av. between 4th & 5th, because I love their vegetable patty sandwiches, which you get on pita with lettuce, tomatoes, tabouleh, tahini, and a delicious hot sauce they evidently make themselves. Teresa's is a good value for things like soups and pancakes, and their lunch specials are not bad IMO (e.g. the chicken stew which comes with a vegetable, and coffee or tea). Frutti di Mare is not so cheap (i.e. closer to $20 than $10), but they give such big portions and also a nice free salad with chickpeas, carrots and such that I consider them a good value. When I'm really hungry, I like to get their special pasta fra diavolo; my only problem with it is that I don't trust the mussels, so I order it without mussels. Cucina di Pesce across the street is about half the price, but it is more crowded, the portions are smaller, and I don't think it's as good. I also rather like the Venezuelan restaurant on 1st Av. between 9th and 10th. It's rather inexpensive for dinner (under $20 even if you get some delicious freshly squeezed pineapple or mango juice), and the food, though inconsistent, is never bad and sometimes a lot better - try the beef dishes. There's always the Mee Noodle House if you want a cheap lunch special ($5); it's not Chinatown quality, but I like their baby shrimp with garlic sauce. I haven't mentioned Thai restaurants, because they're not very cheap (my favorite in the neighborhood, though, is Tara Thai on 1st Av. between St. Mark's and 9th, and you can have a good lunch there for around $10); neither is my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood, Madras Cafe (though it's still under $20 for dinner [closed for lunch] and gives big portions). I also doubt that Katz's delicatessen would qualify as a "cheap" deli, but it sure is good!


          4 Replies
          1. re: Michael
            Frank Language

            "Do you consider the East Village (i.e. above Houston) part of the Lower East Side?"

            Sorry to split hairs, but the "East Village" *is* the Lower East Side. (From "Shelia Levine is Dead and Living in New York": "the East Village [is], face it, New Yorkers, the Lower East Side.")

            Aside from that, your recommendations are really on-the-mark. One point I'd like to make, though, is that Frutti di Mare and Cucina di Pesce use the same kitchen; if you read the specials on one menu and then go across the street and look at the specials there, they're serving the same thing. Hmmm...sounds fishy (no pun intended).

            1. re: Frank Language

              Au contraire -- when I hear "Lower East Side" the neighborhood being referred to is generally the bit between St. Mark's Place and Canal (or even a little further south), east of Bowery. "East Village" seems to mean between 14th Street and Houston, east of Broadway. There's a substantial overlap, sure, but they're not the same. (And of course there's also "Loisada", which is the East Village east of Ave. A or so.) No?

              1. re: Jeremy

                Your understanding is correct as far as current usage goes; the point is that the entire concept "East Village" is a form of gentrification devised to render more appealing a chunk of real estate that was part of the historic Lower East Side, a name indelibly associated with tenements, poverty, etc. You don't hear much talk about "Hell's Kitchen" anymore either, for the same reasons.

              2. re: Frank Language

                Frank, are you sure that these two restaurants have the "same kitchen"? I know one of the owners of Frutti di Mare, and she told me some time ago that it has been years since she's had any connection with Cucina di Pesce, which IIRC used to be for overflow from FdM.

                Furthermore, my limited experience at CdP and extensive experience at CdP suggests to me that the cooking is recognizably different - though exactly how, other than the smaller portions and cheaper prices at CdP, might be hard for me to remember.


            2. There is pretty good inexpensive Mexican at Festival, on Rivington somewhere between Forsyth and Ludlow, but I forget which block. Also several decent Dominican or a similar Latin cuisine places clustered around Rivington and I think Norfolk.