My name is Bryan Storti. I am a Fifth grade teacher with a passion for games, mathematics, and food. I had visited New York City on many occasions before moving here. I was always struck by the energy of the people walking the streets and the many different cultures that could be found within blocks of each other. In Manhattan, this incredible diversity is on display in the restaurants of the Lower East Side neighborhood.
When I think of sweet treats in the LES, I always have to start with The Macaron Parlour because they made my wedding cake! The flavors are always perfect. I especially recommend the rosemary and olive oil macaron, while my wife goes for the maple bacon (with actual bacon inside).
While on the topic of getting the flavors exactly right, il Laboratorio del Gelato has over 200 flavors of gelato and sorbet that they rotate seasonally, 36 at a time. I am a big fan of the green apple sorbet mixed with any of the cheese flavored gelatos.
Not all about sweets, Mazeish Grill has one single standout dessert – baklava. If you order some and you happen to go in when Nasser is working, he will happily tell you about the history of the recipe and the sourcing of each component of this tasty layered treat. Also, try the flash fried halloumi cheese.
Right around the corner from Mazeish is the Prohibition Bakery. A baker and a bartender teamed up to create their “boozy cupcakes” with cocktail themes. I recommend the “Old Fashioned” and the “Pretzels and Beer.” They also have a seasonal menu but never fear – they also sell their own cookbook, replete with their incredible recipes.
If you are looking for sweets that you haven’t seen in years, check out Economy Candy . This very, very tiny store stocks classic and hard-to-find candy bars, ridiculously large gummy bears, and all of the jellybeans that you could want. I always walk out with a box of Nerds. I sometimes walk out with seven boxes of Nerds.
If you are like me, you have fever dreams about popcorn. When this occurs, I head over to Pop Karma where I make a beeline for the caramel popcorn (NOTE: The caramel is made in house). And when I’m in a particular mood that requires sweet and savory, I will combine that with their cheddar popcorn or one of their monthly specials (The caramel popcorn mixed with the miso seaweed popcorn is an acquired taste. I recommend that you acquire it quickly).
We can’t talk about sweets in the Lower East Side without talking about The Doughnut Plant . There are doughnuts and then there are doughnuts and then there is the Crème Brulee Doughnut – it is a life-altering masterpiece. The other doughnuts are all incredible as well – coconut cream, blackout, tres leches, and the Valentine’s Day rose flavored doughnuts are standouts among a sea of sweet, sweet goodness.
Around the corner from the Doughnut Plant, you will find the Roasting Plant – as in coffee. The fun design with espresso machines connected to an array of vacuum tubes – programmed to send the perfect amount of beans to be freshly ground, tamped, and brewed to your specifications – will draw you in. The award winning chocolate chip cookie is really what you are there for, though. I recommend the cookie with a nice cup of Guatemalan coffee. Also, if you head over to their West Village location, you will be able to enjoy coffee flavored gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato!
Heading up a few blocks, we get to Dun-Well Doughnuts. The ice cream and doughnuts served at this lovely little shop are 100% vegan. Don’t let that scare you away from trying a doughnut sundae – a warmed up doughnut (I recommend blueberry almond) topped with (definitely peanut butter) faux ice cream made from cashews.
I just recently found this cool place, Squish. Designer marshmallows are handcrafted in-house with flavors like birthday party and peanut butter and jelly. Every flavor comes with the option to be dipped in chocolate and with the option to be freshly toasted with a blow torch. They also feature seasonal flavors like the incredibly tasty yogurt parfait marshmallow.
Now onto the savory restaurants around this area. Momofuku Noodle Bar and Fuku are two of the many restaurants in the growing NYC Momofuku Empire. These restaurants are blocks from each other. If you feel like a sit-down experience, the Noodle Bar offers some of the best ramen and gua bao buns in the city (the al pastor and shiitake buns are my favorites). If you just want to stop in for a quick bite, the spicy fried chicken sandwich at Fuku will take care of you.
Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese has several varieties of the comfort food classic. They have pre-set concoctions (like the “La Mancha” which pairs macaroni with manchego cheese, fennel, and onion or the Alpine which uses gruyere cheese and slabs of bacon) or you can design your own with the ingredients they have in-house. For first timers, there is also a sampler platter that gives you tastes of eight of their most popular flavors.
If you can get past the 80’s and 90’s arcade games and the phone booth that is actually the entrance to a speakeasy called PDT, you will get to the counter of a restaurant, Crif Dogs, that serves designer hot dogs. Most are wrapped in well-done bacon and the flavor combos are outstanding. The “Good Morning” tops the dog with melted cheese and a fried egg, while the “Jon-Jon Deragon” adds scallions, cream cheese, and everything bagel seeds to the mix. Large servings of tater tots and birch beer on tap are perfect compliments to your particular hot dog needs.
Tea Drunk offers a unique look into the world of the Chinese Tea Room. All of the teas are directly sourced from China and everyone who works there is well-versed in customs and traditions of the tea room and in the subtle differences between the teas. While I gravitate towards the raw Pu Er teas, I would recommend letting your host discern which tea you would like best.
Goa Taco is a small restaurant with a small menu, but everything on it is incredible! The restaurant features paratha tacos (a cross between a tortilla and a croissant) with various flavor combinations. The pork belly with pickled red cabbage and chipotle mayonnaise is a standout. Goa now boasts a back room with an enlarged seating area and bar.
The quiet ambiance, soft music, and pleasant smells of Ramen Misoya exude calm and health. Have a seat, order absolutely anything (it’s all great, but I often go with the Mame Miso Ramen with fried breaded shrimp) and enjoy every slurp.
The lines that sometimes form in front of Artichoke Pizza at the tiny 14th Street location are worth waiting in because the payoff is so great. Whether you prefer the creamy and rich artichoke dip pizza, the classic Margherita slice, or – my personal favorite – the crab bisque slice, you will know from the first bite that it was worth the wait. Then you will probably get back in line for more.
Check out our City Guides for a tour of the Lower East Side in March..