The corner of Orchard and Rivington Streets, Lower East Side
The Lower East Side of Manhattan is bounded by Houston Street, the Bowery, the Manhattan Bridge, and the East River, with the neighborhood's center being Orchard Street. Once a Jewish wholesale enclave, this street is a true multicultural blend, with trendy boutiques, French cafés, and velvet-roped nightspots sprinkled among dry-goods discounters, Spanish bodegas, and mom-and-pop shops selling everything from T-shirts to designer fashions to menorahs. The East Village was also traditionally considered part of the Lower East Side, but that neighborhood has developed its own identity.
It was here that the New York garment industry began. The area has been known as one of New York's favorite bargain beats, where serious shoppers find fantastic bargains (especially along Orchard Street on a Sunday afternoon), but this is increasingly becoming a thing of the past as rents skyrocket and cutting-edge new designers and boutiques formerly seen in SoHo flock to the area. But in its mix of old and new, bohemian and upscale, you can find trendy bars and music venues, a venerable old no-nonsense place that just might serve up the best pastrami sandwich in the world, a restaurant called WD-50 which serves up new-style "molecular gastronomy," Gus's Pickles out of a barrel, and great bialys. South of Delancey St, much of this neighborhood is now part of Chinatown.
Several bus lines go to the Lower East Side, or you can take the J, M, or Z subway lines to Essex Street; the F to Delancey St (which is connected to the J/M/Z Essex St station), E Broadway, or 2nd Ave; or you can take the B or D to Grand St.
- Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 90 Orchard St, ☎ +1-212-431-0233, . Tu-F 11AM-6PM, Sa Su 10:45AM-6PM, M (visitor center only; no tours) 11AM-5:30PM. Advance tickets recommended as tours sell out quickly. edit
- Lower East Side Visitor Center, 54 Orchard St, ☎ +1-212-226-90101 (toll free: +1-866-224-0206), . 10AM-4PM daily. edit
- Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue, 12 Eldridge St, ☎ +1-212-219-0888, . Su-Th 10AM-5PM, F 10AM-3PM. The museum, a non-sectarian cultural organization based in the restored 1887 National Historic Landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue, presents the culture, history and traditions of the great wave of Jewish immigrants to the Lower East Side drawing parallels with the diverse cultural communities that have settled in America. The museum offers guided tours of the synagogue, new exhibits and programs -- including concerts, neighborhood walking tours and film screenings. $12 adults, $10 students/seniors, $8 children (5-18), free on Mondays for groups under 6. edit
- New Museum, 235 Bowery, . M Tu closed, W, F Sa Su 11AM-6PM, Th 11AM-9PM. Building designed by award winning Japanese office SANAA. Contemporary art - the 'I don't get it' kind. Temporary exhibitions, also a good bookshop and Sky Room with views (weekends only). $16, seniors $14, students $12, free Th 7PM–9PM. edit
- Kehila Kedosha Janina Museum, 280 Broome St (F train to Delancy or B,D to Grand), ☎ +1-516-456-9336, . Su 11AM-4PM. Museum telling the story of Greek Jews located inside the only Romaniote (Greek-speaking) synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Designated a NYC Landmark in 2004. Free. edit
- Lowline Lab, 140 Essex St (F train to Delancy or B,D to Grand), . Sa Su 11AM-5PM. Working prototype of the world's first underground park. Built inside an abandoned market on the Lower East Side, just two blocks from the site of the proposed future Lowline, the Lowline Lab includes a series of controlled experiments in an environment mimicking the actual Lowline site. edit
- Lower East Side Cell Phone Tour, . Download and print a map of the tour from your computer, and just walk through the numbered sites along the route. At various points, dial a phone number, enter the stop number and listen to a New York City native tell you a bit about what you're seeing. You can visit the sites in any order. The LES tour is currently free-of-charge.. edit
- Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, 235 E Broadway, . The LESJC runs both private and public tours of the Jewish Lower East Side. The tours are unique as they take visitors into synagogues rather than just the outside. It is recommended to purchase tickets ahead of time as they sell out fast. edit
Orchard St. is more and more lined with expensive boutiques, but in this traditional locus of bargain clothes shopping, there are still some good deals to be had for those with patience. Note that many stores on this street are owned by Orthodox Jews and closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
- Bluestockings Radical Books, 172 Allen St (between Stanton and Rivington), ☎ +1-212-777-6028, . 11AM-11PM daily. A fun radical feminist bookstore that also has a little cafe and a regular calendar of readings and other events. edit
- Katz's Deli, 205 E Houston St (at Ludlow), ☎ +1-212-254-2246, . A classic NYC delicatessen. The famous fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally was shot here. Have what she was having: A pastrami sandwich. If you're a pastrami lover, you will long remember your trip to this establishment. Don't lose your ticket, and don't forget to tip the counterman at least $1 per sandwich. If you want something other than pastrami, their brisket is their second-best meat; make sure to ask for it "juicy" (i.e, fatty). edit
- Congee Village, 100 Allen St (just S of Delancey), ☎ +1-212-941-1818. Hong Kong-style food. It was reliably high-quality a few years ago, but some people believe it has deteriorated or lost consistency since then. Nevertheless, it is still a very popular banquet spot for Chinese people, with a wide and interesting menu. Call for reservations if you have a large party or are going for dinner on a weekend. Congee Village also has a newer sister restaurant, Congee Bowery, at 207 Bowery (just south of Rivington St), +1-212-766-2828, which serves the same food and may be less crowded at peak hours. Expect to pay around $15-25 for a large meal. edit
- Doughnut Plant, 379 Grand St (btwn Essex and Norfolk; Subway: F to Canal St or F, J, M, or Z to Delancey St; Bus: 14A to Grand St (last stop westbound)), ☎ +1-212-505-3700, . Tu-Su 6:30AM-6:30PM. This ain't no Dunkin' Donuts! Each doughnut costs roughly $2.50, but the place is a really fabulous, artisanal palace (albeit humble-looking) of doughnutry. edit
- Yonah Schimmel's Knishes Bakery, 137 E Houston St (btwn Orchard and Allen), ☎ +1-212-477-2858, . Claims to have served "The World’s Finest Knishes since 1910" - a bakery that has been selling knishes on the Lower East Side since 1890 from its original location on Houston Street. As the Lower East Side has changed over the decades and many of its Jewish residents have departed, Yonah Schimmel's is one of the few distinctly Jewish businesses and restaurants that remain as a fixture of this largely-departed culture and cuisine. edit
The Lower East Side is a very popular neighborhood for drinking, especially on the part of young people, who come from nearby, other parts of town, the suburbs, and even foreign countries. Here are some highlights of the scene:
- The Whiskey Ward, 121 Essex St (btwn Delancey and Rivington; F, J/Z or M train to Delancey/Essex or M14 bus), ☎ +1-212-477-2998, . This whiskey specialist bar can be quiet on weekdays. It's a good spot for anyone who enjoys whiskey or/and wants to explore more whiskeys, as they have a selection of unusual bourbons, ryes, Scotches, and Irish whiskeys. The prices for whiskeys that are also found in non-specialist bars may be higher here, but the bartenders are real experts, who can guide you in selecting 3 half-pours for a whiskey flight (or two, if you aren't driving and have the tolerance). The flights are priced as a sum of exactly half the cost of a shot for each whiskey or rye you drink. There are also beers on tap, etc., so if you are with a non-whiskey drinker, do not despair. edit
- Gatsby Hotel, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member, 135 E Houston St (at Forsyth St), ☎ +1-212-358-8844, . From $139. edit
- SIXTY LES Hotel, 190 Allen St, ☎ +1-212-460-5300, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. From $246. edit
- Hotel on Rivington, 107 Rivington St, ☎ +1-212-475-2600, . 21-story glass tower full-service hotel with unobstructed views. edit
- Blue Moon Hotel, 100 Orchard St., ☎ (212) 533-9080, . Situated on the Lower East Side, 2 blocks from the subway and a 7-minute walk to SoHo’s shopping district, this stylish boutique hotel in a 19th-century tenement has retained its original doors, light fixtures and marble tiles. Free WiFi. Upgraded suites add high ceilings, balconies, hydromassage tubs and separate living areas. Daily complimentary continental breakfast included. $360. edit
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While crime has noticeably dropped in recent years, as usual in any new area or while on travel, be wary of criminals at night.