On Manhattan’s East Side below Grand Central Station, you’ll find an especially diverse selection of restaurants, even by New York City’s kaleidoscopic standards. The Lower East Side was once synonymous with immigrants who hauled recipes and culinary traditions from their home countries; these days, the neighborhood and its surroundings draw in those eager to take a hearty bite out of its rich food history. In the span of just 20 blocks, you can sample top-notch fare from Ukraine, France, Japan, Spain, England, India and beyond. These are the 12 best places to eat in Gramercy, Flatiron, and the East Village right now—no passport required.
Brood over a novel or sip Belgian brews at this versatile French spot, which has served stellar Lyonnaise fare since 1996. On the reliable menu, you’ll find specialities such as mussels, steak, and escargot, balanced with more American burgers, salads, and sandwiches. L’Express shines the brightest after midnight—the restaurant is open till 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays— when revelers fill its seats for the legendary lamb burger, provencal omelets, and swish bistro vibe.
Cote NYC (Chelsea)
This luxe Korean steakhouse changed the game when it opened in 2017, becoming the standard setter for elegant, tabletop Korean barbecue dinners and delicious original cocktails. You’re here for the $64 per person Butcher’s Feast, which includes the chef’s top cuts of USDA Prime and American wagyu beef, plus ban-chan (traditional side dishes that pair with white rice), egg souffle, two stews, and soft serve with soy sauce caramel to finish the meal.
Casa Mono (Union Square)
Casa Mono has served as the neighborhood’s go-to for tapas since 2003, long before “small plates” were trendy. Come prepared to share traditional Catalan faithfuls such as pan con tomate, bacalao croquetas, and patatas bravas. The menu also has a more meat-focused side, with dishes including confit goat with avocado queso and pig ears with pickled serranos. For a more laid-back experience that features Spanish charcuterie and wine, pop into the restaurant’s neighboring spot, Bar Jamon.
Hawksmoor NYC (Gramercy/Flatiron)
This highly lauded British steakhouse made its stateside debut off Gramercy Park in 2021—and it’s been packed ever since. The restaurant just launched a lunch menu featuring sandwiches and bites such as a Tokyo lobster roll, topped with Japanese mayonnaise, and a signature Hawksmoor cheeseburger, served with beef-dripping fries. Dinner starts with a plethora of seafood specialties, such as oysters (served raw or roasted with bone marrow), steelhead tartare, fried shrimp, plus salads, to be followed by charcoal-grilled steaks. Order off the blackboard for daily specialties, and don’t hold back from adding sauces like bone marrow gravy or anchovy hollandaise. Because this is a steakhouse, there are no shortage of sides to accompany your entree: Choose from mac and cheese, creamed spinach, buttery fingerling potatoes, and Caesar salad, just to name a few.
As the fine-dining spot that put Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio on the culinary map, Craft is a New American mainstay, known for local sourcing and uber attentive service. Housed in a reimagined 19th-century department store, Colicchio’s flagship venture is a handsome space with design accents that include a Brazilian walnut and leather paneled wall and a sexy steel and bronze wine vault. Opt for the six-course tasting menu or order à la carte to feast on seasonal dishes such as eggplant agnolotti, olive oil-poached halibut, and four types of potatoes (gnocchi, aligot, gratin, and puree).
Pylos (East Village)
For a Greek escape, look no further than this longtime Lower East Side favorite. Pylos’s pillow-lined benches and terracotta pot-covered ceiling instantly transport you to an idyllic, Aegean island. As do its shareable appetizers, such as stuffed grape leaves, melty saganaki cheese, and trio of dips. On chilly New York City nights, warm up with avgolemono, or chicken lemon soup with orzo, before tearing into an array of braised meats, grilled fish, and decadent ouzo and cream-cooked shrimp over egg noodles.
Baar Baar (East Village)
Whether you’re here for date night, a family meal, or a banging Bollywood-themed brunch, chef Sujan Sarkar’s modern Indian plates will keep you coming; fittingly, Baar Baar is Hindi for “again and again.” The photogenic restaurant, which took over the former L’Apicio space in 2017, is a bright, banquette-lined expanse, decked with an Instagram-friendly fresco of a bejeweled Indian woman. On the menu, there are contemporary plates such as piquillo pepper and manchego cheese kulchas and tuna bhel tostadas—a reimagined Indian beach snack—though Sarkar, also dishes up solid, traditional standbys, such as tandoori mushrooms and butter chicken.
Kissaki – Bowery (East Village)
The East Village has no shortage of excellent Japanese restaurants—in fact, East 9th Street and Third Avenue is known as Little Tokyo—but chef Mark Garcia’s Kissaki stands out for its trendy ambiance and approachable omakase menu. Choose a 12-course ($120) or 16-course meal ($160) and let the chef, who trained under master sushi chef Kaze Chan of Sushi San in Chicago, treat you to a selection of appetizers, nigiris, and dessert. The $65 tasting is also a worthy deal, consisting of miso soup, edamame, an eight-piece nigiri flight, and a classic futomaki (an especially thick roll).
Hearth (East Village)
An East Village stalwart by Marco Canora (founder of the acclaimed bone broth brand, Brodo), this Tuscan-inspired restaurant is the spot for off-menu cacio e pepe, grass-fed meatballs, and a whole spatchcock roast chicken with market veggies to share; a tasting menu and wine pairings are also available. Sidle up to the kitchen bar for the best seat in the house—you’ll get a close view of the chefs at work. But all the cozy wooden tables at this rustic restaurant deliver, so order a hearty plate and take in the hand-painted wall murals.
Led by award-winning chef Enrique Olvera—his Mexico City-based restaurant, Pujol, was declared one of the World’s 50 Best—this sleek spot is home to one of Manhattan’s most famous desserts, the corn husk meringue. The rest of the menu, rooted in traditional Mexican flavors, features must-orders such as fluke and cucumber aguachile, duck carnitas, and a New York-inspired sope with pastrami and mustard; all pair well with Cosme’s mezcal cocktails, which enhance the flavors of the unforgettable, spice-laden plates.
Veselka (East Village)
This fuss-free, all-day Ukrainian cafe may feel familiar, even if you haven’t sat inside—Veselka, which opened for business in 1954, has served as the backdrop to countless movies and television shows. Its eastern European staples, which include potato pancakes, pierogies, and bright red borscht, are mini celebrities of their own. Weekend brunch brings a special pierogi, filled with bacon, scrambled eggs, plus cheddar and potato, with dipping sauces such as creamy chipotle ketchup.
Joe & Pat’s (East Village)
A 1960s-era Staten Island import conveniently located on First Avenue, this vintage thin-crust joint is known to sling some of the best pies in the tri-state area. And though you’re here for the pizza, Joe & Pat’s offers a full-fledged dining experience, complete with charcuterie boards, big salads, an appetizer list worthy of an Italian wedding (don’t skip the eggplant fries), plus heroes, pastas, and hearty entrees such as skirt steak and grilled branzino. And oh yeah, pizza. Expect leftovers.
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk