The East Village is prized for its nightlife, but it’s also known for being one of the New York City’s best food neighborhoods, thanks to its incredible diversity. Aside from several institutions serving American food, there’s also a street known as “Little Tokyo” with plenty of Japanese options, and varied cuisines including Mexican, Filipino, Ukrainian, Korean, Georgian, and Hawaiian. It’s also where the famous David Chang got his start, with several of his original restaurants still making their home in the nabe. Read on for the best spots to dine in the East Village.
Chef Marco Canora, who won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef NYC in 2017, was one of the first chefs in the city to embrace farm-to-table culture with this longstanding Italian-ish restaurant that has cared about sourcing since it opened in 2003. Everything that can be is made in house, from the butter to the whole-grain maccheroni with pork ragu to the almond granola at brunch. Chef Canora’s famous bone broth is, of course, on the menu—it helped spur the bone broth movement and spawned its own takeout window called Brodo on one side of the restaurant (and three other locations in the city).
This neighborhood anchor has been around since 1954, serving the hungry late-night masses buttery pierogis, borscht, and unlimited coffee to soak up all the booze from a night out at the bars. Essentially a 24-hour diner with Ukrainian specialties, it’s easy to spend less than $10 on a hearty meal here. If you go for the pierogis (also known as varenyky), you can get four for $7, boiled or fried, with your choice of filling: meat, potato, cheese, truffle mushroom, arugula & goat cheese, sauerkraut & mushroom, or sweet. Other homeland highlights include beef stroganoff, stuffed cabbage, and goulash. There’s also a robust salad and sandwich list to choose from, with more than a few diner classics.
One of the city’s few Filipino restaurants, the vibe here is fun and funky, with interiors that recall the brightly colored Jeeps in Manila for which the restaurant is named. The food is unapologetically authentic, with dishes like Lumpia Sariwa (crepe filled with lettuce, daikon radish, carrot, cucumber, hearts of palm, and pumpkin seed puree with a brown sugar-soy glaze and crushed peanuts, Chicharon Bulaklak (crispy pork fat), and Pancit Malabon (rice noodles with shrimp-romesco sauce, calamari, shrimp, crumbled tinapa, smoked tofu, chicharron, and a hard-boiled egg), plus there’s an adobo of the day. If you have a large group, consider ordering (in advance) the Kamayan, which includes a whole-roasted pig stuffed with longanisa sausages and all the fixings (from $50 per person).
It all started right here, back in 2004, when David Chang opened his first restaurant. Still going strong, Momofuku (which means lucky peach in Korean) Noodle Bar spawned an empire and made Chang a household name. It also educated Americans about Korean cuisine, with dishes like bao buns with various fillings, Korean ramen, and its famous ginger scallion noodles—not to mention kimchi. A large format fried chicken meal is worth trying: get a group together and chow down on the Korean-style and southern fried chickens, served with mu shu pancakes, baby carrots, red ball radishes, bibb lettuce, four sauces, and an herb basket ($150). For dessert, hop next door to the original Milk Bar, another Momofuku creation now run by Christina Tosi.
When Brooks Headley left his position as pastry chef at the acclaimed (and expensive) Del Posto to open a veggie burger joint in a 300-square-foot hole-in-the-wall, New Yorkers were nothing short of shocked. That is until they tasted the namesake burger, made from quinoa, chickpeas, walnuts, veggies, and spices and topped with muenster cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and dill pickle. This is not a veggie burger trying to taste like meat; this is a delicious sandwich, period. And don’t sleep on the sides like the burnt broccoli salad, griddled yuba, and whatever else Headley might be cooking up that day. And because he was a pastry chef, the homemade gelato and sorbet with rotating flavors are a must.
Every New York City neighborhood has its pizza shop—most have more than one. Motorino is the best option in the East Village for full Neapolitan style pies (although another New Yorker will probably feel differently!). There’s a reasonably robust appetizer menu, but it’s probably best to save room for the pizza, which can be had in a classic Margherita style or with toppings like soppressata, oregano, and fresh chilis or clams, oreganata butter, parsley, and lemon. Cheese is fior de latte or buffalo mozzerella, and there are both red and white pies as well as calzones. Weekend brunch brings a special egg-topped pizza with smoked pancetta.
A neighborhood staple, Prune is Gabrielle Hamilton’s flagship restaurant with her partner Ashley Merriman. Beloved for brunch (expect long wait times), it’s a reliable option for dinner as well. Her dishes are so delicious and straightforward that they often leave you thinking you could’ve made them at home—but somehow you know it wouldn’t taste nearly as good. Case in point are the Triscuits and sardines, Monte Cristo sandwich, and the Dutch-baby pancake.
There are countless sushi spots in the East Village, but this tunnel-like space is one of the best—it has held a Michelin star for 14 years and counting. A mere $45 will buy you eight pieces of sushi or sashimi, a special roll, and miso soup, or you can order a la carte. There are also various omakase experiences available at multiple price points, depending on if it’s at a table or the bar and how much food is included (price ranges from $75 to $200).
There’s a proliferation of Japanese restaurants in the neighborhood, including several ramen places. But Ippudo is an OG from Japan that had a significant hand in bringing the ramen craze to the U.S. Various broths are available, from the classic porky tonkotsu to a vegetarian soy-based version. Noodles are the perfect texture, and toppings like pork, egg, and takana (pickled mustard leaves) are all perfectly presented. The menu also includes appetizers like shishito peppers and glazed chicken wings.
Clustered around East Ninth and 10th Streets are 13 Japanese restaurants owned by one man: Mr. Bon Yagi, who moved to the U.S. from Japan many years ago. Starting in the 1980s, he has slowly transformed these blocks into what’s known as Little Tokyo, and Sobaya is just one of his stellar offerings. A classic Japanese noodle house, Sobaya is ideal for chilly days that call for a steaming cup of broth filled with housemade soba or udon noodles—the noodle maker is often seen at work out front.
Hawaiian food (beyond poke) is somewhat hard to come by in New York City, but this gem offers Hawaiian-Asian classics without cheesy lei-filled décor. The menu ranges from the more adventurous (spicy spam musubi and bone marrow bread pudding with uni) to entirely approachable (pineapple braised pork belly and mushroom tempura). If you must have it, the poke here is legit, made with big eye tuna, macadamia nuts, seaweed, and pickled jalapeño. The wine list is award-winning, and the staff can help you select the perfect bottle.
For a special night out, head to this modern take on kaiseki, a multi-course Japanese dinner that’s not focused on sushi. With just one seating per night for a 12-course tasting menu and only 14 spots available, reservations can be hard to come by but are well worth it—even at the $195 price tag. Dishes change nightly but expect signatures like Kaluga caviar, uni, and egg custard with potato puree served over a small bed of sushi rice.
Until a few years ago, Georgian food in New York City was relegated to the outskirts of Brooklyn, found in places like Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. But when Oda House opened, it brought khachapuri and khinkali to the masses…well to the East Village at least. Executive Chef Maia Acquaviva moved to New York City from the Republic of Georgia in 2007 and cooked at Russian restaurant Mari Vanna before opening Oda House. Trying the khachapuri (kind of like a bread canoe filled with gooey cheese and egg) is a must, and khinkali are dumplings with various fillings. Satsivi, a walnut sauce, features heavily in many of the meat and fish dishes, and it’s delicious.
Sometimes you need a taco or three, and this offshoot of the more upscale Empellon and Empellon Taqueria from Alex Stupak will fill that need. There are four tacos on the menu: a classic al pastor, chicken, Arabes (spit-roasted pork), and the somewhat unorthodox but delicious cheeseburger. To complete your Mexican comfort food needs, guacamole, nachos, red chile pork chalupa, breakfast burrito, and jalapeño poppers (really) round out the snack menu.
Married couple Yen Vo and Jimmy Ly opened Madame Vo in 2017, bringing their homestyle Vietnamese food with them. Ly cooks family recipes, and regional specialties passed down by the couple’s parents, including dishes like Banh Xeo (a Vietnamese crepe filled with sautéed prawns and pork belly), Tet Noodles (egg noodles stir-fried with garlic butter and fish sauce and topped with lump crab meat and prawns), and Suon Kho (spare ribs glazed in coconut and pineapple juices). This is Vietnamese comfort food at its finest.