The Lower East Side Tenement Museum tells the story of the immigrant experience in early 20th century New York. An actual tenement building which was abandoned for decades serves as the museum where guides lead visitors on tours that explore the lives of the families who once lived there. Visits are by appointment only so be sure to make a reservation on the museum's website.
Food is another testament to the immigrant experience in New York. The classic New York beef hot dog wouldn't exist if it weren't for German Jewish immigrants. New York style pizza is one of the many culinary contributions made by Italian immigrants from Naples. After a visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, consider having lunch at one of these venerable lower east side food institutions.
And more about the food history of five families who lived in what is now the museum, read "97 Orchard" by Jane Ziegelman.
Yes, it's the deli you know from the famous orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally." It's also the best place to get a pastrami sandwich in New York. This bare-bones, classic spot is truly a step back in time. Though it's always packed with tourists, New Yorkers consider Katz's hallowed ground. Come hungry and plan to take a long nap after lunch.
205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Russ & Daughters
Bagels and smoked fish are an art form that few have the perseverance to practice any longer. Russ & Daughters is a major exception. The immaculate white coats of the counter servers as well as the long lines on weekend mornings are testament to the quality of their craft. It's not inexpensive, but worth every bite.
137 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Yonnah Schimmel Knish Bakery
Dense, potato stuffed knishs used to be a staple of the lower east side when it was still a Jewish enclave. Yonah Schimmel is the last one left and rumors abound that the landlord wants them out. Get a taste of the past while you still can.
179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Famous Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse
Garlic marinated skirt steak, chicken livers and veal chops rule at Sammy's Roumanian, an old-world style Jewish steakhouse. Come for dinner and enjoy live music in an atmosphere that hasn't changed much in over 40 years.
157 Chrystie St, New York, NY 10002
Pizza A Casa Pizza School
New York style pizza began with Neapolitan immigrants and adapted over time. Though it seems like there's a pizza-by-the-slice joint everywhere in the city, the truth is that most of them aren't very good. Pizza A Casa Pizza School is one of my favorite experiences to recommend to tourists. Mark and Jenny Bello and their team lead fun, delicious cooking classes in their storefront school. You'll learn the history of pizza and the exact steps required to make a perfect New York style pizza at home. New friends and a full belly are guaranteed.
371 Grand St, New York, NY 10002