the lower east side (LES) of nyc

Like all urban cities, the landscape has changed tremendously over the past decade.  When we first moved to NYC in the early 80's the lower east side was a place to find bargains.  Heavily dominated by Jewish shop owners particularly Orchard Street right around the corner from Katzs Deli.  There are a few shops left but very few.  The landscape has changed.  We even have Mile End Sandwich Shop now on the Bowery (another transformed neighborhood) which is this generations Katzs Deli. 

Jessica is spending the summer in London.  She is living in Shoreditch.  When I went to school in London that area of London was predominantly Jewish merchants very similar to the LES.  Now it is overcome with hip shops, new restaurants and galleries just like the LES.  Urban renewal. 

I have been in the city (I thought I'd be at the beach) for the last week because we moved back into our apartment, post-flood.  I spent the day with Emily on the LES.  We had lunch and shopped.  Even in the past two years there has been massive change.  You really have to hunt for an empty store front.  It is a good thing for the city and the neighborhood. 

We started with lunch at Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya that is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night dining.  It is located inside the Thompson LES hotel.  Ten years ago nobody would have put such a beautiful hotel down there.  The menu changes with each meal.  Lunch is small but dinner is quite large.  We had a few rolls to split.

I am a huge fan of the Blue Ribbon house salad.  Carrots, avocado, chopped greens and a ginger dressing. I am also a big fan of the brothers behind Blue Ribbon.  They have quitely created an incredible empire. 

We also tried the deep fried chicken wings with a wasabi honey and chili sauce on the side.  Super crispy.

The ribs are pretty perfect.  Black vinegar and crispy rice on top…just falling off the bone.  Fred and I went back for dinner there the other night after seeing  Beasts of the Southern Wild.  The young heroine is incredible in this film.  We sat outside on the deck at the restaurant.  It is a pretty great spot.

Emily and I walked around and hit up a few stores.  I have always loved this store.  Maryam Nassir Zadeh.  A real eclectic mix of clothes and jewelry. 

We walked by Mission Chinese Food.  One of the hottest restaurant in NYC right now.  A dive.  Maybe a few seats somewhere back there. I think the best thing might be to order for delivery and go pick it up.

So many new places.  Landbrot.  German bakery and bar.  There is also one in the West Village.  The pretzels are killer. 

This store has been around for years but just as the neighborhood has evolved so has their mixture.  Great stuff.

Spiritual America is relatively new.  Nice mixture of young designers.

Iced tea
Stopped across the street for a blueberry mint iced tea.  I have had lunch here before.  Healthy well made food. I particularly love the banquette that wraps around the front window. 

Creatures ofcomfort
Creatures of Comfort is a big winner.  They have been around for a few years but the mix there is great.  The store is big and airy.  I'm a fan. 

A great day with Emily.  I always love walking around the neighborhoods of NYC.  We did it when we first got here and have not stopped since.  Watching the city change is no different than watching the new businesses emerge in tech space.  A birds eye view of the landscape of NYC at every angle keeps my mind moving. 




Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I love the LES.My grandfather lived on Rivington Street when first married in 1915. The roots of the Rubin/Waldstein clan start right there!And some amazing old synagogues tucked in the streets.For food, clothing and lifestyle innovation that’s where I go to be inspired. And often.Ten Bells is possibly the best wine bar in the city. Down home. Great choices and knowledgeable folks behind the bar.September Wines (… ) is a great artisanal wine shop that has been selling small production wine for 7 years. They just joined my wine marketplace and have been really impressed with them.You are one great city explorer!

    1. Gotham Gal

      i LOVE ten bells. we know the owners. nice call!

  2. daryn

    There are also two Seattle institutions on the LES now: caffe vita and via tribunali. Vita isn’t as in-the-moment or hip as Stumptown, but they’ve got great blends, and via tribunali is fantastic neopolitan style pizza. Haven’t been to the NYC outposts, but if you’re in the neighborhood, you should check them out!

    1. kirklove

      Both are great Daryn.

      1. daryn

        Glad to hear it, Kirk!Have you been to Beecher’s Cheese? Another Seattle transplant worth a stop…

        1. kirklove

          Have not, and have walked by countless times. Great space. I will though.

    2. ShanaC

      I need to try this vita place 🙂

  3. kirklove

    Had dinner at Yunnan Kitchen Friday night with a group of 10 friends. All had been in NYC for over 10 years (except me). The repeating chorus was, “We wouldn’t have been caught dead here 5 to 10 years ago, unless you wanted to end up dead.” Now, it’s a mecca of cool. I often say if I were in my 20s it’s where I’d live in the city no doubt.

  4. JLM

    .Your pictures are just fabulous..

    1. Gotham Gal


  5. Stuart Willson

    I have a crazy and absurd theory, which is the following: what killed parts of the LES (i.e. poor zoning in/around Orchard and Ludow that created what Lock, I think, coined “Hell Square”) may preserve and maintain the livability of the rest of the LES (specifically, those areas East and South of Hell Square). It is almost as if Ludlow and Orchard act as some sort of psychological moat that keeps many from even considering heading over to say, Clinton St., which with its pear trees and old garages, is, I think, one of the prettier streets downtown.

    1. Gotham Gal

      interesting theory. could be zoning. is that area zoned for commercial property?

      1. Stuart Willson

        I’m not sure. I recall reading that commercial zoning in the LES was (at least through mid-decade) nonrestrictive and meant to support mom & pop businesses, but unfortunately allowed for the proliferation of bars that ultimately really changed the area. Now, it’s only my opinion that that was for the worse. I’m sure the (predominantly) Latino demographic living there in the 1990s wasn’t too pleased with the hipsters, who were then displaced by bars and all the young people who love them.

        1. Gotham Gal

          i am sure they were not pleased. i remember staying on mott street with emily and jessica. the butcher was standing outside his shop just surveying the street. he had probably been there 30+ years. I said to the know what that butcher is thinking? he is thinking who the fuck are all these people and what the hell happened to this neighborhood? as for the beautiful streets much more east of mott, many of them are residential buildings and have few store fronts for stores. i too believe that will save the neighborhood.

          1. Stuart Willson

            But ultimately nothing stops change. Over the past 150 years I’d bet pretty much every ethnic group has made their way through those neighborhoods: Irish displaced by Italians, Italians by Jews, Jews by African Americans, and on and on.

          2. Gotham Gal

            no doubt.

  6. CCjudy

    Wow I am from NYC and remember LES very well one wonderful simple place with great jewish food and clothing outdoor stands not at all upscale and a pickle store and a candy store – honestly I like what I remember

    1. Gotham Gal

      it was exactly like you remember many moons ago

  7. Sunchowder

    I shopped with my mother on the LES for fabulous clothes and homegoods…gosh I miss it.