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The Best Restaurants in the East Village

The East Village has traditionally been filled with artists and college students, i.e. people on a shoestring budget. That’s also what made it such a lively neighborhood for nightlife, music, and experimental theater. Over the years, the East Village has taken in a few higher-end restaurants sprinkled among its tiny taco shops and Chinese take-out joints. Below is a diverse collection of restaurants in terms of price, cuisine type, and atmosphere. The area’s best eats include bacon-wrapped hot dogs, savory souffles, and a vegetarian burger. Eat up, and chances are there’s a bar next door where you can keep the night going strong. Many of these options are walking distance from the Pride March.
 

Oiji octopus
Photo credit: Oiji
 

Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table

Come to Ruffian for a glass of wine, and stay for a fabulous French dinner. This skinny space on East 7th is not one to be missed, even if you have to wait for a bar stool. The beverage team selects natural and biodynamic wines from around the world (try an orange one if you’re feeling adventurous), while chefs Josh Ochoa and Andy Alexandre whip up savory pies and souffles so good, you’ll be booking a trip to New York Pride 2020 so you can visit Ruffian again. 125 E 7th St., 212-777-0855, ruffiannyc.com

 

Oiji

Started by friends Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku, Oiji is a warm nod to Korean cuisine that also defies expectations. As with other Korean places, there are grilled meats and fried chicken on the menu, but they’re plated artfully and paired with unique flavors. Get the Jang-Jo-Rim with beef shank on buttered rice, topped with a soy-marinated egg, or the scallops with snow crab, jellyfish, and Korean mustard vinaigrette. At present, the menu’s only dessert item is honey butter chips with ice cream; you’ll know why when you bite into your first chip. With slightly upscale pricing, the atmosphere nonetheless stays laid-back in Oiji’s spare dining room. 119 1st Ave., 646-767-9050, oijinyc.com

 

Prune

Prune impresses top to bottom. It’s always crowded for weekend brunch (and for good reason), which provides pitch-perfect cocktails and an eclectic menu featuring sausages and oysters on peasant bread. If you don’t want to wait, come on a weeknight for dinner. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton whips up revelations like deviled rabbit kidneys, duck with tomato vinaigrette, and a whole salted celery root with caraway butter and gastrique. The sophisticated food comes at a fairly reasonable price, making Prune ideal for group hangs as well as dates. 54 E 1st St., 212-677-6221, prunerestaurant.com

 

Hearth

Like Ruffian, Hearth is a great bet for impeccably made food with a lively wine list. A mainstay of upscale dining in an area known for mid-range restaurants, Hearth sets itself apart with a commitment to local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients that make every plate of pasta a transcendent experience. The sumptuous potato gnocchi is made with sage butter and parmesan, while meat-eaters might enjoy the braised rabbit leg on a pillow of polenta. Chef Marco Canora’s menu might be best enjoyed, however, with a tasting of 12 dishes with a flight of wine pairings, available daily. 403 E 12th St., 646-602-1300, restauranthearth.com

 

Superiority Burger

Vegetarians, this one’s for you. Superiority Burger takes the fast-food approach to plant-eating, and the results could convert a few carnivores. Although chef/owner Brooks Headley has a fine-dining background, the shop is small and ultra-casual, perfect for picking up a meal for a picnic in nearby Tompkins Square Park. The namesake burger, at only $6, is a worthy order, but the Superiority Wrap or Sloppy Dave give it a run for its money. Many of the menu items, which change daily, can be made vegan. Rotating sorbet and gelato flavors have included labne with rosewater, Focaccia, Tortilla, and Black Yuzu. Try them alone or on top of a house-made pie. 430 E 9th St., 212-256-1192, superiorityburger.com
 

Momofuku Ssam Bar
Photo credit: Momofuku Ssam Bar
 

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Part of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, Ssam Bar began as a casual Korean place but has grown into a destination for inventive pan-Asian cuisine like skate roasted in a banana leaf and covered with Malaysian sambal belacan. Chef Max Ng has kept the restaurant surprising and always tasty since he took over, bringing with him flavors from his native Singapore. You might not think of Ssam Bar for brunch, but you’ll be rewarded if you go with spicy pork sausage and rice cakes, or the brown butter buckwheat waffles with Speculoos maple syrup (yum!). The cocktail program deserves a shout-out too, full of island flavors like pineapple, lime, and thai basil. 207 2nd Ave., 212-254-3500, ssambar.momofuku.com

 

Pylos

Pylos’ most distinctive feature is its ceiling jam-packed with hanging terracotta pots. But this Greek restaurant has plenty more to offer than unique decor. Order as many mezethes (small plates, divided on the menu between Hot and Cold) as you can, like stuffed phyllo pastries, grape leaves, and a trio of Greek dipping sauces. A fantastic main is the pistachio-crusted bass with sheep’s milk cheese. A little fancier than other East Village spots, Pylos works great for a date. 128 1st Ave., 212-473-0220, pylosrestaurant.com

 

Crif Dogs

Don’t miss a trip down Saint Marks Place while you’re in the East Village. This famous strip is packed with bars, restaurants, and street vendors that stay open late. Crif Dogs makes a great detour during a bar crawl down Saint Marks. These hot dogs are cheap, quality, and not afraid to get strange. The popular John-John Deragon Dog costs is topped with cream cheese, scallions, and everything bagel seeds. The bacon-wrapped chili dog is called the Spicy Redneck. There’s something for everyone (even vegans!), plus waffle fries and beer. Bonus: Crif Dogs is open till 4am every night. 113 Saint Marks Pl., 212-614-2728, crifdogs.com

 

Empellon Al Pastor

Covered with graffiti inside and out, Empellon al Pastor doesn’t exactly look like a gourmet taco place. But this is the casual iteration of several Empellon locations in the city, with the same inventive Mexican food like cheeseburger tacos and sweetbread Milanesa slider. Order at least one al pastor taco with chips and guac and a ¿Por Que No? margarita in a cute pineapple tumbler. This one’s a great pick for starting off a night of partying or keeping one going when your group gets hungry. 132 Saint Marks Pl., 212-367-0999, empellon.com

 

veselka food
Photo credit: Veselka
 

Veselka

Veselka is the patron saint of East Village eating. Open 24 hours, this Ukrainian diner is the go-to for affordable, starchy foods like pierogies and goulash, plus breakfast food like pancakes (also served 24/7). Holding down the corner of Second Avenue and East 9th since 1954, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time at Veselka. 144 2nd Ave., 212-228-9682, veselka.com

 

Root & Bone

Root & Bone has a different take on Southern cuisine than Mighty Quinn’s, but an equally compelling one. With winsome farmhouse-chic vibes, it’s a hit brunch destination solely for the portion of the menu labeled Fried Chicken. You can get your bird brined in sweet tea, stuffed in buttermilk biscuits, or atop buckwheat waffles. Other Southern classics include cheesy grits and biscuits and gravy. At dinner, get the Family Supper, a set menu of Root & Bone favorites. Don’t fret if you don’t get a coveted patio seat; the wide windows open out to East 3rd in fair weather. 200 E 3rd St., 646-682-7076, rootnbone.com/nyc

 

Edi & the Wolf

An Austrian restaurant run by Austrians, Edi & the Wolf gets mainstays like schnitzel and spaetzle just right. You’ll also find a pretty great burger and duck breast on quinoa with sweet potato puree for something a little less authentic but delicious all the same. Dressed like a quirky farmhouse, it’s a convivial atmosphere the owners designed after neighborhood wine bars—called heuriger—in their native country. 102 Ave. C, 212-598-1040, ediandthewolf.com

 

Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue
Photo credit: Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue
 

Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue

Mighty Quinn’s is a no-brainer for filling, delicious food in casual environs. The East Village location sits side-by-side with dozens of other bars and restaurants on Second Avenue, but none of those has the barbecue, the sauce, sides, and beer to go with it like Mighty Quinn’s. Get the molasses-sweet burnt-ends baked beans as one of your sides. 103 2nd Ave., 212-677-3733, mightyquinnsbbq.com

 

Upstate Craft Beer & Oyster Bar

Seafood lovers, rejoice! Upstate serves over 20 kinds of oysters from its small location on First Avenue. This is the perfect spot for a beer and a shellfish snack around happy hour. While the dinner menu doesn’t have much to it, you can count on seafood-based pastas like seared scallops on capellini. Upstate stays in its lane, but it does so exceptionally well. 95 1st Ave., 646-791-5400, upstatenyc.com

 

Esperanto

Take a little trip over to Alphabet City (the easternmost segment of the East Village) for killer Brazilian at Esperanto. Have a caipirinha, the traditional Brazilian cocktail, with ceviche and a suite of other great seafood dishes like mussels roasted with garlic, paprika, butter, and parmesan. This one’s a great pick for summer brunch, with a bright-green facade and patio seating in the sunlight. 145 Ave. C, 212-505-6559, esperantony.com
 
For a more complete guide to dining in NYC, check out our Where to Eat section.
 
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