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How Low Can You Go?

Not so long ago, you’d have done anything to get away from the Lower–Lower East Side. Now you’ll do anything to come back. The French bistros and avant-garde boutiques that spilled across Houston Street from the East Village have crossed Delancey and creep right up to the borders of Chinatown. Hip-hop brunch joints sit peacefully cheek by jowl with slick-floored fishmongers. Million-dollar lofts peer down at one-buck-dumpling shops. And a 25-block zone once occupied mainly by Chinese meat markets and the odd yarmulke emporium has become the most intriguing neighborhood in Manhattan.

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Map by Jason Lee  

1. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
108 Orchard St., at Delancey St. 212-431-0233

The ultimate repository of local history runs tours through the restored homes of the German, Jewish, and Italian immigrants who lived here more than a century ago. The museum’s coolest project is right up to date: “Folk Songs for the Five Points,” at tenement.org/folksongs, lets you create a neighborhood soundtrack by mixing sound samples.

2. Blue Moon Hotel
100 Orchard St., nr. Delancey St. 212-533-9080

From the outside, the neighborhood’s first boutique hotel looks like a tenement. But the 22 rooms ($275 to $875 per night), named for bygone celebs like Tommy Dorsey and Al Jolson, look like ghetto grottoes gone upscale, with ceiling fans and wrought-iron beds. An immigrant-themed restaurant, Sweet Dreams, is expected to open by early autumn.

3. Congee Village
100 Allen St., nr. Delancey St.

212-941-1818 This Cantonese hot spot has earned acclaim for its namesake rice porridge, which is best with roast duck and meatballs (classic pork and preserved egg is a favorite, too). Book a private room, bring a dozen friends, and order the house-special chicken. Karaoke is optional.

4. Il Laboratorio del Gelato
95 Orchard St., nr. Broome St.

212-343-9922 A spring expansion will mean the city’s best frozen treats come in twenty flavors, including brand-new blends such as Cheddar cheese and wasabi.

5. Recollections
90 Orchard St., nr. Broome St.

212-387-0341 When you want your million-dollar loft to look like a nineteenth-century hovel, stop at the Tenement Museum’s store for chandeliers, old wallpaper, and enameled cast-iron stoves.

6. Kehila Kedosha Janina
280 Broome St., nr. Allen St.

212-431-1619 Delve into the fascinating history of the 2,000-year-old Greek-Jewish heritage at this untouched synagogue; see particularly the large collection of alephs, hand-painted birth certificates unique to the Romaniotes sect.

7. Bo Bo Poultry Market
287 Broome St., nr. Eldridge St. 212-274-0130

There’s nothing like a freshly slaughtered bird for dinner. These poultry perfectionists will provide you with, say, a $12 pair of partridges from their farms upstate.

8. Milk & Honey
134 Eldridge St., nr. Delancey St.

Disguised as a tailor’s shop, Sasha Petraske’s semi-secret ode to the cocktail bars of yore requires a reservation. It’s worth it: The throwback cocktails are the best in the city, and the leather banquettes are plush enough to make you think you’re in The Sting.

9. Happy Ending
302 Broome St., nr. Forsyth St. 212-334-9676

The slickest ex-brothel turned trendy bar in the area. Upcoming guests at Amanda Stern’s acclaimed reading series include Arthur Bradford, Lydia Davis, and Sigrid Nunez.

10. Deadly Dragon Sound
102B Forsyth St., nr. Broome St. 646-613-0139

Looking for an obscure ska band on 45? Or just the latest dancehall hits from Kingston? You’ll find both—probably on vinyl—at this tiny storefront devoted to all things reggae.


Fontana's, a bar for guy's guys.   

11. Fontana’s
105 Eldridge St., nr. Grand St. 212-334-6740

A cavernous bar for guys’ guys—with paintings of Elvis, Clint, and breasts— owned by the four women behind the East Village’s 85A. The newly opened basement hosts local bands.

12. Dumpling House
118A Eldridge St., nr. Broome St. 212-625-8008

It’s a scientific fact: Dumpling House has the best fried pork dumplings in Manhattan. What science has yet to explain, however, is how such flavor-dense little packets can cost just $1 for five.

13. Manpolo International Trading Corp.
301 Grand St., nr. Allen St.; 212-966-0289

Good fortune is on sale here in the form of lacquered altars and statues of Chinese gods. Luck doesn’t come cheap, however: An eighteen-inch Guangong, the red-faced warrior god, can easily top $200.

14. Hello Sari
261 Broome St., at Orchard St. 212-274-0791

All your subcontinental fashion needs fulfilled, from Pakistani beaded sandals ($25) to glowing silk saris ($95), which, if you’re not quite ready to dress like a Delhi bride, look great draped across a sofa.

15. 88 Orchard
88 Orchard St., at Broome St. 212-228-8880

Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, and the Jewish owners of this sun-drenched corner café certainly got lucky when they opened three years ago: It’s always filled with customers sipping coffee, surfing the Net, and playing board games.


The communal table at Barrio Chino.  

16. Barrio Chino
253 Broome St., nr. Orchard St. 212-228-6710

Yummily authentic tacos and high-end tequilas downed at a friendly communal table in a room watched over by enormous vintage Chinese ancestor portraits. Weekend nights get crowded, so come after work for a michelada (beer mixed with assorted sauces) and some fresh-made guacamole.

17. Babycakes NYC
248 Broome St., nr. Ludlow St. 212-677-5047

If your belly says no to gluten, nuts, refined sugar, dairy, and eggs, stop here for cupcakes so good you’ll forget they’re vegan.


The stars of the show at Guss' Pickles.  

18. Guss’ Pickles
87 Orchard St., nr. Broome St. 516-569-0909

Brined cukes, marinated ’shrooms, and barrels of kraut, from people who know from pickles (the business is about 90 years old).


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