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.
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.
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 InternationalTrading 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.
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.
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).
19. Little Giant
85 Orchard St., nr. Broome St. 212-226-5047
An Ikea dining room hosts seasonal New American dishes with playful names like Beet Box (roasted beets with Humboldt Fog cheese, $10) and Babys Got Bass (wild striped bass with clams, lentils, bacon, and aïoli, $25). The Swine of the Week is $22.
20. El Bocadito
79 Orchard St., nr. Broome St. 212-343-3331
A new Mexican tapas joint serving “little bites”—e.g., taquitos—to the spillover crowd from Barrio Chino.
72 Orchard St., nr. Grand St.
646-264-3233 The shelves at this incubator for fashion designers currently feature lush, sexy lingerie from Martha Colón.
22. East Side Company Bar
49 Essex St., at Grand St.212-614-7408
Another cocktail nest from Sasha Petraske (see Milk & Honey) but less exclusive. Huddle up in a booth, order a delicious Pimm’s Cup, and watch the candlelight play off the pressed-tin roof.
23. Kossar’s Bialys
367 Grand St., nr. Essex St. 877-424-2597
New York isn’t exactly packed with bialy stockers. But even in a town with 1,000 of them, Kossar’s light, bready, onion-smeared renditions would be the best.
24. Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St., at Norfolk St. 212-505-3700
Forget Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and your local cart. These superb sugar-caked rings of fried dough come in offbeat flavors like vanilla bean and strawberry cake.
47 Orchard St., nr Hester St. 212-219-1061
It’s hard to categorize the collective behind this gallery space. And that’s kind of the point: Take the current show, “Vera,” which mixes Jason Simon’s film of a woman talking about her passion for shopping with one-off karaoke and video art nights.
26. Girls Love Shoes
85 Hester St., nr. Orchard St. 917-250-3268
Paradise for lovers of vintage footwear. There are 1,000 pairs for sale (a Maud Frizon tiger-print pump is $150), and 1,000 more for rent at this store run by Zia Ziprin, whose great-grandfather started a yeshiva on East Broadway and whose beatnik mother opened a vintage store nearby in the sixties.
27. The Sweet Life
63 Hester St., at Ludlow St. 800-692-6887
Sugar aficionados get hives just looking at the buckets and buckets of honey-glazed pecans, giant swirl lollipops, Pez dispensers, halvah, and Turkish delight in the window.
61 Hester St., at Ludlow St. 212-477-2427
The epicenter of LES life below Grand Street serves remarkably fresh salads, baked eggs, and sandwiches (try the mortadella-and-Garrotxa on ciabatta) to local hipsters, who linger over rich espressos and Wallpaper*. Next door is Orange, a grocery, and across the street is Green, the catering wing.
29. A NY Thing
51 Hester St., nr. Essex St. 212-777-0919
Everything a skateboarder needs—baggy clothes, LPs, stickers, and ’tude—except actual skateboards.
30. Classic Coffee Shop
56 Hester St., nr. Ludlow St. 917-685-3306
“Classic” is right—with Rocky Marciano photos on the wall and post-bebop jazz on the stereo, Carmine Morales’s tidy hole-in-the-wall is just the place for a tuna melt and an egg cream.
31. 48 Hester
48 Hester St., nr. Essex St. 212-473-3496
This minuscule boutique carries Trovata, Rag & Bone, sass & bide, and Nobody jeans—the same brands at owner Denise Williamson’s Mercer Street showroom. Now in: Williamson’s own women’s line, Franck.
32. The Main Squeeze
19 Essex St., nr. Hester St. 212-614-3109
Walter Kuehr’s squeezebox emporium—he offers his own line of accordions and lessons in how to play them—looks like a relic of the 1890s, even though it opened in 1996.
33. Organic Avenue
23 Ludlow St., nr. Hester St., second floor; 212-334-4593
A treasure trove of materials for natural living: wild jungle peanuts, cruelty-free silks, and a hemp Brazilian bikini.
34. Les Enfants Terribles
37 Canal St., nr. Ludlow St. 212-777-7518
An exquisitely designed French-African restaurant (worn leather banquettes, gold leaf ceiling) that’s hybrid in every sense. By day, locals munch on merguez sandwiches; by night, it’s a sexy multiculti scene. Try the Ivorian sliced-steak korhogofefemougou (a mouthful in more ways than one).
35 Canal St., nr. Ludlow St. 212-475-5505
A gloriously simple French-owned bar that opened in early February with the kind of stealth that usually produces La Esquina–level buzz. Expect it to be mobbed by … oh, right about now.
36. Happy Joy Restaurant
25 Canal St., nr. Ludlow St. 212-388-0264
Everyone from families to construction workers loves the friendly waiters and very tasty Chinese-Malaysian food here. Eggy tofu is house-made; kuey teow noodles a filling standby; curried skate wing a sour-spicy marvel.
37. Good World Bar & Grill
3 Orchard St., at Canal St. 212-925-9975
The pioneer. In 1999, Annika Sundvik converted a sketchy barbershop (i.e., brothel) into a wood-floored bar and Swedish restaurant. Then the world discovered Good World’s long beer list, house cocktails (the Berzerker: aquavit, Absolut Citron, ginger ale, dry vermouth, and a cucumber slice), and Scandinavian staples. Now weekends are uncomfortably crowded; Sundays with a pint of Hoegaarden in the rear courtyard, however, remain perfect.
38. Super Taste
26 Eldridge St., nr. Canal St. 212-625-1198
In northern China, hand-pulled noodles are a common streetside snack, but they’ve yet to penetrate New York foodie brains. Order No. 2 on the menu—noodles in spicy beef broth, $4—and feel your consciousness rise, along with your body temperature.
39. Cup & Saucer
89 Canal St., nr. Eldridge St. 212-925-3298
This is the kind of ancient lunch counter that restaurateurs spend millions to re-create. Next: Lower-Lower East Side Real Estate
Most Lower East Side buildings are tenements in need of renovation, which means you just might find a one-bedroom rental for less than $1,000 (it helps to speak Chinese). Rare loft conversions are still a relative bargain.
40. 50 Orchard Street
This Christmas, the sixteen two-bedroom condos in this new luxury development will sell in the $1.5 million to low $3 million range. For that, you get Bosch appliances, Italian cabinetry, and a communal roof deck. Through Larry Michaels at Douglas Elliman, 212-891-7072.
41. 345 Grand Street
“The only cast-iron building in the Lower East Side,” claims Corcoran’s Glenn E. Schiller (212-941-2561). Three of its six units sold for less than $2 million—a million less than a few blocks west in Soho.
42. 173–175 East Broadway:
The landmarked home of the Yiddish-language Daily Forward newspaper went condo a few years ago, but its units are only now coming on the market, for $575,000 to $4.5 million. Through Michael Bolla at 212-334-4855.
43. 118 Forsyth Street
From the outside, you’d never suspect this building is full of pristine 2,300-square-foot co-ops for $1.6 million (they went for far less two years back). Call Jeffrey Stockwell at 646-613-2715.
44. 79 Delancey Street
Renovated about three years ago, this former bank—the first Jewish financial institution in the city, according to Misrahi Realty’s Chris Crane (212-475-6660)—has rare vacancies for big-windowed apartments that range from $1,900 to $3,000.