I realized recently that I hadn't shared any of my favorite New York neighborhoods with you since I'd moved back and with dozens of neighborhoods and hundreds of streets (and we're just talking Manhattan) to get through - I figured I'd better start. The Lower East Side has always been one of my favorite places to indulge in this city. A decidedly young crowd, the neighborhood maintains its grit while still managing to offer some of my can't miss spots. Below, the best of the best from the heart of the area. Have your own LES favorites or planning a trip of your own and want some more recommendations? Feel free to share or ask away!
1. Schiller's Liquor Bar: A long standing favorite, Schiller's rustic meets modern decor and perpetually cool crowd stand alongside a finely edited menu of cocktails and oysters. I've never been before roughly 5 pm but if you are an early riser I hear they serve Stumptown coffee and dollar donuts. 2. Economy Candy: Not much larger than a closet but totally worth the crowds. If you can squeeze in - you've entered candy heaven. From international varieties you otherwise can't find in the US to every forgotten candy of your youth - you'll be hard pressed to leave this place empty handed.3. Pixie Market: My guide wouldn't be complete without a little bit of shopping, right? Pixie Market is one of those places you say you'll just stop in to browse, but inevitably end up leaving armed with an entirely new outfit - often for less than $100. My favorites are their killer selection of matching sets. (If you're not in NYC shop them here)4. Little Muenster: I distinctly remember my pilgrim voyage when this nothing-but-grilled-cheese shop opened a few years back. Between its no frills menu of delicious cheesy creations, cheap beer and cheese grater chandelier - this is your spot if you're looking for a quick stop in before hitting the bars.5. Arlene's Grocery: Just across the way from Little Muenster, this longstanding bar could fool tourists into assuming it's nothing more than a (somewhat rundown) supermarket - mainly because it actually used to be a bodega before they transformed it. Now, its a often crowded, always fun live music mainstay in the area. Extra points if you manage to get yourself on stage for their high stakes karaoke. 6. The Derby: The newest to join the LES pack, recently opened The Derby boasts 'biscuits and bourbon' - what's not to love? Equally suited for brunch as it is a night cap - come if you want to try chicken and waffles, stay if you're in a whiskey on the rocks kinda mood. 7. The Meatball Shop: The epitome of 'do one thing and do it well' - The Meatball Shop takes on a home cooked favorite and nails it. Its a choose your own adventure sort of menu with plentiful options for sauces and sides. Trust the endless crowds outside (and the fact that they've now expanded to 3 locations straddling 2 boroughs) - you won't regret it.