a fun day on the l.e.s (and environs)

My sous chef Veronica asked me to provide some tips for a fun afternoon on the Lower East Side of NYC – here are my picks (I threw in some East Village places too). If you have other tips, please share!

I’m assuming you are planning to eat about five meals. Here are your choices:

Lan Café – authentic, tasty Vietnamese food (all vegan). No atmosphere whatsoever. Love it.

Pukk – very affordable, delicious vegan Thai food in perhaps the cutest restaurant in the universe. The last time I was there the guy sitting next to me was wearing my exact same pair of tight white jeans, but even that didn’t make a dent in my happiness. Be sure to marvel at the optical illusion lights in the bathroom, as well as the fact that there are no right angles in the place.

I almost always go to one of these two places when I’m in the East Village, because there are no places upstate to get fish-sauce-free Thai or Vietnamese food, and I crave both pretty much every single day.

Counter – (mostly vegan) perfectly acceptable, often super delicious. I have heard two stories about the owners being kind of assholey (they totally screwed over a pal of mine when she was interning with them, but in fairness that was years and years ago), but I still go there. Apparently they have a newish chef and/or menu that is even better than been before, which was already pretty good. In terms of NYC vegan restaurants, I’d give it a B. In terms of upstate restaurants (vegan or not), I’d give it an A+++.They push drinks on you way too forcefully – beware. One time the vegan butter pecan ice cream almost made me cry with delirious happiness, but in retrospect I think it was Organic Nectars‘ brand.

Caravan of Dreams – (vegan) People always say this place is overpriced, but considering they are one of the only restaurants in the universe not to lie about using organic produce, I think it’s OK. The food is certainly nothing special, but the atmosphere is super cute. I interned there for one day several years ago. When I showed up on the second day I learned the chef had been replaced. The new chef didn’t seem too concerned when I accidentally topped a Mexican platter with hummus instead of tofu sour cream. It’s a laid back place, what can I say. I haven’t been there in 3 or so years.

Let’s get back to the l.e.s. before I start creeping uptown and talking about Hangawi or something.

Il Laboratorio del Gelato – YES. Lots of veganness.

Teany – (vegan) I used to think it was dorky to go to Moby’s personal cafeteria, but you’ve got to love Teany. Everyone has to stuff themselves with Danielle Konya’s crazyass Vegan Treats (I like the strawberry shortcake, even though when I eat it in any month but June I feel so so subversive – it’s probably the only time all year I eat a non-local strawberry!), and this is the place to do it. The BLT with fakin’ bacon is just perfect, as are all their sandwiches. Oh, and Veronica, if you go, could you pick me up some of the vanilla honeybush tea? It’s GREAT. I respect Teany. I always expect the servers to be snobby, but they never are. In truth, it’s more lovely than anyone wants to admit, because we’re all afraid of seeming uncool for liking it.

Mooshoes – (vegan shoes) Their new place is even nicer than their old place. Will we ever be tired of being happy Mooshoes exists? I think not.

Right down the street from Teany is Economy Candy, which is great fun.

But if you don’t find cute shoes there, you could walk on over to the East Village and go to 99x, they have vegan shoes too (or they did 4 years ago, when I was last there.) And you can hit up Search & Destroy, a crazy thrift store. I usually have a ban on thrifting in the picked-over super-pricey NYC stores, but for some reason I like this place. There used to be…well, I was just about to mention three cool places that used to be in this neighborhood, but I will refrain because I told myself I can only spend 1/2 hour on this post. Moving on!

Babycakes (vegan bakery) – overpriced, overrated, but cute enough that you should still go.

Resist the pull of the American Apparel that seems to be the cornerstone of the l.e.s.!! Instead go next door to Guss’ Pickles or even Russ & Daughters, a meaty deli with some vegan treats if you look hard enough (but no Vegan Treats).

I met my friend Than at Mercury Lounge right down the street, awww. And what’s that health food store right around the corner from Mercury? I can’t remember, but I like it. And there used to be a good vegan restaurant here, Herbivore…ok, can’t talk about the past:

And Hairy Mary‘s, sweet vintageness.

Oh, and I almost forgot lovely Bluestockings, a great great bookstore!

Hey Veronica, if you want to get yourself one of the famous Lagusta’s Luscious’ house drinking water mugs (hell, yes!), you can get them here! It’s also a museum, or so I hear. I just go for the mugs.

And now you’re on Bowery and you can go to all the restaurant supply stores – wheee! And Hoomoos Asli!

That’s all I can think of for now, which is good because I only have 1 minute left on my deadline. Ah, NYC. I’m happy it’s there. And every time I’m in the car or the bus or (best of all) the gorgeous train snaking its way up the Hudson River back home, I’m so, so happy to be able to visit – and then leave.

4 Responses to “a fun day on the l.e.s (and environs)”

  1. ruby

    Y’know, I have a weekend in New York coming up at the end of the month, and even though I briefly lived in Brooklyn, I certainly didn’t know about all these spots. I love Pukk, and now I’m definitely going to check out Lan Cafe. Thanks!

  2. Veronica

    The roundup!

    Pukk was outstanding! Absolutely delicious and charming. We all got lunch specials and shared so we could taste a bit of everything, and we all can’t wait to go back! Also, we enjoyed eavesdropping on a new-agey meeting of sorts at the table three away from us. Good times.

    Hairy Mary’s was really nice, if even just to ogle all the vintage goodness. Everything was in such perfect condition!
    I have one of the hats they were selling (for $79!), I thought that was pretty cool. There were some obnoxious Eastern European girls who pushed their way in to the store while we were there (apparently they pushed Rachel out of the way to look at some clothing. WTF?), but more on them in a second.

    Bluestockings was great! I bought an on sale copy of Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and also a Development Dialogue book on carbon trading. I heart bookstores.

    We walked by the gelato place to scope it out (so tempted to write scoop it out….) but opted to go to Teany instead.

    Teany was a bit disappointing, but I think because we only had dessert. I had the strawberry shortcake, and Rachel had a pumpkin cheesecake thing I think?
    I was expecting a biscuit with strawberries and syrupy goodness and some kind of cream (perhaps even buttercream), and so I was not prepared for a big slice of basic cake with uber sweet buttercream and some sliced strawberries plopped on top, but alas, from Vegan Treats I should have known better. The cheesecake was nice though.

    Whilst at Teany, the aforementioned obnoxious Eastern European girls were sitting outside (where we happened to be sitting) chatting and texting on their phones. One of them kept staring at my shortcake, I almost wanted to offer her a piece. It was very bizarre. After we left and I was talking to Rachel about it, she said one of the girls kept staring at her, too. Oh, and they were all wearing those annoying leggings that seem to be all the rage, and they all looked like clones of each other. Surreal, I tell you.

    All in all it was an excellent trip.

    P.S. We went to Kalyustyans first, and while we were there I saw beet powder and it made me think of the truffle. I’m excited!


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