East Village Specialty
Big Gay Ice Cream
125 E. 7th St., East Village
Big Gay Ice Cream hardly needs an introduction. This beloved soft-serve joint started off as a seasonal truck in 2009, quickly amassing a loyal fan base in NYC. Their first permanent shop was opened in the East Village in 2011, followed by a shop in the West Village the next year.
Black Seed Bagels
176 1st Ave., East Village
This newcomer is drawing big crowds, which we totally get: The hand-rolled, wood-fired bagel sandwiches are actually easy to eat (they’re much smaller than their brethren), and for the most part, they’re great—particularly for those times when the only thing that will satisfy is a bagel sandwich. Favorites include: beet-cured gravlax, a basic tuna salad, Tobiko spread, and the egg salad (though it’s heavy on the dill). There’s also a location in Battery Park City, in addition to the Nolita original.
100 Stanton St., East Village
A beautifully outfitted spot for grab-and-go meals, El Rey and its menu live at the intersection of healthy, filling, and delicious. The offering is a tight edit of easy, craving-quenching, nutritious foods like chia pudding and granola, nutty farro salad, spicy chicken bowls topped with zesty yogurt, and flavorful add-ons like pickles, avocado, or eggs. For a caffeinated indulgence try the Mexican mocha, then settle into a window seat for prime people watching while you drink.
63 E. 4th St., East Village
Tortas beat out tacos at this small, cozy, yet teeming market. Grab one of the delicious Mexican-style sandwiches to go (favorites include chorizo and egg) with an agua fresca to wash it down, or stop in to shop all good things that are hard to come by elsewhere: from traditional ingredients, like Oaxaca cheese and great Mexican coffee, to less traditional selections, like tequila- and mezcal-infused jams, and paletas (ice pops); also, authentic (amazing) salsas, chiles, masa, and other spices; and even beauty products, like the original, healing, beautifying Mayan clay mask from Tulum Spa. On a warm day, try the iced coffee with horchata (sweet rice milk).
Momofuku Milk Bar
251 E. 13th St., East Village
While working at Momofuku in the early days, Christina Tosi—office manager at the time—started baking the occasional treat for the team. And her insanely sweet, totally novel confections quickly took off. Soon, she had her own shop next door (and now many more in NYC) where she and her staff crank out ridiculously complex layered cakes, the aptly named Compost cookies, and unusual soft-serve flavors—all simultaneously nostalgic and unlike anything you've ever tasted.
Organic Avenue (Closed)
30 Third Ave., East Village
The results of their 5-day juice programs are always pretty amazing and the juices and smoothies (especially the coconut mylk and the cacao smoothie) are so delicious that we stock up on them whenever we're in town. In addition to juices, they offer healthy prepared foods, making it a good choice for a quick lunch.
Sundaes and Cones
95 E. 10th St., East Village
Sundaes and Cones relocated to the East Village after its first two decades based in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Here you'll find all the classics, but most people come for their specialty Asian-influenced flavors—e.g. wasabi, ginger, and black sesame. They also make delectable ice cream cakes topped with fresh whipped cream.
120 Rivington Street, Lower East Side
Exotic pastries are the specialty at this Lower East Side bakery, where owner and baker Ry Stephen dreams up unexpected croissant pairings. Favorites include the NYC, filled with lox, cream cheese, and capers, and the Spinach Pie Twice Baked, with spinach, olive-oil-baked broccoli rabe, sautéed onion, chili, béchamel, and cheddar cheese. There are plenty of sweet creations, too, like the rhubarb, strawberry, and basil cruffin (a croissant-muffin hybrid), or the spiced peach-apple pie brioche doughnut, filled with peach-and-apple pie filling and whipped cream, topped with piecrust crumbs and white chocolate. Even pastry obsessives can usually find something here they’ve never seen before.
48.5 E. 7th St., East Village
Whether you’ve had Van Leeuwen on the streets of Brooklyn or parked up on Abbot Kinney, it’s instantly recognizable by its sunny yellow truck. They’re particularly famous for their vegan ice cream, a combination of cashew milk, coconut milk, cocoa butter, and carob beans that’s incredibly creamy and indulgent (and a major victory for the dairy-sensitive). They’ve got a few locations now: Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; the East and West Villages in Manhattan; and the Arts District and Culver City in LA. You can always track their many food trucks on their website.
406 E. 9th St., East Village
Though they’re famous for the Juicy Lucy (two hamburger patties sandwiched around a dollop of pimiento cheese), we actually like the Turkey Burger best (fried egg on top optional). They offer pretty much everything else we’ve ever craved for lunch, including an excellent kale salad (along with requisite kale chips), sweet potato fries, and the perfect grilled cheese.
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