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Long ago, the Lower East Side was the port of entry for immigrants who lived here in crowded tenements (it was not always pleasant). Today it bustles with trendy shops and restaurants and even has several noteworthy several museums.

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LES Tenement Museum, NYC

Lower East Side Tenement Museum | Photo courtesy of museum

1. Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Now a National Historic Landmark, the former tenement building that now houses the Lower East Side Tenement Museum was home to 7,000 people from more than 20 countries between 1863 and 1935. This block was the most densely populated in the city, and at one time it was home to 23 factories. Before the guided tour, view a 30-minute film about immigration, the Lower East Side and the museum.

2. Blue Moon Hotel

Just next door to the Tenement Museum, the lovingly refurbished Blue Moon Hotel operates within a transformed 1879 tenement house. It retains original ornamental and architectural details, including a vintage elevator. Guest rooms are spacious for NYC—some even have balconies—and one has a magnificent view of the Empire State Building. For breakfast, kosher bagels, bialys, and more are just a few steps away.

3. Yonah Schimmel

The delish Yonah Schimmel knish shop hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1910—it even has the original dumb waiter. And the baseball-sized knishes are heavy, hearty and vegetarian, and still made by hand and baked downstairs (as they have been for generations). If it looks familiar, perhaps you saw it in the Woody Allen movie, “Whatever Works.”

Yonah Schimmel, Lower East Side, NYC

Yonah Schimmel | Photo by Carole Terwilliger Meyers

4. Katz’s Deli

In business since 1888 and in the current location since 1917, New York’s iconic Katz’s Delicatessen is said to be the oldest deli in the city. Service is cafeteria-style, portions are generous, and almost everything is made or cured on site. While it’s probably more famous for Meg Ryan’s famous lunch scene in “When Harry Met Sally” than for its kosher-style fare (think hot pastrami on rye, latkes, and stuffed cabbage), be aware that the food is not actually kosher.

Katz's Deli, NYC, Lower East Side

Katz’s Deli | Photo by Carole Terwilliger Meyers

5. The Pickle Guys

Opened in 2001, the Pickle Guys are the new kids on the block and are, in fact, the only pickle shop on it. Choose from a variety of barrel-cured pickles, plus pickled vegetables (celery, tomatoes) and fruits (watermelon, pineapple). All pickling is done on the premises. Freshly grated horseradish is available just before Passover, when an employee wearing a gas mask grates all day.

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Hotel on Rivington, Lower East Side, NYC

The Hotel on Rivington

6. Rivington

The first few blocks of Rivington Street feel like a small-city neighborhood. You can shop in a mysterious boutique (Leekan Designs at #4), down a brew in a small back-yard beer garden (Loreley Restaurant at #7), and spend the night in a trendy hotel (Hotel on Rivington at #107).

Shopsin's, Lower East Side, NYC

Shopsin’s General Store | Flickr photo by Rex Roof

7. Shopsin’s General Store

Located in the old-timey Essex Street Market, Shopsin’s General Store is a trip. Owner Kenny Shopsin earned fame as the star of a quirky little documentary titled “I Like Killing Flies.” Like in a scene right out of a “Seinfeld” episode (think Soup Nazi), he usually enforces the house rules: no talking on cell phones; no groups larger than four; minimum one meal per person; no outside beverages; no substitutions; no take-out; cash only. Bottom line is the menu is extensive (900+ items), portions are huge, and the food is always exceptional. But don’t you be in a hurry, because there is almost always a line.

By Belathee Photography, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Clinton Street Baking Company, New York | By Belathee Photography,

8. Clinton St. Baking Co.

If you want a more predictable atmosphere and menu than Shopsin’s, head to Clinton St. Baking Co. for brunch. But you will still run into a line and need cash. Be patient, it’s worth it. The menu is filled with delights—iced lattes, pancakes with warm maple syrup, a buttermilk muffin, eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, cherry pie—but the cheese grits are not as good as at Shopsin’s.

9. Erin McKenna’s Bakery

All items made at Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC (formerly known as Babycakes) are vegan, made with mostly organic ingredients, and allergen-free. Sweeteners are used sparingly and don’t include white sugar. It can be quite a surprise to bite into a red velvet cupcake and discover how good it tastes.

New Museum, NYC, Lower East Side

New Museum | Photo by Carole Terwilliger Meyers

10. New Museum

Located on NYC’s oldest street, the New Museum is situated within a boxy, Japanese-designed, futuristic-looking silver building. It is the city’s first and only museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art and features cutting-edge shows. Start at the top and work your way down.




Tagged: New York

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Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Carole is a Berkeley-based travel writer who most especially enjoys cultural and culinary travel. She contributes to an assortment of publications and is the author of 18 books. Carole oversees two websites, and, and she blogs at
Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Carole Terwilliger Meyers; freelance travel writer, website publisher, and blogger
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