Those unfamiliar with the East Village are likely to be happily surprised by how many buzzy—and buzz-worthy—restaurants are located here. David Chang’s Momofuku Ko has two Michelin stars; sushi restaurant Kanoyama, kaiseki eatery Tsukimi, and Asian-influenced New American restaurant Tuome have one star each. The Smith continues to be an in-demand spot to meet for dinner, drinks, or brunch, and Raclette continues to introduce New Yorkers to the joys of its namesake dish.
This neighborhood institution is a delicious reminder that a portion of the East Village has long been known as Little Ukraine. Potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, and handmade pierogis filled with potato, cheese, sauerkraut, mushrooms, and other delights are among the house specialties, though Veselka also makes a mean burger and some robust salads. Don’t forget to bring home some of its legendary borscht!
With its sleek chrome and Lucite furnishings, Dumpling Lab doesn’t look like your typical dumpling house. Nor is its menu what you might expect from a dumpling house. Options include slow-braised beef shanks, tongue, and tripe; crispy popcorn chicken; and spicy mapo tofu. As for the titular dumplings, the mackerel—which also includes pork and dried shellfish—and the zucchini and cucumber are must-tries. Equally enticing is the drinks menu, with such specialties as the goma colada: shōchū complemented with coconut, sesame, pineapple, and clarified soymilk.
If you’ve ever wondered what Mexican-French fusion would taste like, come to Bar Lula. Since November 2021 it has been serving dishes such as maize-based crepes filled with maitake mushrooms, manchego, and Oaxaca cheese; beef tartare with salsa macha; and roasted octopus with pistachio mole. There’s a full menu of mezcals and tequilas too, along with enticing and adventuresome house cocktails.
After operating as a ghost kitchen through the height of the COVID pandemic, TLK (as this restaurant is also known) opened an eat-in restaurant in December 2021. Its Asian fusion menu is largely vegetarian and gluten-free, and it will make just about any dish vegan upon request. Start with a plate of pickled vegetables and chili popcorn before proceeding to the likes of lemongrass chicken salad, crispy curried tomato rice, and spicy eggplant.
Like TLK, Nudibranch had an unconventional start, as a series of pop-up dinners. The brainchild of three Momofuku vets, Nudibranch offers a fixed-price, three-course tasting menu. Starter options include frog leg flavored with lemongrass, galangal, and ginger; from there you can proceed to treviso with ricotta, citrus, and myulchee—stir-fried sweet-and-sour anchovies popular in South Korea. Shrimp with hot honey granola, turkey neck served with white and hot sauces, and pork jowl with aji panca, pineapple, and cabbage are among the other specialities.