The Lower East Side is best known today for its raffish bars, toney restaurants, and sexy lounges. But a person has to eat there, too! And not just at date restaurants. Happily, the neighborhood is home to some of the city's greatest sandwiches. Here they are.
A classic old-school diner so removed from modern Manhattan that it doesn't even know it's retro. Go immediately.
This tiny Latino sandwich shop is dirt cheap and serves big portions of delicious food. That's really all you need to know, but here's one more thing: they have what might be the best Cuban sandwich in New York. Or maybe even in Cuba.
Sometimes called the Mecca of deli, Katz's is more accurately the Dome of the Rock of Deli: the sanctum sanctorum, the source and shrine of all that deli means in America. Go for the mystique -- but stay for the pastami.
Hidden away in one of the shadiest corners of the lower east side, and looking for all the world like just another pizza joint, Nonna Apa is in fact a singular kitchen with a distinctive slice and absolutely extraordinary veal, eggplant, and meatball subs. The place rewards repeated visits, because there's a wide variety of pizzas and specialties, and also because, like most artisanal operations, some times its better than others.
This dedicated sandwich shop sells only one thing, but it feels like a lot more, thanks to the creativity and diversity of the sandwich program. The coffee and snacks are also fine. It's cheery and neat and not too expensive -- what else do you want from lunch?
If one place can be said to have made panini a part of New York's culinary lexicon, it's this lower east side spot, which made them cool once and for all.
The world's largest menu, served by the world's grumpiest man, Shopsins is a New York legend, and the food actually lives up to the myth. Kenny Shopsin is actually as hostile as everyone says, but he is a true master of American vernacular cooking, and his menu is truly staggering: there are nearly 800 items on it, and practically every one is good.
This quirky sandwich shop, on a remote street in an obscure area of town, has the distinction of serving the best po-boy in New York, and possibly even in New Orleans. Yes, I said it! The crisp bread, the blue point oysters, the delicate shrimp -- it's amazing. The chicken biscuit with cream gravy is almost as good, and the place is just so weird that it would be wroth visiting even if the food sucked.
A retro diner with a French flair, you can think of Bowery Diner as a sequel to Florent, minus the trannies.