Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Eduard Frauneder's Alphabet City
When Austrian-born chef Eduard Frauneder, who goes by Edi, spotted an open space for rent across the street from his apartment in Alphabet City, he jumped at it. He looped in fellow Austrian chef Wolfgang Ban, with whom he co-owns the Michelin-starred Seäsonal Restaurant & Weinbar, and Edi & The Wolf was born, providing rustic Austrian cuisine in the style of the casual neighborhood taverns the two missed from home.
Edi, who has called Alphabet City home for nearly 5 years, has plans to open a cocktail bar with Wolfgang this October, and keep it close by—on the same street, in fact. The bar, named after the 1949 Orson Welles film The Third Man, will feature Austrian small plates. When he's not at the restaurant, Edi's tastes range further from home, but he's still looking forward to ending a night of noshing at his new watering hole on Avenue C.
Pizza, slice: My go-to for a quick slice is Bite Me Best—it's solid pizza made by good people. My pick is the lasagna slice with fresh ricotta, basil and house dried tomato; it's nice and hearty.
Pizza pie: I head to Gruppo for a great New York-style pie. This is thin crust at its best: elegant dough that's light as a feather.
Burger, cheap: Zaitzeff makes a perfectly-cooked sirloin burger on a super-soft Portuguese muffin, plus I love the sweet potato fries. Their BLT isn't bad either.
Burger, fancy: The guys at Back Forty make a great grass-fed burger on an Orwasher potato roll with heritage bacon and Cabot cheddar. I love the relaxed atmosphere, and their garden is just super romantic.
Sandwich: Barnyard Cheese Shop is a small and cozy artisanal deli with specialty meats and cheeses. My favorite is the Smoky Joe: speck, Joe's Dairy smoked mozzarella, tomato, wild arugula and chipotle mayo.
Coffee: I go to Ninth Street Espresso for their excellent cappuccinos and macchiatos. Their hot chocolate is to die for, and on the weekends they serve apple turnover and berry danish: a must!
Bagel: Russ & Daughters has maintained a fantastic level of quality over the years. This is the place for a bagel and lox, but I also love the whitefish spread with dill cream cheese. This is one of the few great classic New York delis left; a real gem. I hope it never closes.
Dive bar: Speakeasy has a very rustic beer selection, killer pool table, and lots of locals hanging out. The irony is the one light in front of the entrance with a little sign reading "Speakeasy" and you walk up one flight to be transported in a different world. I love the Latin music and salsa-inspired feel.
Nicer wine, beer, or cocktail bar: I'll often head to Cabin Down Below. It's a hidden, under-the-radar spot that serves solid drinks in a fancy speakeasy setting.
Takeout Japanese: Takahachi offers the best food at the best price. They don't deliver, only do orders for pick-up, otherwise there's no way the kitchen would be able to keep up. My go-to order is the Wild Shrimp Tempura, Black Cod, and the Homemade Green Tea and Yuzu Ice Cream (they have a separate pastry shop and bakery).
Falafel: The guys at Cafe Mogador are really good friends and serve delicious food. They've been in the East Village for over 25 years, and serve fantastic falafel, excellent babaganoush, and hummus. The tabouli salad is a must. I love the atmosphere and the old North African feel.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Minca means "small house" in Japanese, and this describes the restaurant perfectly. The owner is a jazz musician who missed ramen from his native Japan, so he opened this restaurant. The menu is limited, but well-executed, and the chefs are very experimental. I came across this place while on the search for the perfect charchu don (pork belly over rice with pork broth), and I found it! Everybody eats the ramen here, but they underestimate the charchu don, with its base of perfectly cooked rice and perfect amount of rice vinegar. I normally order mine with corn instead of the bamboo shoots, with plenty of extra hot sauce.