Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Leah Cohen's Lower East Side

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Locals' guides to New York neighborhoods.

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When Leah Cohen isn't plating dishes of crispy pata or grilling pork jowl, she's often not far from her restaurant Pig and Khao on the Lower East Side. She lives around the corner from her restaurant, after all, but if she's not eating in her own kitchen, there are endless options around the neighborhood. Here are some of her favorites.

Leah's Picks

Chef Leah Cohen

[Photograph: Alice Gao]

Slice of pizza: I like Nonnas for the Grandma slice. It's like a Sicilian slice, but not as saucy and cheesy. There's fresh mozzarella with just enough basil and cheese. It's crunchy on the bottom, but there's some doughiness in the middle. It's not too much crust—perfect amount of cheese and carbs.

Burger: I like Mikey's Burger. It's that juicy burger you sometimes crave. And they're open 2 a.m., which is good for me since I don't go out until 12:30 or 1. As for fancy burgers...I don't really eat them. I actually like all my meats cooked medium rare, but for burgers, I like them medium with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, a little mayo and ketchup.

The Howling at Wolfnights

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Sandwich: Wolfnights because they make the wraps themselves and press them to order. They're open until 2 a.m. during the weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends. They use fresh ingredients, too. I usually get the Pink Moon: it's shrimp, asparagus, fried pickles, and a bunch of other stuff in there. It feels more like a meal than just a sandwich sometimes.

Falafel: Usually it's a toss up between a falafel or a wrap. But there's a falafel shop, called fittingly The Falafel Shop, that makes really good hummus, so if I want that, I'll go there.

Coffee: This is super ghetto, but I love 7-Eleven coffee. They have a milk bar with different flavored creams, like caramel macchiato, French vanilla. I love that. I think that's something I got from my dad. They change their coffee every one to two hours, and there's never a line!

Russ & Daughters

[Photograph: Ben Fishner]

Bagel: I go to Russ & Daughters. I don't like their bagels, but I get their bagel and lox with a sandwich. Their bagel is not the star obviously. The smoked fish selection is pretty awesome, though. You just don't see it anything like it around the city.

Delivery: I get V-Nam Café, which is borderline East Village/Lower East Side. I even get that delivered to the restaurant, actually. Banh mi, Vietnamese coffee, and fried spring rolls would be the usual order. If I'm too hungover or too tired to cook, I usually turn to them.


[Photograph: Carey Jones]

Breakfast/brunch: I usually eat a bowl of Cheerios. For brunch, I love Clinton Street Baking Company. I like this thing that's a poached egg with cornbread, a tomato sauce, and a cheddar biscuit. It's the comfort food you want during brunch.

Dive Bar: My go to bar is Welcome to the Johnson's. It's just like the local bar that everyone at the restaurant Donnybrook goes to. It's not too hipster or filled with tourists.

Date night: I have no time. I'm married to the restaurant.


[Photograph: Kathy YL Chan]

Ice cream/gelato: Il Laboratorio del Gelato. That's the good shit. I lived in Italy for one and a half years, so I just go with traditional flavors most of the time. I'm a sucker for hazelnut, but they change flavors all the time. I actually like the Greek yogurt flavor.

Izakaya: I never get bored of izakaya food, and Yopparai is great. You know when you go there you can get good food and drinks. It's easy and fun like an izakaya is supposed to be. They give you a good selection of sake and explain it all to you.

Can't miss spot: I just went to Pearl & Ash for the first time on my week off. I really like them. I like that their wine list is very good. I like that some of their dishes have an Asian flavor profile. Everyone tells me I just like to eat Asian food. It's not an Asian restaurant, but it reminds me of one when you taste the food. Technique-wise, it's spot on.

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