In the brief time that Shane Lyons, the chef at Distilled, has worked and lived in the Lower East Side, he's noticed that "99 Cent stores are now French restaurants." But the neighborhood's history and diversity are enough to keep him around and trying new places to eat. Here are his favorites.
Pizza: I like how Two Boots has a kitschy feel, but the food has really good execution and ingredients. I'm a big fan of pizza with a cornmeal crust—it has such a surprising texture and feels more American to me.
Burger: Royale is a cult burger spot, and the best inexpensive burger in the neighborhood (maybe in the city as well).
Sandwich: There are great home-style sandwiches and salads at Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop. My favorites are the Spicy Rizzak, with sliced turkey, bacon, melted cheddar, and spicy chipotle mayo, and the Veggiest of them All, which is a vegan sandwich packed with veggies.
Falafel: The Falafel Shop on Rivington has a great New York vibe and affordable, quality food. They freshly bake their own pita bread perfectly. I get the original falafel sandwich with extra babaganoush.
Bagel: I love Russ and Daughters. It's timeless. I order the Shtetl, a bagel with smoked sable and goat cream cheese. I get it on an everything bagel, toasted.
Coffee: Besides the delicious coffee, Berkli Parc has a fantastic selection of sandwiches. It's a coffee shop where you can feel okay striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. I order a soy latte there.
Brunch: The Fat Radish is a great brunch spot because the dining room is airy and has lots of light. They make a killer Bloody Mary. I order the avocado seven grain toast with spicy eggs.
Bakery: The cupcakes are top-notch at Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery.
Date spot: I love the ambiance at Supper—the vibe, consistent food, and the catacomb element is cool and surprising. I like to order The Timely Priest Stranglers, a simple pasta dish with their homemade marinara and ricotta di pecora.
Take out: Tre is a little Italian spot that's delicious. I like the carbonara, polpette, and the arancini di riso.
Chinese: At Congee Village, I always like to order their house special chicken with crispy skin, lots of garlic, soy, and sesame.
Indian: The proprietor at Masala Wala is an older man who's super friendly, and I've become friends with him. I'll always get the lamb vindaloo and a mango lassi.
Bar: DonnyBrook is a good neighborhood spot where everyone's friendly. My favorite drink is the black and tan. SakaMai is a more upscale experience with an awesome sake and cocktail list. I love the smoked whiskey cocktail that's prepared tableside.
Fine dining: Yerba Buena is not super fine dining, but a nice restaurant with very well executed food. The service is hospitable and warm. I love the arepas stuffed with beef short ribs and cabbage slaw.