Pastrami at Katz's Delicatessen
Katz's Deli is so synonymous with the Lower East Side (and New York, for that matter) that its inclusion on this list almost needs no explanation. But just in case you've been living under a rock, Katz's fame comes in large part from their incomparably delicious pastrami. Order this amazingly tender, hand-cut, peppery meat piled high on rye bread, or dressed up as a Rueben with sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese.
Wolf Attack at Wolfinights
Tater tots are making a comeback, and they're more dressed up than the tots we knew and loved in elementary school. Enter the Wolf Attack, an oily, meaty, potato tot monster of a snack whose primary flavors are grease and salt. Consisting of a mountain of tater tots topped with grilled onions, meat sauce, a thick orange dome of melty American cheese, and a scattering of large chunks of raw jalapeños, these are tots for the most extreme late-night indulgences. If you happen to be on the Lower East Side in the throes of a drinking binge, you could probably use this. It is glorious in its excess.
Bar Eats at Cocktail Bodega
The fresh-pressed juice and smoothie cocktails at Cocktail Bodega are meals in and of themselves, but its eclectic menu of international street food is what you'll be craving during those twilight hours. The short menu is a whimsical melting pot of flavors from the Americas, the Caribbean, and Asia, all served up cafeteria-style in checkered paper and red baskets. Worthwhile dishes include the Cuban Sandwich Quesadilla, the always reliable pairing of ham, pork, cheese, mustard, and pickles pressed together in a flour tortilla, or the Bodega Wings. These wings are plump and juicy with plenty of meat, which is covered by a spicy, hot, crunchy coating.
Meatball Parm Hero at Rocket Joe's
While we wouldn't recommend the pizza at Rocket Joe's, the Meatball Parm Hero is a plenty satisfying footlong sandwich loaded with cheese and saucy meatballs. The sauce is sweet and zesty, the cheese stretchy and well melted, the bread given a solid toasting. Half a sandwich is a loaded meal for one; a whole one makes an excellent chaser to a late night out. And at only $5, you might even have enough money for another drink.
Fried Eggplant at Bereket Turkish Kebab House
Every late night bites list needs a kebab joint, and Bereket fills that slot for the Lower East Side. But more enticing than their doner kebabs is their Fried Eggplant sandwich. Now vegetables might not seem like the best candidate for a drunken snack, but these are oily, fried vegetables we're talking about: a stew of fried sliced eggplant and peppers with tomato sauce that's rich-tasting and a little greasy, but balanced by the tomatoes' sweetness and acid. Sloppy and satisfying, this sandwich will hit the spot just as well as any of its meat counterparts.
Bereket Turkish Kebab House: 187 East Houston Street, New York NY 10002 (map); 212-475-7700; Open Until: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Steamed Atlantic Blue Spicy Crab Legs at 169 Bar
Seafood generally doesn't rank high on the list of late night gotta-have-it-now cravings, but the edible offerings at 169 Bar could change that. The bar boasts a Southern-inspired menu at "tavern prices," which translates to Steamed Atlantic Blue Spicy Crab Legs slicked in a delicious oily mixture of Old Bay seasoning and tangy hot sauce—all for just $6. For a crispier fried bite, the Po' Boy Sliders ($7) are available with either fried oysters or fried shrimp, and come topped pickled okra and Cajun nutmeg remoulade for a nice contrast.
Congee at Congee Village
As the name suggests, Congee Village is dedicated to all things congee, the Asian rice porridge, with over 30 varieties ranging from $2.95 to $7.75. The congee is served bubbling hot in a terracotta casserole, steaming with the aroma of whatever's added on top. It's hearty, soothing, and everything you want in the late night hours. You can also order it to go.
Noodles and Roast Meat at Great NY Noodletown
Noodletown is a late night East Chinatown legend, with roast pork and cheap noodle dishes that always have us coming back for more. The ginger scallion noodles, pictured, may be the most famous, and they're light and refreshing as late night noodles go. For a spicier, greasier noodle, don't miss the Singapore Mai Fun (thin rice noodles) and the lesser-seen Chow Fun (thick floppy rice noodles) with shrimp and roast pork.
Great NY Noodletown: 28 1/2 Bowery, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-349-0923; Open Until: 4 a.m., Daily
Tortas at Taqueria Lower East Side
The tortas here are fat, cheap, and filling, with crisp pressed crusts that soak up juice from tender pulled pork and chunks of beef. They come with ripe avocado, feisty pickled jalapeno, and just enough mayo and lettuce to balance everything out.
Taqueria Lower East Side: 198 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002 (map); 212-677-3910; Open Until: 12 a.m., Sat-Weds; 2 a.m., Thurs-Fri
Grandma Slice at Nonna's LES Pizzeria
Known as the home of the Magic Slice, Nonna's serves up this pizza as a grandma-style slice topped with a whole artichoke stuffed with ricotta and a strip of roasted red pepper. It's then covered in cheese and just enough creamed spinach. But this hefty pizza is a knife-and-fork type of operation, so if you're looking to grab-and-dash, the plain Grandma slice is the thing to order. The crisp and garlicky crust is covered in rich marinara sauce and thick layer of fresh hand-pulled mozzarella—a hearty, comforting way to cap off the night.
Meatballs at The Meatball Shop
The menu here is pretty straightforward: pick a meatball, pick a sauce, then pick a delivery vehicle— polenta, a crusty baguette, soft brioche, a bed of green, a bowl of spaghetti. No matter how you choose to eat them, the meatballs are solid: juicy, well-seasoned, and tasty, if not life-changing. Very good with cheap beer.
Souvlaki, Dips, and Greek Fries at Souvlaki GR
At this brick-and-mortar outpost of Souvlaki GR Truck, they're doing all the usual suspects, like chicken and pork with tomato chunks, red onion, cooling tzatziki, and of course the french fries hanging out. There's also Greek Fries, a hefty portion topped with feta and oregano. If you're in more of a dunking mood, the pitta platter comes with a pile of fresh pita triangles, kalamata olives and other mini sides: tzatziki, hummus, taramousalata, and melitanosalata (soft roasted eggplant).
Small Plates and Panini at 'inoteca
If you're looking to spend a late night relaxing and sipping wine rather than tossing back shots and hitting the streets, look no further than 'inoteca. Things will get off to a good start if you begin with a selection of meats from the Affettati section of the menu and combine them with some of the copious offerings on the separate cheese list. The panini are also easy to recommend. They posses the requisite crispy crust, and come with fillings like prosciutto and mozzarella slathered in arugula pesto, or tangy fontina, spinach, and mushroom. 'inoteca's finer qualities—the beverages, panini, cheese, and charcuterie—don't necessarily provide you with a full-meal experience, but they're a perfect backdrop to an enjoyable evening with friends.
Gelato at Il Laboratorio del Gelato
We love almost every flavor at Il Laboratorio, and with about 30 options available at their Ludlow Street retail location, you're bound to find some you like as well. There's a reason this place is consistently some of our favorite gelato in the city.
Topfenpalatschinken at Cafe Katja
Don't let the intimidating name scare you away from this Austrian dessert. These paper-thin pancakes boast crisp, browned edges, and are stuffed with fresh farmers cheese. Plated with a warm, sweet and yolk-rich custard, there's a tart green currant compote to finish and a side of just-whipped schlag. Hot and cold, crispy and soft, sweet and savory, you find it all in an order of Topfenpalatschinken.