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A Guide To The Best Food & Museums On NYC's Lower East Side

Get your culture fix. How to explore the super artsy scene of the Lower East Side: where to eat, and the best museums, exhibits and galleries to check out. By Alyson Schwartz.

Russ and Daughters

179 East Houston Street
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Get a true taste of the Lower East Side (LES) with one of our picks for the best bagel and schmear around. Russ and Daughters has been a NYC institution since 1914. Serving an excellent selection of appetizing and specialty foods you are sure to find the perfect "nosh" to start your day. There is no seating, but enjoy your bagel in the classic style with just cream cheese or one of their more adventurous eats like the Heebster, while walking around the neighborhood.

RELATED: NYC's Best Bagels

Katz's Deli

205 East Houston Street
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For another iconic taste of the LES, head to Katz's. Located on Houston Street, this is where the famous deli scene from "When Harry Met Sally" was filmed. The sandwiches are huge and can easily be shared, but regardless of what you order, make sure not to lose the ticket they give you upon entering or it will turn into a much more expensive meal. We recommend the pastrami, but everything they serve is out of this world. For a little extra treat, tip the counter guy a dollar or two to receive the best cut of meat and sometimes a slice or two while you wait.

RELATED: The Best Jewish Delis In NYC


120 Essex Street at Rivington Street
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For a great dinner spot, try Essex. Classic dishes are mixed with modern updates, just like the Lower East Side neighborhood. Potato pancakes (the house specialty) are brought to a new level by adding melted goat cheese & arugula and served with homemade salmon gravlax, salmon caviar & sour cream with sautéed onions & apple sauce.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

108 Orchard Street
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Head South down Orchard Street about a quarter of a mile and cross over Delancey Street to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Set in a tenement apartment building, go back in time and discover the story of three families who lived and worked in these small apartments. Schedule a tour beforehand to ensure that timing works with your plans. Neighborhood walking tours and lectures are also offered by the museum for a glimpse into the past.

New Museum

New Museum
(flickr photo)

235 Bowery
New York, NY

As Manhattan's only dedicated contemporary art museum, The New Museum well respected not only in NY, but worldwide as well. Designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the building is a stark contrast to the older structures surrounding it.

196 Allen Street
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Are you more into music than museums? Check out the schedule at the Rockwood Music Hall. Located on Allen Street between Stanton and Houston, they have a new band on stage almost every hour. Some shows are free, but check their schedule for more information.

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Alyson Schwartz is the author of the blog Ribbons of Thought, which features musings on topics from fashion to NYC living including fun activities, food and unique finds.

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