Food treasures in New York City

DIY “NY Culinary Finds” Tour: Lower East Side

Last time I described a DIY NY Culinary Tour that took you through the west side of Manhattan. Here’s another DIY tour that gives you a taste of some NY culinary finds on the lower east side of Manhattan. The MTA trip planner can help you choose the best way for you to get there.

East Houston Street

Start your tour at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery at 137 East Houston Street between 1st (which becomes Allen Street south of Houston) and 2nd Avenue. Yonah_Shimmel_Knish_BakeryThe store has been selling knishes since 1890 and looks like it hasn’t changed much since then. There are communal tables with cups filled with mismatched cutlery and plastic table clothes — all part of the charm. You can order knishes filled with potatoes, including sweet potatoes; kasha; or vegetables, like mushrooms, broccoli, spinach or cabbage. If knishes aren’t your thing, move on to Russ & Daughters, just down the block at 179 East Houston.


A family-owned business that’s been around since 1914, Russ & Daughters is your quintessential “appetizing” store. Inside you’ll find counters with cheeses, breads, and pickled, smoked and cured fishes all made in-house.

Now it’s time to leave East Houston and head south east to Rivington Street. Walk down East Houston until Allen Street (transformed from 1st Avenue South of East Houston). Make a right and walk South to Rivington Street. At Rivington make a left and head to Economy Candy at 108 Rivington.

Economy Candy

Economy Candy

As I wrote back in March,  Economy Candy is known as “The Nosher’s Paradise of the Lower East Side.” It’s been around since 1937 and sells hundreds of kinds of chocolates, candies, nuts, dried fruits; including halvah and candy I remember from childhood. There are traditional American products, like M&M’s and Bazooka bubblegum, as well as candies from other countries like Japan and Israel. You can buy candy and nuts by the pound or individual items you crave.

Streit's factory on Rivington Street

Streit’s factory on Rivington Street

While you’re on Rivington Street, you can also visit Streit’s Matzo Factory and Store, located at #148-154. But call ahead (212-475-7000) because their hours change when it’s not peak Passover time.

pickle guys

If you’re not going to visit Streit’s then from Economy Candy at 108 Rivington, head east towards Essex Street until you reach The Pickle Guys at #49 — it’s just beyond Grand Street. If you know your lower east side culinary history, then you’ll recognize this spot as the former location of Gus’s Pickles. The pickles from “The Pickle Guys” taste as good and you can still point to each barrel to choose the ones you want.

Your next two stops are practically side-by-side, so turn around and go back to Grand Street and make a right, heading east.

The first is Kossar’s Bialys at 367 Grand Street, another store that has been on the lower east side for years (65 approximately). Kossar’s is famous for their bialys but they also make bulkas (like heroes), pletzels, and sesame sticks. In 1998, they also started baking bagels.  If you can, get one of these hot from the oven.

If sweets are more to you liking, then two doors down, at 379 Grand Street, is Doughnut Plant.  As I wrote in April, Doughnut Plant is nothing like your typical “donut” shop. They offer both yeast-based and cake-like doughnuts with fruit, chocolate and many other kinds of fillings. I’m partial to their blackout chocolate cake doughnut. Buy some for your next day’s breakfast.

There are many ways to get home from the lower east side. If you live on the east side, walk west on Grand, back to Allen Street and make a left. There, you’ll find the M101 Limited/Express bus which goes up First Avenue. Or you can find nearby subways. If you still have energy, you can cross over Allen Street and you’ll be at the tail end of Chinatown.

The Next DIY “NY Culinary Finds” tour will take you to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section.

June 27, 2013 - Posted by | Food, stores |

1 Comment »

  1. Now I see how you know the lower East Side so well.

    Comment by Charles | June 27, 2013 | Reply

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