Bordered by East Houston and Canal Streets between Second Avenue and the East River, the Lower East Side has been witness to wave after wave of immigrant arrivals. Originally James Delancey’s farm (which survives in the names Delancey Street and Orchard Street,) in the 20th century the area became known for the influx of lower-income German, Irish and Jewish immigrants, then more recently Chinese and Latin ethnic populations who settled here. Currently the inhabitants have seen a new immigrant crowd – the tech-savvy, dotcom downtown crowd, seeking out the refurbished walk-ups, luxury high rises and expansive converted lofts. The well-known Tenement Museum on Orchard Street chronicles the historically neglected, even squalid, conditions of the district, telling a story of pushcarts and peddlers hard to detect from today’s array of new boutiques, hot restaurants, velvet-roped clubs and super-trendy galleries that are opening all around the neighborhood.
For live music fans, the LES doesn’t disappoint with venues like the Bowery Ballroom on Delancey, Pianos and the Living Room on Ludlow and Arlene’s Grocery on Stanton. For gourmands, pickle stores like Guss’s Pickles and boutique groceries, like the venerable Russ & Daughters make this area a foodie paradise. Fans of When Harry Met Sally will remember the iconic scene at Katz’s Deli, located on Houston, where you can have what she was having or just have a pastrami on rye. And for art aficionados, the New Museum, with its funky architecture and contemporary art exhibitions is a must-visit destination.
Transit options for the LES include the F and J, M, Z lines with stations on the Bowery and Delancey, Essex and Grand.