JP’s Food Adventures: Orchard Street’s Restaurant Rows

Orchard Street photos by Cynthia Lamb.

For a while, Clinton Street above Delancey has been the Lower East Side’s Restaurant Row. WD50 showed that adventurous diners would spend money here, and many upscale establishments followed their lead. Tapas, posh pancakes, and high end Chinese can be found there as easily as pizza by the slice, Cuban sandwiches and four-for-a-dollar fried dumplings. A variety of tastes and budgets are accommodated on a few blocks that can legitimately claim to have some of the best restaurants in town.

Over the seven years we’ve lived here, Orchard Street has emerged as another equally vital Restaurant Row. I’ve had as many enjoyable nights out there as on Clinton. And I’ve found just as much, if not more, variety on Orchard. It seems neighborhood curmudgeons can’t maintain any credibility without a knock or two on the nightlife there, so you know it’s good.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still got my curmudgeonly side: I’ll roll my eyes with the best of them over $250 jeans for sale on the corner or Broome. But as long as you can get a nice leather jacket above Delancey for $60, I’ll maintain all is still right in the world. As far as nightlife is concerned, people have traditionally gone out drinking at night on the Lower East Side. After decades of relative dullness here, I’m happy to see it back in fashion.

While you can find a good watering hole on Orchard, it’s an even better place to for a bite, with an accompanying beverage. There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining-out options. Like Clinton, most of the action on Orchard happens over a couple blocks. But on Orchard those blocks are separated by a stretch of galleries and clothing stores (plus a few businesses that seem like combinations of the two).

The north stretch spans from Houston and Stanton. Standouts here include Zucco le French Diner, Georgia’s East Side BBQ, and Taqueria LES. Landbrot just opened, allowing us to scratch a Germanic itch without leaving the neighborhood while Café Katja is closed for renovation. Then there’s A Casa Fox, currently at the top of my “must try soon” list because of its Latin American tapas menu and Michelin recommendation. I’m planning on taking Cynthia there for a “last hurrah” date before we leave the neighborhood.

The south stretch of Orchard’s Restaurant Row is between Broome and Grand. This is where Café Katja is in the process of doubling in size. This is also where you find the achingly cute café 88 Orchard. I don’t hit them so much for their food, but their coffee is great. Diners in the mood for Southeast Asian can choose between An Choi and Sticky Rice. Those hungry for classic Americana will find it at Interstate Food and Liquor. Those who prefer a hip take on English fare can always hike a couple blocks further south to Fat Radish. (But it’s probably best to make a reservation – that place is really popular right now).

Orchard Street is a great destination for a night out in the neighborhood. One we’ll be returning to regardless of a new Brooklyn address. Here’s hoping the next few years make it even better. Of course I’ll be checking out Mission Chinese Food before too long – everyone seems to be going nuts over it. I’m just waiting for the hype to die down.

JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well,  consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.

In the summer heat I like drinking dry pink wine from Provence. Gassier, Sables d’Azur, Cotes du Provence, 2011 is exactly that – a classic tipple to break the heat for under $15 at Seward Park Liquors.