Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared in the September issue of our print magazine.
July and August might be considered the slow months for Manhattan’s restaurant business, but you couldn’t prove it by the Lower East Side this summer. A rush of new bars and eateries debuted over the last couple of months, while others put the finishing touches on dining rooms and menus in preparation for opening this month. Here are a few of the notable newcomers.
Max Fish, 120 Orchard St.: Last year, fans of the beloved Ludlow Street bar were mourning its demise. Last month, it was reborn just a couple of blocks away in larger digs, and so far, has drawn hearty and enthusiastic crowds. Owner Ulli Rimkus and her bartenders (now part-owners) did all the work themselves. The place is very much reminiscent of the original, although there are new design twists. Rimkus said she wasn’t aiming to recreate it exactly. Some people have asked why Rimkus and company decided to keep the name. Her response: “Max Fish is a brand.” The trick over the the next few months and years will be ensuring the brand evolves. There will be art shows featuring new artists and musical performances once a week or so. Rimkus said they’ll let things develop naturally and see what feels right.
Balvanera, 152 Stanton St.: Replacing Azul Bistro, which shuttered after 13 years, this solo project from Buenos Aires-born chef Fernando Navas offers Argentinian fare that’s not just beef. Seafood and veggie options abound, along with pastas like ricotta cavatelli. Navas, who has done stints at El Bulli and Nobu, most recently came from Sushi Samba, bringing a worldly view of his native cuisine. Beverages include traditional herbal teas, a thoughtful selection of beer and wine and some low-alcohol mixed drinks such as sherry-based cocktails and sangria.
Khushboo, 6 Clinton St.: Lower East Side fans of Indian food can stop short of trekking to the East Village’s Little India district with the addition of this new spot near Houston Street. It’s a straight-up classic Indian joint, serving lunch, dinner, happy hour and late-night eats, as well as take-out and delivery. Try the vegetable samosas and the lamb rogen josh with a side of onion naan for dipping; the rice pudding is delicious, too. Hours are noon to 11 p.m. daily, and include lunch specials.
Roman’s Italian Delicatessen, 157 Allen St., (no website yet): This small storefront serves as both a deli and a grocery, serving cold sandwiches and a variety of dry goods and prepared foods, including cured meats, housemade breads, fresh pastas and sauces. Hours are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Copper and Oak, 157 Allen St. (no website yet): Next door to Roman’s, a new bar specializing in brown liquor, with an emphasis on single-grain scotch and Japanese whiskeys, debuted in July. An outpost of Tribeca’s Brandy Library, the bar numbers its bottles above 600 and plays “upbeat ’80s rock.” Hours are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
100 Montaditos, 177 Ludlow St.: A franchise of the Spanish fast-food chain opened its second Manhattan location in the former home of health food store Earthmatters in late August. (The first is on Bleecker Street.) The eatery offers a huge menu centered around its namesake dish, a traditional Spanish tapas-sized sandwich featuring a split roll filled with a wide variety of toppings: meat, seafood, vegetables and even sweets for the dessert course served on chocolate bread. Sides like salads and other dishes like calamari round out the menu.
Seoul Chicken, 71 Clinton St.: Chef Chaz Brown, formerly of Fatty Crab, brings his version of a “wing bar” to Clinton Street. The menu offers two types of wings: East Asian and American southern, served either Korean-fried (Seoul style) or “naked,” the latter of which is gluten-free. Sauce options include gochujang buffalo, palm sugar and kalamansi, sriracha and honey, habanero kimchi and szechuan peppercorn and sea salt. Chickens are also available by the half or whole, with the same sauce choices, along with snacks and sides like kimchi fries with miso aioli and Singsing Rock Shrimp with honey, chili and kewpie mayo. There’s a full bar with cocktails, beer and wine. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, and offers takeout and delivery as well.
Comfort Diner, 399 Grand St.: Owner Ira Freehof was aiming for a Labor Day opening, but his homestyle restaurant in the Seward Park Co-op’s commercial strip is now scheduled to debut by the end of September. A revamp of the former’s Noah’s Ark space added a bar/lounge area in the rear, more booth seating in the main dining room and a sidewalk cafe. The decor and the menu will be similar to, but not exact duplicates of, the original Comfort Diner in Midtown, which Freehof opened 18 years ago. Look for traditional diner fare like omelettes, big juicy burgers accompanied by real kosher pickles and sturdy fries, strong coffee in large mugs and plenty of kid-friendly items, along with house specials like lemon ricotta pancakes. The restaurant will seat a total of 64 diners, and offer both takeout and delivery service. A liquor license is pending.