LES UNCOVERED: THE LATEST & GREATEST
There’s an unspoken rule for longtime Lower East Side residents: never, ever leave your apartment after 9pm on weekends. The unbearable, already-inebriated crowds lining up outside the sea of bars in the heart of the nightlife district of the LES, aka Hell Square, is… hell. Saturday night suggestion: Netflix, wine, and chill, followed by one of those hypnotic sleep-inducing videos on YouTube which play smooth, lo-fi music on loop while a calm anime character looks out a window at the cinematic falling rain or lounges in bed wearing headphones. You know what we’re talking about. But thankfully in the daytime, the neighborhood is a downright delight. We’re here to clue you in on the best (translation: the chillest) of the recently opened cafes of Lower East Side. You’re very welcome.
Japanese all-day cafe Davelle, open since March, feels like a tiny (albeit decent-sized-for-Lower East Side) studio apartment replete with a non-functioning marble fireplace, dried flowers hanging on exposed brick walls, unfinished floors, and the stylishly rustic exterior. As soon as you enter through the distressed doors and into the sunny secret-ish spot, you’ll feel as though you’ve left behind Lower East Side’s good ol’ noise pollution and entered a calm and cozy cafe.
It all makes sense: “In Japanese, ‘Davelle’ means ‘to hang out and chill with friends and food,’” Davelle’s team told us via email. Indeed, Davelle is modeled after Japan’s traditional kissatens, which are oldschool (they’ve been in Japan since the 1800s) tea and coffee shops, known for their charm and relaxed, social-gathering-friendly vibes. Aside from the caffeine fixes, simple bites such as toast, potato salad, curry rice, and spaghetti are traditional kissaten staples. Davelle, in true kissaten form, offers the aforementioned, but with many a to-die-for twist.
Pop by before 3:30 for their colorful selection of sweet and savory toasts, from honey lemon and ogura (red bean) to mentai mayo and cheese curry. Speaking of curry, the curry rice, which is served after 11am, is perfection on a plate—Davelle uses paper plates, by the way. Speaking of rice and perfection, there’s also the omg-so-good omurice. Oh, and then there’s the Japanese-style spaghetti, served three ways. This includes the spicy cod as well as the mochi mochi napolitan, which involves a slew of veggies and bacon in a ketchup sauce with a runny egg on top. But let’s not forget about the beverages—reminder: Davelle is majorly kissaten-inspired; they’ve got just about everything for just about everybody (even strawberry milk), but, in our opinion, it’s all about the black sesame kinako latte and the psychotically caffeinated Kyoto-style Cold Brew. In other words, you’ll never want to leave, which should make the Davelle team happy, considering their goal: “We want to become the local hang out cafe/restaurant on Lower East Side.” And the winner is… Davelle!
Downtown New York continues to attract a host of cool and quirky Australian cafes and restaurants. (Have you ever waited in that line at Ruby’s? Same…) Well, meet the newish Good Thanks, which is seriously so great—thanks! (Sorry, had to!) Opened in June 2018, by childhood friends from Sydney, Timothy Cottle and William Rees, the blink-and-you’ll-walk-right-past-it Good Thanks is located at 131 Orchard Street, next door to the perma-packed Russ & Daughters Cafe and across the street from Krause Gallery.
Good Thanks absolutely brings in an artsy crowd, but, fear not, pretension will be left curbside. The uber-friendly and uber-efficient servers will make you feel right at home, and the flat whites will wake you the hell up. While the cute, sun-drenched space is small and narrow, the menu is massive—and mostly healthy. A yummy granola bowl with fruit, collagen and algae? Good Thanks has you covered. Thirsty for a peach-y tonic with CBD oil? Of course you are, so order the Peachy—though the Fresh Prince (mint, cucumber, coconut water, lime and sparkling water) is just as great. Other delicious, healthy options include a number of rice bowls, salads, and smoothies packed with surprising (in a good way) ingredients.
For those who are just here for those classic Aussie dishes, you won’t be disappointed. See also: mushroom toast (with charred scallion labne!), avocado toast, and, of course, Vegemite on toast. Just do yourself a favor and commit to ordering the scrambled kimchi eggs on one of your many visits, as you’ll inevitably return to this increasingly popular and borderline perfect cafe. “Great coffee, an approachable and relaxed staff, colorful music and an incredibly talented team of chefs and baristas all in the context of a cafe on the LES create a pretty unique fusion of New York and Australia,” says co-owner William Rees of the duo’s vision behind the charming cafe. “We wanted it to be fun and unique but approachable.” Mission majorly accomplished, mates.
The Good Kind is our kind of coffee shop. Tucked into a teeny-tiny space on Rivington Street, this Danish-style charmer opened in early autumn—and reportedly inked a ten-year lease. Prior to The Good Kind’s opening, the space was vacant ever since the LES lost TeaNY, the casual-cool vegan tea hot spot co-founded by Moby, which closed in 2014 after over a decade of business. Well, The Good Kind already attracts TeaNY-like neighborhood types but, unlike TeaNY, there’s nothing hipster-casual about it. Friendly baristas serve Brownsville Roasters coffee to stylish customers, often sitting down with their MacBooks in the warm, airy, and undeniably lovable space.
The interior is very Scandinavian-style-heavy: understated and minimal with a side of luxe. There are seven marble-top tables, and the cement benches lining the walls are artfully scattered with muted-colored pillows and fuzzy throws. Pre-opening reports said the menu was provided by Nordic chef Claus Meyer, who is co-owner of the lauded Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, but that’s no longer the case. And that’s fine because whoever is in charge of The Good Kind’s menu these days is killing it. There are pastries (tip: go for the ham and cheese croissant and/or the coffee cake), toasts (tip #2: order the flavorful avocado toast paired perfectly with white truffle pesto, chili flakes, chia and hemp seeds). Oh, and the turmeric latte is also a hit. Those on the run can opt for takeaway coffee and food—salads, sandwiches, Siggi’s Icelandic-style yogurt, and the more. Bonus: free WiFi, lots of power outlets, and an ambient playlist that enhances the relaxed vibe of The Good Kind.
Some more recently opened LES spots worth checking out…
If you’ve stopped by a bougie LES bodega, you’ve noticed those RISE Brewing Co. cans or their velvety nitro cold brew. You have to taste it to believe it: Blood Orange Cold Brew is a very delicious thing, and, yes, the nitro provides high-rise levels of a caffeine high. (Rise… get it?). RISE recently took over Goa Taco’s very small space at 79 Delancey, and this will be their NYC flagship. The design is clean but not memorable and there’s a handful of seats. Clearly, the star is the superb coffee.
On a street flooded with charming spots, Italian cafe Bricia at 79 Clinton, which quietly opened in late August, stands out. Well, it deserves to stand out—Bricia has yet to receive much buzz. But it’s not that kind of scene. It’s unassuming, cute, neighborhoody; it feels like it belongs on a quiet side street in Park Slope. The coffee is fantastic. So is the selection of authentically Italian (and decent-priced) sandwiches (options include caprese, marinated salmon, prosciutto di parma, all for $11 or less); salads (the farro with Bufala mozzarella is everything); omelettes; pastries, pasta, and more. Special shout out to Chef Lello of Sardegna, Italy—the surprisingly inexpensive pasta dishes, particularly the gnocchi alla Napoletana, are sublime.
After the pasta is the after-cocktail party, am I right? Young restaurateur Oliver Zabar opened the stylish-in-a-very-downtown-manner cocktail bar, Devon at 252 Broome St in early November. And, yes, you know that last name: the young Zabar is the grandson of the founder of iconic Jewish grocery store, Zabar’s. The cocktails are a winner, the design vibe is both sleek and retro and seats 65. The seats are mostly occupied by a fashionable (dare we say, hip) crowd, which makes sense since the kitchen is helmed by Josh Blum, formerly of (is it still very hip?) Le Turtle. The bar bites are anything but ordinary. Monkfish katsu sandwich, anyone? $7 for duck-fat fried peanuts is a steal!
WORDS Alex Catarinella