Hi folks...So I've stolen a bit from RGR and made some tweaks to his famous LES tour, and thought I'd share. I've experimented on a few friends and parents and it seems to be a hit! Let me know your thoughts...
1) Katz's Deli - Ludlow and Houston
This is an obvious, unoriginal recommendation - but there's a reason so many people still go here: the pastrami. It's outrageous. You can walk in and sample the pastrami if you don't have the appetite for a whole sandwich, but I would suggest ordering one to share amongst a group, along with some pickles.
2) Russ & Daughters - Houston between Orchard and Allen
This is THE place for smoked fish in New York, and it's been around forever. It's fun just to walk in, especially on Sunday morning, to see the hustle and bustle. My favorite - order a couple of bagels and several small portions of spreads to try different things: salmon tartare, whitefish salad, wasabi cream cheese, and of course, a couple slices of the nova. You also can't go wrong with the original bagel with lox!
3) Yonah Schimmel - Houston and Forsyth
This place gets a lot of negative comments from knish experts, but at the end of the day, I think it's a true NY experience, and a heated cheddar knish is quite tasty. I would suggest getting your smoked fish and your knish in one go, and eating them both in the Sara Roosevelt park (if it's nice out).
4) Dumpling House - Eldridge between Broome and Grand
This is definitely the place in NY where you'll get the most bang for your buck - this super cheap hole-in-the-wall has recently expanded and now has seating, but you'll have to fight the masses. I recommend the pork dumplings, the sesame pancakes, and the wakame salad.
5) Saigon Banh Mi So 1 - Broome between Elizabeth and Mott
This is my favorite banh mi in the city (or anywhere, for that matter). The bread is fresh and hot, the people are friendly, and the chicken is outrageously good. You also can't go wrong with the house special (number 1). May want to share one though...you're probably getting full by now!
6) Mei Li Wah - Bayard between Elizabeth and Mott
This is best stop on the entire tour. It's a bit of a walk, but you'll need it by now. Order several roast pork buns (char siu bao) - and taste a bit of paradise. I prefer the baked to the steamed, personally. Enjoy!
7) Nice Green Bo - Bayard and Mott
Go next door to the Shanghainese restaurant Nice Green Bo (fka New Green Bo) and order the soup dumplings ("juicy buns"). The pan-fried noodles are delicious too, if you have room!
8 ) Sun Say Kai - Canal and Baxter
For dessert, walk a few blocks over to SSK for a coconut dessert. Don't get the coconut bun, that's something different. I am not sure what this one is called, but it's white and covered in coconut, and is absolutely wonderful.
That's the end of the tour...time to hit the gym!
N.B. - I had to leave a lot of great places off of this list in order to keep the tour fluid and easy. Some great places I left out: Donut Plant, Shopsin's in Essex Market, Kossar's Bialy and Oro brownies.