It’s been over 60 days since I last had lunch in the Lower East Side and it’s something I can’t help but miss. What am I craving? Some may consider it sacrilege, but it’s not a Reuben or a pastrami sandwich. Not a slice of pizza, not a bagel or bialy.
What I really want is noodles. Each noodle dish, from the Lanzhou beef noodle soup to the biangbiang noodles of the Shaanxi Province, are unique in shape, size, density, and thickness, but I find them all equally delicious, and I can find them all on the Lower East Side.
The communal experience of sharing a culture through food makes these noodle outings even more special. These restaurants are often simple places, what someone might describe as holes-in the-wall or hidden gems. I love to seek out new places in the neighborhood, either solo or going on a culinary adventure with a couple of my lunch buddies. Walking a distance from the Tenement Museum is necessary on occasion, but it’s always worth it.
Entering one of these small restaurants, with its narrow counter tops lined with stools along the walls, the menu posted on the wall or above the cash register, a couple of tables randomly set and often crowded, can be overwhelming for a first-time visitor. Once oriented and hopefully seated, you’ll see that this is special place. In the kitchen huge cauldrons of broth and boiling water flash boil the noodles. The minute wait staff navigate through the crowded space in a balancing act of coming and going, clearing a space and bringing out meals from the kitchen to hungry patrons eagerly awaiting their bowls of fresh dumplings and noodles. Every dish is hand-crafted with a care that you can taste in every bite, whether they’re hand-pulled, ripped, knife-cut, peeled, or biangbiang.
Here in the Lower East Side, where the boundaries overlap so heavily with Chinatown, are some fantastic places where you can experience the deliciousness of Chinese noodles. Enjoy the mian tiao (noodles in Chinese), and don’t forget to slurp loudly, use some hot chili oil and don’t forget tour napkins for the splatter!
“When times get rough, you always have noodles!” Here are some of my favorite noodle places, and my favorite dishes, on the Lower East Side, that should be your first stop when the city reopens: