Lower East Side Food Tour

The Lower East Side is known for its blend of cultural diversity and rich history. It’s also known for its great food. Our food tasting tour is the perfect way to discover this fascinating neighborhood. 

 

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TOUR DESCRIPTION

Where can you find a historic Synagogue next to a Bulgarian punk discotheque, trendy boutiques that sit comfortably beside decades-old “Mom and Pop” shops, or tenement apartments interspersed between luxury high rise condos?

Look no further than our Lower East Side Food Tour to discover America’s great Melting Pot!

 

Pickle Guys

 

The streets of the Lower East Side tell the tales of struggling immigrants – Eastern Europeans, Russians, Germans, Puerto Ricans – who came to America in search of opportunity.

They brought with them recipes from the ‘old world’ and you can still taste these foods today. Ever eat a potato knish? How about a bialy or pletzel? Care to try a green tea doughnut?

Not in the mood for something exotic – no worries – we’ll grab some of the best Chinese dumplings in New York City and we will pick up some pickles along the way.

 

NYC self guide Lower East side Jonah

 

Join Free Tours by Foot as we visit historic synagogues, check out the area’s latest in arts and architecture, learn about life in the tenements, and master useful Yiddish phrases, all while refining our palates with delectable treats from around the globe.

At the food shops, YOU choose what treats you would like to nosh (that’s Yiddish for ‘snack on’). Try them all or none at all.

Unlike other tours that charge around $45 with some excluding food, on this tour, YOU choose what to eat and how much to spend.

The suggested amount to bring for snacks is $7-10, depending on your appetite! Vegetarian and vegan options available at several shops.

Food shops we stop at:

  • Lower East Side food tourYonah Schimmel Knish Bakery (see video below)
  • Kossar’s Bialy and Bagels
  • North China Dumpling
  • Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery
  • The Pickle Guys*

*On major Jewish holidays, these shops are closed and we visit other delicious food shops instead.  

We do make changes to shops for various reasons and we cannot guarantee that all shops listed above will be visited on each tour.

Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery

Since 1910, this shop has been baking some of the best knish in New York City.  Along with the traditional classics like potato and kasha, there’s sweet potato, spinach, mushroom, and even jalapeno. 

 

 

The dumbwaiter is one of the oldest in the city. The tin on the ceiling is original. This iconic Jewish New York eatery also has egg creams, latkes, kugel, and many more delights. Let your guide tell you what these foods are and help you decide what you’ll like the most.

 


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SITES WE VISIT

In addition to the food stops listed above, we also visit many interesting and well-known sites in the Lower East Side such as:

  • Russ & Daughters
  • Katz’s Delicatessen
  • Red Square
  • Angel Orensanz Foundation
  • Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery
  • Williamsburg Bridge
  • Doughnut Plant

Here is some detail of the amazing sites on our tour:

Katz’s Delicatessen

When it comes to Jewish delicatessens, Katz’s is the undisputed champion. This iconic eatery has been serving up some of the best pastrami and corned beef sandwiches in the world, not to mention great hot dogs, knishes, and knockwurst, since 1888.

 

 

It’s also where Harry met Sally. Read more about this NYC phenomenon here.


Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The Angel Orensanz Foundation is an event space housed inside the former Anshe Chesed Synagogue, a Gothic Revival gem dating back to 1849. The building is a designated historic landmark.

It was built by a congregation formed in 1825. The congregation was made up primarily of immigrant German Jews, but also Dutch and Polish Jews.

The congregation grew so large that a new synagogue had to be constructed to house services. In the 1850s, it had the largest membership of any synagogue in America.

 

Angel Orensanz

 

By the 1970s membership dwindled as the neighborhood changed and the building was eventually abandoned. In 1986, it was rescued by a Jewish- Spanish sculptor, Angel Orensanz.

Orensanz created the Orensanz Foundation for the Arts. The building has art shows and concerts; it can also be rented out for special events.

Among the most famous events that took place here are the wedding of Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in 1997. In 2011, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Haus Party Tour made a stop here!  


Economy Candy

In 1937, Economy Candy opened and now almost 80 years later, this candy shop is still going strong with what is most likely the most extensive selection of candy in the city.

 

 

From old hard to find favorites like Squirrel Nut Zippers, Chuckles, and Charleston Chews to modern sweets like Pop Rocks, Pez dispensers, and Big League Chew, Economy Candy has thousands of types of sweet treats.


Russ and Daughters

This landmark ‘appetizing’ shop opened in 1914. Appetizing (in this case is a noun, not an adjective) is a Jewish food tradition among American Jews.

Typical appetizing foods are smoked and cured salmon, herring, homemade salads, and cream cheeses. Jewish dietary laws require that meat and dairy products not be eaten or sold together.

 

 

As a result, fish and dairy products are sold in appetizing stores, while meat and non-dairy items are sold in delicatessens.

This famous shop was opened by Joel Russ, a polish immigrant who started off selling mushrooms from a pushcart. He saved up money to open this widely successful store. His daughters went to work in the shop, hence the name.  

Proof of just how good the food is at Russ and Daughters is the fact that, after 100 years, it is still open – and quite crowded as well. Luckily, they opened a sit-down cafe in 2014 located at 127 Orchard on the 100th anniversary of Russ & Daughters. 

Read more about other stops we make from our Lower East Side self-guided tour.

See photos of the tour on our Facebook page.

 

Tour information

Reservations: REQUIRED. Click here to reserve. Groups of 5 or more should visit our groups page.

Where: Outside Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery, 137 E. Houston St. Look for your guide with the Free Tours by Foot logo.  Please use our Google map for directions to the start of the tour.

Duration: Approximately 2 hours. Tour distance is approximately 1 mile (1.6K)

When:  @1pm Thursdays & Sundays (year-round), @1pm Saturdays (mid-March through December), and also @1pm Tuesdays (summer months). View our full tour calendar.

If our schedule doesn’t work for you, take a look at our self-guided Lower East Side Food Tour, which includes many of our food stops as listings.  If you are planning to get a tourist pass, other LES Food tours are included in the New York Pass.  Read our post on whether the New York Pass is worth it for you.

Cost: This tour is free to take, and you get to decide what, if anything, the tour was worth when it’s done. A name-your-own-price tour is a tour for anyone’s budget. Suggested sampling cost is $7-10, depending on your appetite.

Be sure to read our Guide to New York on a Budget for more ways to save in the Big Apple.

About the author

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others.

She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.