The East Village has long been known as the epicenter of New York’s bohemian cool, and the esoteric restaurants in the neighborhood match the funky vibe. For those staying on the east side of downtown Manhattan, be it the Cooper Square Hotel, The Bowery Hotel or Thompson LES, we’ve selected three of our favorites for a reliable bite with an exotic twist.
At Awash, the basement Ethiopian restaurant at 338 East 6th Street, a meal is a social occasion and the servings ideal for sharing. Our pick are the combo dishes, which all come with the sponge-like injera bread. The decor is low-key and unassuming, the staff friendly and, best of all -- you get to eat with your hands.
For a Serbian feast, fit for the most meat-loving of carnivores, head to Kafana at 116 Avenue C. Specialties include pljeskavica (Serbian-style burger), bacon-wrapped chicken livers, and prebranac (baked bean stew). The portions are generous, the flavors distinctive, and the atmosphere convivial. Plus there’s live music on Tuesdays and Saturdays. To note: it's cash only.
Across the street, at 111 Avenue C, the French-Caribbean fare at Arcane is a rare treat. Perfect for a meal out with a group of friends, this casual restaurant has great music and lots of style. Don’t miss the appetizer-size codfish fritters and the tuna tartare. The $20 pre-fix from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. is a steal of a deal. The restaurant also features a $10 weeknight special and a $10 weekend brunch.
--Anja Mutic of everthenomad.