Not all that long ago, New York’s Lower East Side was mostly populated by skint artists, insalubrious rockers, the narcotically challenged and an ethnic mix of people to whom it was just, well, home. There were also only two real places to eat: Katz’s Deli and El Sombrero. You prepped for a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge with cheap tacos and tequila shots—and attempted to stave off hangovers with a 4 am knish.
Now the neighborhood flaunts Michelin stars and international luxury hotel brands—grumbling about the past won’t change anything. But wildly successful hotelier Sean MacPherson was actually a central figure in the notorious heyday of Downtown NYC nightlife. And his first LES property, The Ludlow—opened in 2014—feels as perfectly Lower East Side as The Bowery Hotel feels East Village (and The Marlton feels West Village).
Admittedly, weekend late nights on the LES can now find one navigating what feels like a casting call for The Bachelorette. But plan right, and you can also enjoy a fabulous Saturday and Sunday here, without ever going north of Houston Street.
Here’s how to do it.
Loft King Room at The Ludlow
Noon: Arrive at The Ludlow, drop your bags, request an upper floor room with a sprawling city view. Take leisurely a stroll, arriving for lunch at Dudleys, a groovy all day affair where you can order everything from rice bowls to cheese toasties to schnitzel salads.
3 PM: Check in, spend a lazy hour flopping around on the extremely comfy bed, while raiding the minibar and taking in the glorious New York panorama.
4 PM: Pop out to contemporary galleries like Richard Taittinger, Rachel Uffner and Marianne Boesky, to get a vibe on the burgeoning LES art scene—which has been stealing the conversation away from Chelsea. Stop in for a naughty souvenir at Babeland.
Richard Taittinger Gallery
Dirty French at The Ludlow
7 PM: Settle in one of the cushy Lobby Bar sofas, order up grilled oysters and a round of particularly stiff tipples, like the Ludlow Gimlet and the bourbon based Pigalle. Groove to your fave Prince, Talking Heads and Duran Duran classics, which make up the hotel’s retro cool soundtrack.
8 PM: Do early cocktails at the sceney Leadbelly, or catch the next indie darling at the Rockwood Music Hall.
10 PM: Late dinner at Dirty French, the hotel’s supremely buzzy restaurant, which serves up surprising takes on French classics like Provencal scallops, short rib Bordelaise and duck a l’orange. It’s a particularly electric scene after 9pm.
Midnight: Watch Scorcese’s Gangs of New York back in your room. It’s set in turn of the century LES.
10 AM: Order up room service coffee.
11 AM: Take a walk around the Lower East Side when it’s actually quiet. If the weather isn’t cooperating, pop in to the Tenement Museum for an enlightening bit of LES history.
Noon: Have the hotel book ahead for brunch at the perpetually cool Freemans. Hard to imagine, but when Taavo Somer opened it in 2004, there was nothing else like it (old-timey style, plentiful taxidermy, classic Americana cuisine). Despite the scores of imitators since, it’s still the hippest and the best. Indulge in such hearty fare as baked skillet eggs shakshuka, buttermilk pancakes and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits.
2 PM: Check out the current exhibitions (which at the moment include Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories and Andra Ursuta’s Alps) at the New Museum, one of NYC’s most forward-thinking art institutions.
3 PM: Take a caffeine break at Caffe Vita, which, despite the Italian moniker, is actually an export from Seattle, serving exquisitely realized, house roasted coffee.
4 PM: Undertake a uniquely LES shopping spree, including stops at the Odd and Assembly boutiques, and a retro vinyl pilgrimage to Deadly Dragon Sound.
7 PM: Believe the hype with dinner at Ivan Ramen. Start with furikake spare ribs, before moving on to the delectable main events, like chicken dan dan and spicy red chili ramen.
9 PM: Join the local cocktail disciples warming the seats Attaboy, a sophisticated spot lorded over by Milk & Honey alums Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy. There’s no drinks menu…so consider it an adventure and an edification.
9 AM: Have a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon scramble and crispy potato pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, before checking out and showing up late to the office.