Not to be confused with overlapping and ever-growing Chinatown, the Lower East Side is one of the most happening neighborhoods in all of New York City. Houston divides the East Village from the Lower East side on the north side, while Bowery acts as a western border for the neighborhood. Basically the rest of Manhattan located south and east of these two borders can be labeled the Lower East Side.
Run Down: First and foremost, the neighborhood is experiencing one of the fastest transformations in all of the city. As areas like the Bowery, East Village, even Alphabet City climb beyond price ranges of many potential renters, the Lower East Side has suddenly become a great option to fall back on. If you are looking for a summer sublet, a cheaper (by New York City standards) apartment, or simply a neighborhood that has yet to be heavily influenced materialism, this is the place for you. I have found that the area is particularly popular with recent NYU grads. I can hardly walk down the street without running into someone I used to go to school with. The area is young, hip, and heavily involved in all things downtown.
Apartments: Famous for being the melting pot of almost every New York City immigrant group, the Lower East Side's architecture is primarily composed of small, former tenement, walk ups that have been converted to meet modern housing standards. There has been an increase of new construction as of late, however even the newer buildings rarely stand above 15-stories tall. These older buildings were some of the first tenements in all of New York. The older infrastructure means a lot of the apartments feature exposed brick, interesting layouts, and sometimes beautiful gut-renovations.
Renovations come at a price, while those who are a little flexible on size, layout, and updates can really find some deals. (My two-bedroom apartment, while being pretty small, is $2,350/month!) The LES is one of the last pockets of affordable real estate in a market that simply cannot be tamed. To find a Manhattan neighborhood with similar affordability, you will need to travel 100+ blocks uptown into Harlem/Washington Heights. The LES is affordable even when compared to Brooklyn. Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, etc. are all pricier than my hood, not to mention the fact that they are in Brooklyn...
Feel: The feel of the Lower East Side is nothing short of cool. Hipsters walk alongside a large Chinese population that has spilled over from neighboring Chinatown to create an atmosphere only possible in a city like New York. These two groups are intermingled with a shrinking Latino population found on the eastern border of the neighborhood, creating a mosaic of immigrant patterns. Independently owned art galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants line streets like Orchard, Allen, and the Bowery, while new developments along Rivington and Stanton cement the neighborhood's upscale transformation.
Hundred of new boutique hotel units are nearing completion throughout the neighborhood. The Bowery Hotel developers are wrapping up construction of a very similar property just a few blocks away from the swanky Bowery Hotel. In addition, nightlife here is amazing. Whether you're looking for a dive bar with $2.50 PBR's, bottle service at The Box, or something in between, the Lower East Side ("Lower East Packing") is quickly becoming a destination neighborhood. While I have only lived in the neighborhood for two months, here are a few places on my list that have quickly become some of my favorite places.
88 Orchard: Breakfast here is a MUST. The corner coffee shop offers bold flavors at affordable prices while the floor to ceiling windows and expose brick create an atmosphere of creativity, comfort, and community. The bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is making my mouth water!
Noodle Bar: (Stanton and Orchard) If you like Thai, eat here. The cash only restaurant features some of the spiciest, tangiest, and most appetizing entrees at very affordable prices. They also have another location in the West Village
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum: (Delancey and Orchard) is a must see for anyone interested in the areas history. The museum explains how the neighborhood came to be and shows visitors into actual tenement apartments.
Katz's Deli: Made famous by Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally," this Jewish deli does NOT disappoint. Lo this is a great place to hit up if you want to see the more developed part of the Lower East Side.
Co-Op: (Rivington and Essex) By far one of the coolest spots on the LES. Located in Hotel Rivington, this bar/restaurant is somewhat like a Lower East Side Standard Hotel. Endless drunk brunch on Sundays followed by swanky cocktail parties as day turns to night. Check this place out.
169 Bar: (East Broadway and Rutgers) One of the best bars in New York City. Drinks are cheap, good, and the bar is never too busy like some of the neighborhood's more fashionable venues. If you are looking for a fun place to chill, let lose, and eat some delicious $2 dumplings, this is your place.