katz delicatessen interior

New York City is a rich tapestry of backgrounds and cultures stitched together by the neighborhoods and inhabitants that reside within. When it comes to areas that best showcase the rich cultural diversity, the Lower East Side stands out as a notable source. Beginning at Second Avenue and stretching to the East River, the neighborhood is a vibrant hotspot that offers trendy upscale lounges, some of the finest dining to be found on the East Coast, and a few impressive art galleries. If you’re looking for some great places to soak up an authentic experience of the Lower East Side, try these four spots:

1) Katz’s Delicatessen

In all honesty, Katz’s Delicatessen has to be the central starting point for any excursion to the neighborhood. The history – and the sumptuous smell of food – greets you the moment you walk through the doors. Katz’s has been a local staple dating back to 1888, bringing many together to indulge in classic Jewish deli fare like their pastrami and brisket. Top it off with some rugelach and babka, and take your time to look around at all of the pictures and memorabilia celebrating New York City over the years.

2) Copper & Oak

Tucked away on one of the neighborhood’s more iconic streets, Copper & Oak beckons to those looking for a luxurious and intimate space to enjoy premium whiskey. The bar features a few unique elements, beginning with the rapturous décor built from the oak and copper that compose bourbon barrels and led to inspire the bar’s name. Dark spirits like whiskey and rum are served in this intimate space by the ounce, and one gets a sense of what it must have been like to enjoy a stiff drink here in the days after Prohibition was repealed.

3) Beauty & Essex

This restaurant and lounge is a wellspring of hip elegance, which one gets an appreciation for the moment you walk through the doors. With an entry featuring the former vestiges of a pawn shop, the initial ambience harkens back to the days when the Bowery was a discount marketplace that the entire city flocked to. Continuing inside Beauty & Essex , patrons are greeted with an opulent setting to enjoy dishes that are its equal, such as the orange kissed salmon ceviche. Cocktails with vibrant names like the Old Dirty Bramble are also integral to the overall experience, as the various celebrities who frequent the place can testify to.

4) Mission Chinese

Located on the border between the Lower East Side and Chinatown, this NYC outpost of the popular San Francisco eatery is still a go-to spot for natives and casual tourists alike. There’s a slightly quirky aesthetic (underscored by the website directing you to of all things, a Myspace page) but the biggest appeal lies in the cuisine. The menu draws heavily from the Szechuan region of China, with some dishes adding inspiration from the long-standing Puerto Rican presence in the area. For those seeking a simple, New York City staple, there’s a pizza appetizer on the menu that will satisfy your query.