Gaia Italian Café – Great Homemade Italian Sandwiches, Salads and Other Specialties in the Lower Eastside

Gaia is a casual cafe in the Lower Eastside that serves casual Italian food mainly sandwiches, salads and a few pastas.  I found this place fairly recently and I’ve been going most weekends for lunch for the last couple of months as the food is excellent and the prices are very reasonable for the high quality of food you’re getting.

The restaurant is in a weird location on Houston below the street level in a basement type area.  The room has walls with exposed brick and the floors are all wood.  It’s got around 6 tables with magazines on them and it’s generally a very casual place.

The owner is a nice Italian woman who does all the cooking herself.  She clearly takes pride in her food and I really like that.  I will say that while she is great, the other people there are somewhat incompetent and dealing with them can be a pain if it’s crowded as they re disorganized and don’t seem to really know what they’re doing.  However, the food is very good and the owner is great, so I don’t mind at the end of the day, but just a word of warning about that.

Anyhow, onto the food:

Bresaola Carpaccio with Arugula, Parmesan:

Bresaola is a salt cured beef.  It was tender and delicious and paired perfectly with the argula and parmesan. The owner squeezed a lemon over the whole thing, which really kicks it up a notch. This is my favorite dish here. 8.75/10

Arugula Salad with Cherry Tomatoes in Pesto Sauce with Parmesan:

This salad is self-explanatory, but it is excellent.  The pesto sauce goes really well with the parmesan and argula.  This is really good. 8.5/10


This sandwich is prosciutto cotto, mozzarella, tomato, anchioves and mustard.  As a note for all of the sandwiches, the bread that is used is homemade and is amazing (I’d give the bread 8.75/10).  It is thin and crispy and has great flavor. All the ingredients in the sandwich were good.  However, the mustard was sweet and prosciutto cotto isn’t a salty meat, so I thought it made the sandwich a little too sweet.  I would’ve liked it much better if it wasn’t sweet mustard. 7.25/10


This sandwich is speck, taleggio and mixed vegetables.  Speck is a type of ham and taleggio is a type of cheese that reminds me of brie cheese. The sandwich tastes just like it sounds and it was quite good. 8/10


This sandwich is bresaola, goat cheese, lemon and black pepper. The saltiness of bresaola goes very nicely with the goat cheese and lemon.  This might be the best sandwich I’ve tried here.  8.25/10


This sandwich is chicken cutlet, pesto sauce and tomatoes.  The chicken cutlet is breaded and fried and then topped with pesto sauce and chopped tomatoes.  The pesto sauce is very good and the sandwich is tasty.  The only downfall was the chicken was slightly drier than I like, but still good. 8/10


This sandwich is mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes and basil.  This is a very simple and self-explanatory sandwich, but all the ingredients are excellent and paired with the awesome bread this was very good. 8.25/10

Angel Wings:

The owner bakes all of her own pastries, which is commendable as that is quite time consuming.  The angel wings are best if you can get them out of the oven and taste great with coffee.  They are not quite as good if they’ve been sitting around for a while.  8/10

Brioche with Orange Marmalade:

This is pretty self-explanatory.  It was decent although next time I’d prefer it with Nutella, which is the other option. 7.25/10

Lemon Cookie:

This was a lemon cookie with white frosting.  It was okay, but I thought it was a little flat flavor wise.  6.75/10

Strawberry Jam Pastry:

This was an almond paste pastry that was topped with strawberry jam.  I’ve always like almost paste pastries, so that was good.  However, the strawberry jam was too sweet and there was too much of it, so it was a bit overpowering. 7/10

Greek Yogurt with Strawberry and a Touch of Coffee:

This was a simple dessert of Greek yogurt, freshly cut strawberries, honey and coffee powder.  Everything was fresh and delicious.  I really liked this dessert. 8.5/10


I’m not the biggest coffee drinker, but this coffee was quite nice. 8/10

Pear Juice:

While it had good flavor and was freshly squeezed, it was sort of room temperature, which I didn’t think went over so well since it was a pear.  7/10

Overall, I really enjoy Gaia a lot and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

251 E Houston St (between Avenue A & Essex St)
Manhattan, NY 10002
(646) 350-3977

Ed’s Lobster Bar Annex – Exceptional Lobster and Shellfish in the Lower Eastside


Ed’s Lobster Bar Annex specializes in lobster rolls and other shellfish.  I’ve heard about Ed’s Lobster Bar in Soho for a long time, but for some reason I never got around to trying it.  However, when I heard they opened up a branch in the Lower Eastside, I immediately decided to try it as it was an exciting addition to the neighborhood.

The restaurant is located in the space previously occupied by the now defunct Sachiko’s on Clinton Street across from Clinton Street Bakery.  The space has been nicely redecorated with white walls, white marble counter tops and light wood.  The motif works well as I feel like restaurants serving lobster rolls are supposed to have spring colors because I immediately think of New England / Martha’s Vineyard architecture when I think of lobster rolls and this matches that idea.  The restaurant is laid out with a bar at the front of the restaurant, a raw bar in the middle and full tables and outdoor seating in the back.  I enjoy sitting at the raw bar as you can talk to the staff and watch them prepare some of the dishes.

Here’s what we’ve tried:

Oyster Sampler Plate:

This was a platter sampling all of their different types of oysters.  It included Beausoleil, Canada Cup, Rappahannock, St Simon and Tatamaguchi. While each of the oysters had a different flavor, they were all very good and tasted very fresh.  They gave a trio of condiments including a vinaigrette, a chunky cocktail type sauce and horse radish. This was excellent.  8.25/10

Clam Chowder:

I’m a huge fan of clam chowder so I was excited to try their version.  I don’t think I’m a clam chowder connoisseur and I’ve never lived in New England, but I thought this was one of the better clam chowders I’ve ever had.  It was rich and creamy, but not overly salty like a lot of the clam chowders that I’ve tried have been.  The clam in it was nice and didn’t taste overcooked like most clam chowder.  I really liked adding the oyster crackers to it as it added a nice crunchy texture to the soup.  This was great. 8.5/10

Lobster Bisque:

We also tried the lobster bisque, which was also excellent although my girlfriend preferred the clam chowder.  It was creamy and smoky and you could taste the flavor of the lobster.  I really like the smokiness of it. They also added a single lobster ravioli into the soup, which was a nice touch.  This was delicious. 8.25/10

Octopus Crudo:

This was simple poached octopus with olive oil and salt.  The octopus was beautifully tender and the combo of olive oil and salt went really well with this.  This was probably the second best octopus I’ve had in NY with 15 East’s octopus being the best.  8.5/10

Mini-Lobster Roll:

We wanted to try a lot of stuff, so instead of getting the full lobster roll we decided to get the mini-lobster roll.  The roll is toasted brioche, which was really good, it had a nice sweetness to it that really complimented the lobster well and the crunchy texture of the toasted bread was nice.  The lobster meat was excellent; it was perfectly cooked and had a little bit of creaminess because of the sauce they use.  This was really good and I think this might have been better than Luke’s which has been my go to lobster roll spot.  8.75/10

Fried Clam Slider:

This was clam that had been fried in a corn meal batter served on a toasted mini sesame hamburger bun with lettuce, tomatoes, pickled red onions and tartar sauce.  I really liked the corn meal batter as it complements the clam very well.  I did scrap off some of the tartar sauce because I’m not a huge fan of tartar sauce.  Overall, this was solidly good.  7.75/10

Fried Oyster Slider:

This was oyster prepared in the same way as the fried clam except it was served on a tiny brioche with tartar sauce only.  The oyster tasted very similar to the clam and the whole thing was quite good. 8/10


They gave these as a side to the fried clam and oyster sliders.  They are sweet and tart at the same time.  I thought they were really good. 8.5/10

Lobster Tacos:

These were hard taco shells filled with lobster dressed in a Panamanian green sauce and red cabbage coleslaw. The lobster meat was good, but the sauce was too sweet.  While I thought it was good, it was the one thing that I don’t think I’d order again as I thought the sauce was too sweet.  6.75/10

Lobster Ravioli:

These were homemade ravioli stuffed a minced lobster meat filling. The ravioli were nicely al dente and you could tell they were homemade.  The filling was nice albeit quite simple.  The sauce was just a simple cream sauce although I thought it was a bit on the bland side.  It was good, but I think that the dish needs to be a tweaked a little because the sauce led it to being a bit bland. 7.25/10

Fried Apple Pie a la mode:

This was a freshly fried apple pie that looks like an empanada and is dusted with cinnamon sugar.  The filling is apple and cinnamon and the exterior is flaky pastry dough.  It honestly tastes like a really good McDonald’s apple pie. It pairs very nicely with vanilla ice cream. 8/10

Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwich:

This was three small brioches with a scoop of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream.  The brioche is excellent and the buttery and sweet flavor of the brioche goes well with the ice cream.  We both liked the strawberry ice cream the best, but they are all good.  8.25/10

Belfast Bay Lobster Ale:

I kind of had to order this because it’s a “lobster ale”, typical ale that is a big bitter and hoppy, but just wanted to show it because I liked the lobster theme.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ed’s Lobster Roll Annex, I thought the food was exceptional and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

25 Clinton St (bet Avenue B & Houston St)
Manhattan, NY 10002
(212) 777-7370

Luke’s Lobster – Delicious Lobster Rolls in the East Village

I’d heard about Luke’s Lobster for a long time, but for some reason it took me a long time to finally decide to go.  That was a mistake because this place is great.

Luke’s is a tiny shop in the East Village with maybe 10 stools and small counter tops to eat on.  It does have a sort of nice New England type décor that feels pretty comfortable and homey.  However, it is a very small, so it’s not the type of place you’re going to hang around for a long time.

On to the food:

Lobster Roll:

Normally, I don’t like a lot of lobster rolls because they are doused with mayonnaise and diced celery, neither of which I’m not particularly fond of.  Thankfully the lobster roll here is much different (I’ve never been to Maine, so I don’t know if this is how they normally are).  The bread is really good, it’s lightly toasted with a little bit of butter (I believe) and it tastes very fresh, the dough is slightly sweet which really goes well with the lobster.  The lobster meat is really good; it’s sweet and not overcooked.  The meat is seasoned lightly with some celery salt, paprika and a small dab of mayo.  It was excellent, we really liked it.  By the way the roll is a bit on the small side; I could probably eat two of them.  8.25/10

Crab Roll:

The crab roll is the same, but with crab meat.  While it was good, it wasn’t as good as the lobster roll because the meat wasn’t as sweet, so I felt it was a less flavorful than the lobster roll.  However, overall it was still quite good. 8/10

New England Clam Chowder:

This was the one disappointing dish here.  It really just tastes like the same clam chowder you get out of a Campbell soup can.  It was a bit too salty as well.  6/10

Overall, I really liked the lobster roll and I will definitely be coming back.  Highly recommend.

93 E 7th St (between 1st Ave & Avenue A)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 387-8487

Cheeky Sandwiches – Amazing New Orleans style sandwiches in the LES

Cheeky is a small sandwich place that I noticed walking to Chinatown and decided I should try it.  It turned out to be one of the better places I’ve been to in NY in a long time.   It’s one of the many new restaurants that have opened up in the Lower Eastside that is really making the neighborhood’s food scene markedly better.  The owner is a really nice guy from New Orleans and he opened up the place in December 2009.

The place is small and the kitchen takes up a good amount of the place with benches along the sides where you can eat.  Most of the clientele is pretty local and I think are mainly regulars as everyone seems to know the owner and vice versa.  The menu is fairly small and consists of 5 or 6 New Orleans style sandwiches and some sides like chips and beignets.  I love specialist type places and this is a very good one.

Here’s what we got:

Chicken Sandwich:

This is fried chicken on a house-made buttermilk biscuit with coleslaw and gravy.  This is delicious albeit very unhealthy.  The buttermilk biscuit is really good, very flavorful and buttery, not overly salty and just generally good.  The chicken is fried to order, nice and crispy, not overly oily.  It all goes well with the thick white gravy and the coleslaw which is actually mainly just red cabbage (different than normal cole slaw, which I’m not a big fan of).  Really great sandwich. 8.25/10

½ Fried Oyster and ½ Fried Shrimp Po’boy:

This sandwich is unbelievable.  The oysters and shrimp are high quality and fried fresh when you order.  The batter he uses is so good.  It’s dressed with a little mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  The bread he uses is really good too.  It’s pretty self-explanatory, but definitely one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in NY. 8.25/10

Beef Sandwich:

This is braised short-ribs with wild arugula, cherry tomatoes, & horseradish sauce on challa bread.  The bread is really good, semi sweet and grilled similar to a grilled cheese sandwich.  The beef is quite tender and tasty, I would like it to be slightly more together as it’s completely braised until its strands of beef, but nonetheless quite good.  The cherry tomatoes and horseradish sauce go very well with the beef, another winner. 7.5/10


These are similar to doughnut holes, but the batter is a bit heavier than a regular doughnut.  They are fresh fried to order and then dusted with confectioner’s sugar.  I really liked these a lot. 8/10

Big Shot Grape Soda:

They’ve got a brand of New Orleans soda called Big Shot, my GF loves grape soda, its pretty good, not too sweet. 7.5/10

Overall, this is a great restaurant.  I highly recommend going there ASAP.

35 Orchard St (Between Canal and Hester)
Manhattan, NY 10002