Konichiwa kiddos!! Down in the East Village, you’ll find a cluster of Japanese establishments that serve all of your favorite delights from the Land of the Rising Sun. Known unofficially as Little Japan, the area is considerably smaller than other ethnic neighborhoods like Koreatown, Little Italy, or Chinatown. There’s a handful of eateries that line St. Marks Place and the surrounding blocks. Here, you’ll find authentic ramen, udon, sushi, yakitori, and everything in between. Not to mention, most of these places are pretty cheap too!! Only a few blocks from campus and most of the dorms, it’s the perfect area to grab an affordable meal. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:
Best Bakery: Panya Bakery (8-10 Stuyvesant St)
I remember when my RA from freshman year took us on a walking tour of the East Village on our second day in the city, and he ended the excursion with a final pit stop at Panya. I’ve been hooked ever since! Panya not only features an array of delicious Japanese cakes, breaks, and buns; but they also have an incredible selection of super cheap bento boxes, sushi, yakisoba, and other snacks in their to-go fridge that go for about $7 or less. And not to mention, all of the food on their shelves go for 50% off after 8PM!! My favorite item definitely has to be their Japanese breakfast. Served until 5pm, the meal includes salmon, rice, miso soup, salad, and a sampler of vegetables, all for around $10.
Best Tapas: Village Yokocho (8 Stuyvesant St)
Looking for a late night snack? Grab some friends and head right next door to Panya. Village Yokocho is open from 5pm to 2:30am to satisfy all your evening munchies. The entrance is unassuming…you can easily mistake it for the front door of an apartment building since there’s no visible storefront from the street level. Head upstairs, and immediately you feel like you’re in Japan! Village Yokocho specializes in small dishes like yakitori, tempura, gyoza, sashimi, and various other Japanese treats. Think of it like Japanese tapas. Plates are only a couple bucks a pop, so be adventurous and expand your culinary boundaries beyond a California roll!! Some of my personal favorites…fried squid legs, beef tongue yakitori, and the octopus balls!
Best Udon: Udon West (11 St. Marks Pl)
This is one of the great, cheap hole-in-the-wall gems on St. Marks. Udon West only has about 10 seats along a counter with a small table in the rear for larger groups. You can grab some of your typical Japanese mainstays here—katsu curry, soba, and of course…udon. The best deal definitely has to be their combo sets. My usual go-to is the $9.95 spicy tuna-don set, which includes a pretty hefty bowl of udon noodles swimming in a fragrant fish broth with a side of spicy tuna over rice.
Next week I’ll fill you in a couple more of my favorite Little Japan hot spots. Until then, sayanora, soredewa mata!