A French Connection on the Lower East Side

An afternoon on the Lower East Side of New York City

When I emerged from the Delancey & Essex Streets Subway Station on New York’s Lower East Side (LES), I had only one place in mind to visit. I had recently heard of the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street as being a rare opportunity to visualize the life of immigrants in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Manhattan's Lower East Side

Manhattan’s Lower East Side

From the station, I turned onto Orchard Street where old tenement buildings with their iconic fire escapes lined both sides of the street. At the museum, I learned that the tour I wanted to take wouldn’t start for over an hour, so I headed north on Orchard across Delancey Street to explore the neighborhood.

Delancey Street, New York City

Delancey Street

The boundaries of the Lower East Side are Canal St. to Houston St., and the East River to the Bowery in Lower Manhattan. There’s much history there as well as new business development, nightlife and music venues. Delancey Street is named after a French Huguenot family that owned much of the land in pre-revolutionary America. Some may know of it from the 1988 film, Crossing Delancey, that was set in the area.

Along the route, there were many types of shops and boutiques, some new and trendy while others must have been there for ages. I also saw many lounges and bars that were closed at that time of day.

Le French Diner, Manhattan's Lower East Side

Le French Diner

I passed by intriguing French restaurants like Zucco Le French Diner above at 188 Orchard and Épicerie Café Charbon below at 168-170 Orchard (now closed).

Epicerie Cafe Charbon, New York City

Epicerie Cafe Charbon

I was particularly drawn to Lucien, a bistro at 14 1st Avenue. I peeked in the window and the look of the place gave me the feeling that I was in France. Although I wasn’t quite hungry for lunch, I decided to stop in for a glass of wine.  Continue reading about my time at Lucien and meeting its charming owner in my article  Enchanted by Lucien Bahaj.

Related guest post on Traveldudes:
New York’s Tenement Museum: An extraordinary look into the lives of immigrants

39 thoughts on “A French Connection on the Lower East Side

    1. Cathy Post author

      So true, John. Unfortunately there aren’t enough of those experiences where we really feel special. That’s why this was so memorable for me.

  1. Abby

    Thank you for a lovely trip down memory lane! I used to live near-ish to there many years ago, and I can’t believe how much it’s changed. I went to that museum a decade ago, at least, and I do know Lucien. So happy you enjoyed — excellent post!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Abby. It must have been pretty cool to live around there. So glad the post brought back some good memories!

  2. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    Wow, this is great! Sadly we don’t hear these kinds of stories enough, but it’s the type of thing that makes me want to fly to NYC and eat at their restaurant just to support them. 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Well, Christy, if you do go to Lucien’s restaurant please tell them I sent you! 😉 Yes, it was one of those experiences that make you smile.

  3. robin

    What a charming story – you must have some charm of your own to attract these encounters. They never seem to happen to me! I get the crazy guy OUTSIDE the restaurant shouting at me…

  4. Renee

    I have never been to that part of NYC, but I will make sure to check it out the next time. What a lovely story, Cathy….Lucien was a very generous host indeed!

  5. Andrea

    NYC is the one place where I find the French restaurants to be as good as (if not better) the ones that are actually in France =) I so miss the food scene there in general, yum!

  6. jade

    Cathy, I loved this story! I didn’t want to you leave your new charming friend! This is my favorite part of traveling- finding and meeting new people and having great connections, especially when unexpected.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Jade. I agree — It does seem like some of the best times traveling or in our daily lives are those that are unexpected.

  7. Uttoran Sen

    This is excellent, good that the owner of the restaurant was so good, always nice to get something extra and a company when you are traveling alone.

    Now looking foreword to your Tenement Museum tour story next 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      I love NYC, too. I think that every time I’ve been there, I’ve found something new and it’s often just by chance!

    1. Cathy Post author

      I’m with you, Grace — nothing like wine and hand-kissing! And that glass of Cahors was particularly nice, by the way.

  8. Pingback: From Shoes to Sex: 14 Intriguing Museums in North America » Traveling with Sweeney

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