Orchard Street NYC: Pickle Day 2012 Part of the Lower East Side Experience!

Exterior of a building on the NYC lower east side

The changes on Orchard Street have been gradual. Its one of Manhattan's most historic parts of town, with dozens of new art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants opening up over the last five years. This Sunday, Orchard Street will celebrate its piece of NYC history with Pickle Day 2012. The 11-year-old festival celebrates the Lower East Side's retail, art, entertainment and, of course, pickles. The festival is an example of how more people are discovering the bustling neighborhood.

Orchard Street businesses have managed to maintain nieghborhood appropriate aesthetics in both exterior design and the goods they're selling. Many businesses have kept the old signage above their windows or in some cases left the signs alone. It still feels like the Lower East Side down here with expensive espressos, designer hoodies, six-figure sculptures in this seven-block stretch from Canal to Houston. The Lower East Side has become one of our favorite downtown destinations, to stroll, look at art, and especially, to eat. 

Line of people waiting to get into gallery on the lower east side in NYC

Lower East Side Art Galleries on Orchard Street

There have been so many new art galleries opening on Orchard Street, especially below Delancey, that it's hard for us to keep track of everything that's going on, so we just show up (Wednesday through Sunday) and see what there is to see. Exhibitions seem to stick around longer down here, but the parties (sorry: the "openings") are more fun, less sceney, and the art itself leans more toward the outsider, and the underground. You won't find any blockbuster shows on Orchard Street, but you definitely will always see something interesting, or provocative, and maybe even spectacular. The venues themselves vary widely in their appearance, with some, such as Bosi Contempory, CollectiCo, and Scaramouche are more on the polished side. Other galleries like Orchard Windows, Strange Loop (above), and Paddington, which are little more than unrenovated storefront shells packed with art.      

People admiring art work at a gallery on the lower east side in NYC

Crowded restaurant in the lower east side of NYC

Orchard Street Restaurants: An Intersection of the Lower East Side

As far as food goes, well, if you're hungry, you're in luck. Orchard Street is anchored to the south by the lovely Fat Radish (above) and its new, oyster-centric sister restaurant Leadbelly across the street. The neighborhood also includes gems like the recently expanded Cafe Katja (for meaty Austrian delights), An Choi (Vietnamese sandwiches and noodles), Lost Weekend (for Blue Bottle coffee and a chill vibe), Cheeky Sandwiches (with Po Boys!). For anyone interested in cheap eats, check out Sticky Rice, the new Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, the underrated Georgia's Eastside BBQ (order the ribs), the always-reliable Noodle Bar, and the superb Mission Chinese Food (below). In our opinion, the Mission is hands down one of the best new restaurants of 2012. That's a lot of quality dining in a short stretch of real estate.   

Foodies enjoying the Mission Chinese restaurant on Orchard Street.

Orchard Street shopping in NYC's Lower East Side.

Orchard Street Shopping

Finally, there's Orchard Street shopping, mostly for clothes. It's a terrific combination of high-end trendy stuff, hip-hop and skate shops, the pioneering Reed Space is always worth a browse, especially for sneaker heads. There's also several bespoke hat stores, and old-school discount places. Not exactly something for everyone, but certainly plenty to look at. And don't miss the wonderfully bizarre-o window display at the Orchard Express Tailor Shop (bottom), just below Rivington Street, filled with all sorts of weird, random items, none of which have anything to do with tailoring. 

Tenement Museum building on Orchard Street, Lower East Side Manhattan.

Tenement Museum Tour

If you've never been on one of the Tenement Museum's tours, they are an educational/entertainment treat definitely worth your hard-earned dollar. We've done the "Meet Victoria Confino" twice over the years, and it was a hit both times–especially if you have out-of-town visitors this holiday season. 

Window display at the Orchard Express Tailor Shop.

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