In My Neighborhood: Chef Leah Cohen’s Guide to the Lower East Side

Now approaching its ten-year anniversary, Chef Leah Cohen’s Pig and Khao was an instant hit when it opened on Clinton Street in the Fall of 2012. In the ensuing decade, Cohen added alcohol to her menu, married her sous chef, had babies, and became so embraced by NYC’s dining scene that her customers have generally forgotten that Cohen got her start on Top Chef. Ten years on, Pig and Khao is still packing them in for Cohen’s fun, heartfelt, and dependably delicious spins on Southeast Asian food. 

For the inaugural post in our new series, “In My Neighborhood,” we asked Cohen about her favorite haunts near Pig and Khao. Wanna know where she grabs a bite before service, or take-out for the ride home? Reader, read on. 

Essex Market

“When Pig and Khao first opened 10 years ago, Essex Market was in a different location and had very limited vendors. At first, I was a little apprehensive of the new location, but the new Essex Market is nothing short of amazing. They were able to keep a lot of the old vendors from the original location while also bringing in so many new, interesting concepts. The whole bottom level has amazing quick-serve concepts from well-known restaurants such as Veselka and Nom Wah Tea Parlor, plus there’s a wine bar, and Essex and Pearl, the hot new Southeast Asian seafood concept. You can do all of your shopping there––from meat to seafood and produce. It’s truly a one-stop-shop.”

Doughnut Plant

“I love doughnuts and they serve up some of my favorites in the city. Whenever I know it’s going to be a long, hard day at work, I stop by and pick up some donuts to make everyone in the restaurant’s day a little sweeter.” 

Mel the Bakery

“It’s hard to find a good bialy, but at Mel’s, they do it right and I’m obsessed. They are sourdough bialys that have just the right amount of chew and they don’t skimp on the onions. While the bialy might be the standout for me, everything else is excellent as well. I especially like their cinnamon rolls and peach pie danish.”

Double Chicken Please

“Truth be told, I’ve never actually eaten at this restaurant. I’ve only gotten take-out. So, if a to-go fried chicken sandwich impresses me, then you know it’s good! I usually get the hot honey chicken sandwich and sweet potato chips.”

Blue Ribbon Sushi

“It’s a classic go-to for me and my husband. They’re open late and we’d come here often after service. The fish is always fresh and the vibe is always chill.” 

Related: Where to Eat and Drink on the Lower East Side

Feature photo courtesy of Pig & Khao