Like the East Village, the Lower East Side hosted successive waves
of newly arrived immigrants, each group imparting to the neighborhood a different ethnic flavor. Mostly residential, the many
immigrant neighborhoods that make up the Lower East Side still actively preserve their language, customs and way of life –
not to mention their cuisine. With its cheaper rents, bargain stores and profusion of restaurants, many students and young
artists have also found this neighborhood a great place to live.
Once a notoriously overcrowded and unsanitary slum, the Lower East Side is now one of Manhattan’s
most fashionable neighborhoods. Most of the bargain-clothing stores and pickle vendors have given way to indie boutiques and
sceney eateries, though there are a few cherished survivors of the former Jewish stronghold, including venerable smoked-fish
purveyors Russ & Daughters and pastrami legend Katz’s Delicatessen. The Tenement Museum keeps the neighborhood’s
history alive in a series of restored apartments visited via themed guided tours, but most of the area’s cultural draws
are contemporary: The arrival of the New Museum on the Bowery a few years ago ignited a gallery boom that still thrives.
The Lower East Side and the
film When Harry Met Sally (1989) are forever intertwined because of the well known ‘Deli Scene’
featuring the two title characters having lunch at Katz's Delicatessen. Probably one of the most memorable moments occurs
when Meg Ryan shows a startled Billy Crystal that certain types of acting come easy for her. The scene ends with Sally casually
returning to her meal as a nearby patron (played by Carl Reiner's mother) places her order: "I'll have what she's having."
When Estelle Reiner died at age 94 in 2008. The New York Times referred to her as the woman "who delivered one of the
most memorably funny lines in movie history". Katz's Deli still hangs a sign above the table that says, "Where Harry
met Sally... hope you have what she had!"
Lower East Side Parameters
Downtown East, from
the Brooklyn Bridge to Houston Street, from the East River to the Bowery.
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