100 Stanton St, New York, NY, 10002elreynyc.com
This tiny Lower East Side eatery churns out veggie-centric, feel-good fare all day to hip neighborhood regulars. All the cooking happens behind a tiny counter where head chef Gerardo Gonzalez plates vibrant dishes like the nutty, crunchy, and deeply satisfying grains and crudité salad (always add the beautifully pink beet-pickled egg) or the deconstructed falafel, a mound of chickpeas, cauliflower, and pickled cabbage atop warm, house-baked za’atar bread. El Rey recently expanded with dinner service, which includes the only meat item on the menu—marinated chorizo with orange zest and sweetly roasted garlic. The excellent coffee program is run by Brooklyn-based Parlor Coffee, and draft beers and wines are also on offer.
— Koun Bae