I keep going back. My magnetic response to the Lower East Side, which I don't know so well that I would know all the streets without a map, always draws me back to the corner of Rivington and Norfolk (not quite the heart of the LES, either, though they may beg to differ). Especially on a nice day when they open all the black metal shutter-like doors onto the street, I get to enjoy the breeze, the sunshine and the passing sidewalk scene, all at the same time while indulging in great food prepared by the executive chefs of Balthazar (without the noise, crowds, begging and waiting to get a table).
This is Schiller's Liquor Bar. They have everything I could ask for in a restaurant/bar, as you can see below.
They take reservations so, even if busy, it doesn't feel like a mob scene at night. And during the day, it's such a sweet pleasure. For some reason, even on late afternoon weekends, it doesn't have the all-day brunch crowd that drowns many restaurants. I love coming here in the afternoon, especially in the summer and especially by bicycle (where I can keep my bike nearby like a puppy, just outside the open doors), for a burger or salad or just one of their cakey donuts and a Stumptown iced latte.
They also serve a great Pimm's Cup (there's a beautiful long bar here, too), and their wine list is categorized by "Cheap," "Decent" and "Good." But this is not gimmicky place. It's casual and easy and feels like the opposite of a see-and-be-seen place, as you might otherwise imagine for a Keith McNally restaurant (Balthazar, Pastis, etc.). Schiller's is the neighborhood bar and café I wish I had in my neighborhood, where I could sit and linger all day (and, if the free wifi isn't enough, to encourage me further, magazines and newspapers from all over are hanging from wall racks on both sides of the front door). Dining alone is just fine, and it's a fabulous stop to rest the feet and shopping bags while wandering the constantly evolving LES.