Freemans Restaurant at the end of Freeman Alley is definitely something to be experienced.
There are some restaurants in New York that hold a certain cache due to their hidden nature. Some are hidden behind phone booths, others are tucked away in the basement of brownstones. Freemans is no exception.
The LES can be confusing on its own, but Freemans is truly hidden.
You have to want to find it. Wander down Bowery or Chrystie past the streets you wish had numbers (because good gosh, the grid is so much easier) until you get to Rivington. No matter which street you are on, you'll be able to see to the other side. About halfway down the block on the northern side, there is a street sign for Freemans Alley. Listen to the curiosity rather than the fear, and head down the alley until you see a plethora of plants and the warm blue door.
You'll have to pull open two sets of doors, and the hostess stand will seem to magically appear right behind you. Before you face her, you will face a beautifully tiled wall reminiscent of the French countryside, taxonomy, and indoor trees climbing up the walls. The well-stocked bar will entice you to sit, but take the opportunity to sit around the cozy dining rooms if you get the chance.
I must admit to you, most of the magic of Freemans is the experience. It is beautifully decorated, and makes you feel as though you have been transported from the grittiness of the Lower East Side to a cozy, French find. It is worth wandering up the winding stairs to the library room, but be prepared to never want to leave.
Our food was not special, but the experience was. The Waldorf salad and lamb sloppy joes were unmemorable, but I wanted them to be as delicious as the Freemans feel. Perhaps we came when the chef wasn't having a great day. Honestly, I would be willing to try again because of the feeling you get sitting on the studded leather benches looking at ginger jars, stag heads, and the quintessential downtown crowd.
Freemans at the end of the alley has a piece of my heart because of the unique experience it offers. I truly hope we just went on a bad day, because I cannot imagine that I won't be back.