The Upper East Side’s restaurant scene doesn’t exactly scream destination dining, but the options are certainly plentiful. There’s a surprising breadth of cuisine to be found, from excellent Cambodian fare to satisfying Persian food. Here are the standouts for eating and drinking on the UES, whether it’s for handmade pasta, exceptional late-night omakase, or some standout pastrami sandwiches.Read More
Where to Dine on the Upper East Side
From luxe omakase to atmospheric afternoon tea, here’s where to go on the Upper East Side
Head to this Nantucket import for stellar pastas and vegetable dishes in an intimate chandelier-accented environment. Ultra-fresh produce is a highlight, with frequent seasonal menu shifts and new dish cameos, like ravioli that harness whatever’s in season. The bread is also phenomenal, so be sure to grab a piece or two before the action fully starts.
2. Kaia Wine Bar
Kaia is a rare place in the city to find South African fare, such as bunny chow, comprised of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry, Durban-style Indian samosas, and biltong, a type of meat jerky served with spicy chakalaka relish. It also boasts an extensive South African wine list — making it a solid pick for a glass of wine and snack or a full-fledged meal, especially before heading to an event at the 92nd Street Y, just around the corner.
This casual ramen shop serves up satisfying, affordable bowls of curly noodles in a rich, dense shoyu broth. Top a bowl with roasted pork and sweet corn for a filling lunch — or for an even more hearty option, opt for the chicken cutlet curry ramen. The gyoza, nicely greasy and crisped toward the point of charred, are an ideal starter to share. There are also locations on the UWS and Park Slope.
4. Two Little Red Hens
Cheesecake aficionados, take note: The version served at bakery and cafe Two Little Red Hens is one of the best in town. Here, the decadent, creamy dessert is mild in flavor, with a thick and buttery graham cracker crumb crust and burnished top. Pretty fruit pies with elaborate latticework are worthy choices, too, as are cupcakes filled with chocolate pudding or peanut butter buttercream. Seasonal specials grace the menu as well, like super-moist pumpkin spice cake with apricot-pumpkin cream cheese frosting, offered in the fall.
5. Little Frog
This Yorkville spot, opened in 2016, comes courtesy of chef Xavier Monge, a Minetta Tavern veteran who spent nearly a decade at the West Village staple. The unfussy French fare includes steak tartare, moules frites and a whole roasted duck, served in a classic Parisian bistro-inspired space. The $42 three-course prix fixe menu is well worth a try, with options like a classic French onion soup, crisp half-chicken and crème brûlée.
6. PQR - Pizza Quadrata Romana
Roman pizzaiolo Angelo Iezzi is the pie powerhouse behind this superb spot, his first in the U.S. Iezzi’s pizzas are made using a long-fermented, high-hydration technique, and the crust’s interior is exceptionally delicate. Toppings include burrata and tomato sauce or smoked prosciutto, stracchino cheese, and truffle sauce.
7. Caledonia Bar
This cozy Scottish spot — which is long, narrow, and dimly lit — has dubbed itself the “world’s least pretentious whisky bar.” It offers a wide selection of scotch, as well as hard-to-find bar bites like Scotch eggs, steak and kidney pie, and sausage rolls. There’s also a daily happy hour until 7 p.m. with 50 percent off all beer, wine, cocktails. There’s a second location in the Upper West Side.
8. The Penrose
One of the neighborhood’s best options for cocktails, the Penrose is a welcome respite from the sloppy hoards of drunk private high schoolers at places like Dorian’s and the unremarkable Irish bars that populate the area. Complement a drink or two with above-average American bar fare, and come Sunday evenings for live jazz.
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9. Jaiya UES
The vibe at Jaiya may approximate an early 2000s nightclub, one that could have been featured on Sex and the City alongside Tao and Buddakan, but the trendy cocktails and spacey interior won’t detract from the super spicy but well-balanced curries, soups, and woks here. This restaurant was first established in Elmhurst in 1978 but has since made the move to Manhattan, with a second location in Gramercy. Exercise caution when ordering: even medium spicy is threshold level for most seasoned spice lovers.
10. Pastrami Queen
Some of the city’s finest pastrami on rye can be found at this Lexington Avenue spot, which was originally in Forest Hills and dubbed Pastrami King. The sandwiches are dressed simply with grainy mustard or Russian dressing. The corned beef is tasty, too, so order a sandwich with both pastrami and corned beef and enjoy it alongside some crunchy half sour pickles.
11. Bemelmans Bar
Tucked inside the posh Carlyle Hotel, this classy and pricey cocktail bar — cocktails are upwards of $21 — is a piece of NYC history, open since 1931. It’s bedecked in original murals by Ludwig Bemelmans (the creator of Madeline) and features live piano music, servers in suits, and lots of old-timey New York vibes. Bemelmans makes for a snazzy pre- or post-museum jaunt, but do note that there’s a cover charge once the music starts up, at 9 p.m.
12. Sushi Noz
Sushi Noz landed on the UES to near-immediate acclaim, including a Michelin star. The tranquil room is full of delicate cedar woodwork with an eight-seat sushi counter carved from a single 200-year-old hinoki tree. Details such as centuries-old ceramics and an ice chest to keep the edomae-style sushi cold are very traditional — though chef Nozomu Abe is a charmer. It’s an expensive omakase at $325 per person, but a more lively and lower cost $175 nigiri-only meal is available in a separate room.
13. Gracie Mews Diner
The Upper East Side has no shortage of old school diners, but Gracie Mews, which never closes, seems to have an especially comforting quality, in part due to the unfailingly pleasant service. Settle into one of the big booths: There are a wide selection of cakes at the counter, fresh pancakes, loaded waffles, and omelets at any hour, and floor-to-ceiling windows for people watching.
14. Flora Bar
This minimalist, but expensive, seafood spot on the lower-level of the Met Breuer comes from the experienced team behind Estela and Cafe Altro Paradiso, led by chef Ignacio Mattos. Start with something from the expansive raw bar selection — oysters with Sichuan mignonette or white shrimp cocktail — before mains such as the wagyu steak or lobster and crab dumplings in yuzu broth. In the morning, the accompanying Flora Coffee serves the stellar pastries of Natasha Pickowicz. The long bar is a nice spot for a date or solo meal, too.
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15. Quality Eats
Utilize this meat-centric restaurant for affordable cuts of steak — bavette and hanger for under $30 — and inventive sides, like cacio e pepe orzo, corn crème brûlée, and brown bag curly fries. Dessert is also a standout, like the strawberry ice cream sandwiched between a lemon glazed Doughnut Project doughnut or the highly photogenic birthday cake sundae. Additional locations are in the West Village and Nomad.
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This cozy, casual Italian place that’s been open since 2005 has the look of a country house, with warm lighting, well-worn wood tables, exposed brick, and a hodgepodge of antiques. In fact, its decor is so charming that pieces have even been pilfered over the years, like proprietor Massimo Lusardi’s grandfather’s collection of antique corkscrews. It’s a solid brunch choice, too, for dishes that eclipse standard-issue Benedicts; for late night eating, a special list of dishes like veal meatball sliders, focaccia with Nutella, and pizzas are available after 10 p.m.
17. Jones Wood Foundry
Named after a forest that occupied the space in the mid-19th century, Jones Woods Foundry serves traditional English pub fare. It’s one of the city’s best British gastropubs, and was a relatively early arrival of the genre in NYC. Don’t sleep on the fish and chips, made with beer-battered cod and served with triple-cooked fries. Other menu highlights include a bangers and mash, a solid burger, and a Sunday roast served on weekends.
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New York, NY 10021
NR is the second offering from Shigefumi Kabashima, who owns the excellent ROKC in Harlem. Like the Harlem restaurant, NR serves ramen with unusual broth bases, like beer, and cocktails in unique vessels, like a porcelain egg, but unlike the small and often cramped ROKC, NR has the capacity to seat 120 diners. Only open for dinner.
19. Up Thai
For very reliable Thai fare on the UES, Up Thai is the move. All the familiar noodle dishes are well represented, and the Panang curry and grilled half-chicken with coconut sticky rice are tasty choices, too. When pad thai on the couch is a necessity, Up Thai offers a brisk takeout business.
Feast on solid Persian fare at Persepolis in an elegant, white tableclothed dining room. Focus on the traditionally prepared stews and kebabs, like khoresht fesenjan, a unique blend of pomegranate and walnuts served with shredded chicken. The elegant establishment also offers dishes that deviate from strictly Persian fare, instead representing more general Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus or falafel.
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21. 2nd Ave Deli
This Kosher institution is one of the top places to find reliable Jewish deli fare on the UES. The classics are all there — pastrami and corned beef sandwiches and matzo ball soup — as well as more traditional dishes that are harder to find, like ptcha (jellied calves feet) and kasha varnishkes (bow tie pasta with barley). 2nd Ave Deli expanded to this location in 2011 from the original in Murray Hill, and in 2017 added an upstairs cocktail bar to entice a younger crowd.
22. Mission Ceviche - Restaurant & Bar
This Peruvian spot focuses on fresh, bright ceviches from chef José Luis Chávez, who also runs a ceviche counter in the Canal Street market. This is the chef’s first sit-down restaurant, where he pairs tuna tartare-like tuna tiradito with typical Peruvian dishes like ají de gallina, shredded chicken breast in a creamy yellow pepper sauce. His ceviches are the star of the show, though — they landed the restaurant a one-star review in the Times.
23. Il Divo
Full of glistening chandeliers, framed movie posters, and antique furniture, this plush restaurant dedicated to the movie star Rudolph Valentino serves all sorts of 1920s glamour. The former Il Mulino chef serves Italian dishes like risotto with ossobuco ragout, scialatielli with octopus and spicy ‘nduja sausage, and duck breast with wild cherry sauce, cremini and oyster mushrooms. Owners also have fashion haunt Al Valentino in Milan.
This two-Michelin-starred, James Beard Award-decorated fine French institution from chef Daniel Boulud is the epitome of a special-occasion restaurant. It’s extremely refined, fancy, and expensive; but for a slightly more affordable meal here, opt for the $135, three-course prelude menu available Monday through Thursday before 6 p.m.
25. Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter 2
Alice’s original location is in the Upper West Side, but its two-story east side counterpart is equally, if not more charming. The interior features quotes from the namesake Lewis Carroll book and is unsurprisingly a hit with kids, but the wide selection of fresh scones served with jam and clotted cream, an extensive list of unusual teas, and delicate finger sandwiches will appease even those for whom the kitschy decor is a detractor. Head there after a day in the park or a nearby museum; there are plenty of afternoon tea specials to take advantage of.
This Cambodian restaurant, a dimly lit gem located in the far southeast stretches of the UES, is a 2020 Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient. The extensive menu encompasses curries, roast meats, a number of noodle and rice dishes, and no less than three preparations of frog legs on offer. Don’t miss the Khmer fish cake to start, roast duck in red curry, and tapioca with black beans in coconut milk for dessert.
27. Sushi Seki
Known as a late-night sushi den, Sushi Seki stays open until 2:30 a.m. every day but Sunday. The menu, available in a la carte and omakase form, features all the classic rolls, sushi, and sashimi, as well as a Golden Flower Trio that comes with three special rolls: Golden Tuna Tofu, Golden Salmon Tomato, and Golden Eel Avocado. The restaurant has two other locations in Chelsea and Times Square, but this original outpost remains the favorite for its post-midnight snacking potential.
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Head to Ravagh when a craving strikes for satisfying skewers of meat: The barg kababs, featuring chunks of beef tenderloin, and jujeh kebabs, comprised of cornish hen marinated in lemon and saffron, come highly recommended. Charred tomato and onion accompany meat entrees; choose from an array of soups, dips, stews, and desserts, too. The Iranian-run Persian chainlet has five locations throughout the New York metropolitan area, three of which are in Manhattan, all on the east side.
29. The Jeffrey
Run by the same team behind Fools Good, this all-day craft beer and coffee bar is a casual, roomy hang that’s great for groups. The food holds its own alongside the extensive craft beer list, with burgers and salads to line the stomach, but the true draw is that beer, with a geeky, rotating list of 29 drafts.
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