Our site is full of great restaurants where you can get a special dinner - but most nights are weeknights when you probably aren’t going to pull out a bunch of cash and get dressed like you’re going to the Met Gala. That’s why we have guides like this one. This list has a bunch of spots on the Upper West Side where you can sit down, have an entree, add a drink or an appetizer, and get out for under $30. Use it for your next casual meal with a friend, coworker, or person you’ve been dating for several decades.
Pizzeria Sirenetta is from the same people behind The Mermaid Inn (which is right next door), and the pizzas here are some of the best in the neighborhood. They have thin, crispy crusts with toppings like clam and crumbled sausage, and they’re the perfect size for when you want to eat a full 360 degrees of pie by yourself. They’re all around $20 - but during happy hour (from 5-7pm), a few are $12, and there are discounted drinks and small plates as well. If you want to take advantage of this, get here close to 5pm, since seats fill up quickly.
Jin Ramen is a very solid ramen spot, but the most remarkable thing about it is the selection. You'll find your basic ramen options like shio, shoyu, and tonkatsu, but they also have some less-common types like kimchi and green curry. And that’s only a fraction of the menu. If you don’t want ramen, you can choose from hot or cold soba, lots of small plates, and some satisfying rice bowls with everything from fried chicken to salmon sashimi. Plus, nothing costs more than $20, and the space feels sort of like a little cabin filled with plants and hanging light bulbs.
Every once in a while, you want to sit somewhere and eat a burrito. It’s a natural urge - burritos taste good, and they make a pretty complete meal. The next time you want one on the UWS, go to Playa Betty’s. It’s a California-style Mexican restaurant filled with palm trees and Christmas lights, and you can get a good steak burrito, some tacos, or a plate of tater tots covered in cheese and guacamole here. It’s a fun spot that works well for any weeknight, and it might even make you feel like you’re on spring break.
When you’re looking for a home, there are several things you want to take into account. Nearby schools and transportation, for example. Also, whether or not there’s a Han Dynasty in the neighborhood. There are only two NYC locations, and this one on the UWS is perfect for big groups, sit-down dinners when you don’t want to spend ridiculous amounts of money, and any occasion when you want some of the best dan dan noodles in the city. Plus, unlike at the East Village location, you can make reservations here.
Peacefood is a vegan restaurant, but it isn’t an aggressively healthy place where you’ll eat a full meal and leave feeling like you might have consumed a negative amount of food. We especially like the chickpea fries that are like little fried Lincoln Logs you’ll want to use to build a full-size home, and there are some solid salads and sandwiches as well. This is a great place for a casual meal with a friend or some family members who like to eat plants.
Are you going to bring a date to Xi’an Famous Foods? Probably not. But this isn’t a first date guide. It’s a guide for where to sit down and eat a great dinner without spending more than $30, and this place is perfect for that. Like every other Xi’an location, this one is counter-service and extremely casual, and there are some stools that you can sit on while you eat an excellent plate of chewy hand-pulled noodles with chunks of cumin lamb. You can also add a beer and some dumplings, and still come in under-budget.
There are a few Motorinos around the city, and they all make top-notch Neapolitan pizzas. The UWS location is a perfectly nice space with a bunch of little marble tables, and it’s great for when you’d like to have to have pizza, but you don’t want to order in because you need to spend time in a place that isn’t your home or office. They don’t take reservations, but you can always just grab a beer at E’s Bar if there’s a wait.
Gazala’s is a Middle Eastern restaurant where you can have a plate of shawarma over hummus with a glass of wine, and leave without spending all the money you’ve been saving for a hotel-quality bathrobe. Or you can get something like a chicken wrap and a side of hummus with some extra-thin housemade pita. The food here is satisfying and unpretentious, and the whole place is about as casual and friendly as a friend of a friend’s living room.
Parm is a mini-chain, and it doesn’t try to hide that fact. Just look at the old-timey signs and all the big cans of tomato sauce on display. Fortunately, it’s a mini-chain with reliably good food, and it’s exactly where you want to be when all you’re looking for is a chicken parm sandwich. You can also get some pasta for less than $20, and if you bring a friend, you should be able to convince that person to split some mozzarella sticks with you.
The original Jing Fong is a classic dim sum destination up a flight of escalators in Chinatown. Fortunately for everyone who’s afraid of escalators and/or lives on the UWS, there’s a second location at 78th and Amsterdam. Stop by and get some siu mai, beef ribs, and sticky rice for dinner. This place is significantly smaller than the huge downtown version - but it still has plenty of tables (and bar seating), and you can get some pan-fried noodles and sesame chicken to round out your meal.
If you live on the Upper West Side and never get food at Saiguette, you aren’t taking full advantage of your neighborhood. There's a menu full of Vietnamese options, but the main reason you come here is for a banh mi. They serve a bunch of different kinds with everything from skirt steak to crispy shrimp, but we especially like the one with pork shoulder. Whichever you choose, it’ll be huge, flavorful, and perfectly proportioned, and you can either take it to go or eat it at one of the little counter seats inside.
Senn Thai Comfort Food
If you have 99 problems and you live on the Upper West Side, it’s safe to say that a neighborhood Thai spot is not one of those problems. Almost every dish at Senn Thai costs less than $15, and there’s a big variety of above-average options involving rice and noodles. You can get something like beef curry, rice noodles with roasted duck, or drunken noodles with calamari, and the long, narrow space filled with strings of lights is ideal for a casual dinner with a friend or roommate that you don’t dislike.