The Upper East Side is evolving. There are new “cool” Upper East Side restaurants. There will soon be a new, “functional” subway line. There is even a Shake Shack. And yet, in so many ways, this neighborhood remains exactly the same as it was 30 years ago. Some of the best things are the oldest things, including the people. Does Sean Connery have a place in the East Village? No he does not. So what are you even doing there?
Between one nine year resident of the neighborhood and two people who grew up here, Team Infatuation knows this area as well as anyone. That’s why we put together this complete list of all the Upper East Side restaurants that matter, all in one place. Consult it anytime you find yourself in the area, or just the next time you’re craving some expensive Italian food.
Viand is one of the Upper East Side’s great diners. Come for breakfast or come for lunch, but whatever you do, eat a turkey club or a turkey omelette. Viand roasts their own every day.
Sable’s is essentially the Russ & Daughters of the Upper East Side. This is your one-stop depot for the best smoked salmon, sturgeon, and other stuff that goes on bagels.
Forget the restaurants. You know how we know the Upper East Side is changing? WE GOT A COOL COFFEE SHOP. This tiny location of Birch Coffee on 62nd Street serves excellent coffee and has an excellent staff that make a point to get to know the neighborhood regulars. It’s also perpetually packed, proving that there is room for more of this to be happening.
Bluestone Lane recently opened a small shop in on 90th Street and 5th Avenue, in The Episcopal Church of Heavenly Rest. They took over a space that was previously home to a decidedly inferior but also more pious coffee shop called the “Heavenly Rest Stop.” Regardless of whether you’re headed for the holy sacrament or just a meeting with your dog walker, this is a stop worth taking.
Legendary sandwiches, legendary cappuccino, excellent pasta, and even some gelato, all in one very expensive place. Via Quadronno is your best bet for lunch near the Met that won’t suck, but it’s also a great bet for a simple dinner with a friend.
On any given afternoon, this Greek diner on Madison Avenue is filled with a mix of old ladies who’ve been coming for their daily grapefruit and cottage cheese for 30 years, precocious children in school uniforms eating fries, art dealers selling Picassos over salad, and people who just went to the museum. It’s not the best food around, but it is as entertaining a cross-section of the neighborhood as you can find.
A burger and some cottage fries from J.G. Melon is a sure way to a successful Saturday afternoon.
Another classic Upper East Side diner, Neil’s has been in business for over half a century, and the eggs and coffee feel like they haven’t changed a bit since the beginning of that era. That’s a good thing. This is where you come for a simple start to your day.
If you find yourself in the East 70s wishing you had a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s, Pastrami Queen might be the next best thing. The sandwiches are huge and excellent, but not too huge. Not feeling pastrami? The corned beef here is also tremendous, as is the matzo ball soup.
Whether it be for lunch, brunch, or to watch a “football” game at 7 a.m. with all the other healthy people of the Upper East Side, Jones Wood Foundry is one of our favorites. The food is good, the people are friendly, and most importantly, it’s casual and easy. Pull up a seat and do your best not to call it soccer.
Do you love a good Cajun chicken? Are you sort of an asshole? Then Le Bilboquet is the place for you. This legendary spot is a favorite destination for party brunch among New York’s most ridiculous people, and while you’d be more likely to catch us having a meal at the Costco snack counter than you would in this place, it probably deserves a mention here. Shout out to all the pear.
Is this the best restaurant on the Upper East Side? If you’re looking for Italian food in an environment that doesn’t sort of look like your grandma’s house, it probably is.
Beyoglu has been doing a strong business on 3rd Avenue for years, trading largely on the quality of their hummus and doner kebab, and the many outdoor tables from which to eat them. It’s a great spot for a weeknight dinner when the weather is nice.
There probably isn’t better sushi on the Upper East Side, but that’s also sort of like saying there probably isn’t a better place to shop for a fur coat. If you’re ready to drop some serious money on sushi, this is the place to do so. Sushi of Gari is near the top of the list when it comes to high end sushi anywhere in this town, let alone on the Upper East Side.
Not in the market for a fur coat? Sasabune is your sushi version of a vintage kimono. It’s still gonna cost you some money, and you’ll be taken far more seriously when you’re in it. Sasabune is a place of absolutely no frills. Just high quality cuts of fish, presented simply.
We’re all out of high end clothing references, so all you really need to know is that Tanoshi is home to one of the best omakase deals in all of New York City. For $75-80, you’ll get 10 pieces of excellent and unique cuts, along with a hand roll. Also, it’s BYO-sake.
Saving the best sushi on the Upper East for last. Seki and Gari are very similar – Chef Seki started at Sushi of Gari – but we like Seki the most because of the more laid back environment, and the fact that they’re open until 3 a.m. every single day but Sunday.
Poke is a fairly basic sushi restaurant, but it’s been a popular destination with the post-college crowd for decades thanks to its BYOB policy. Because nothing pairs with a spicy tuna roll like some Trader Joe’s chardonnay.
If the Upper East Side has a cool restaurant, this is probably it. Brought to you by the folks behind Fat Radish and Brinkley’s, The East Pole is the one place in this part of town with bartenders in waistcoats and a menu that features vegetables. Use it for date night or dinner with your parents, or just use it for a drink at the bar like we do from time to time. You’re even guaranteed to see some cougars in their natural habitat. Breathtaking.
If ramen is what you’re after, Naruto is the place to get it on the Upper East Side. At $9 a bowl, it’s also one of the best cheap eats destinations in the entire area.
Up Thai is a surprisingly good, surprisingly nice Thai restaurant on 2nd Avenue. You can actually eat many things other than just pad thai here, including the excellent crispy duck and chicken larb. It’s great for takeout, too.
Amali is a great Mediterranean restaurant on 60th Street, right near Bloomingdales and Barneys and probably whatever other shopping destination brought you to this part of town. We like to sit at the bar and eat, but it’s also a solid move for dinner with the parents, or even an early in the game date.
A classic French neighborhood bistro that feels like it’s been around forever, with excellent (though, as you can probably guess by now, not cheap) food. Order the goat cheese salad and a roast chicken with fries, every single time.
We had to put one of the many old school, over-priced Italian restaurants on this list, and Scalinatella wins just because of the likelihood that you’ll bump into Rudy Giuliani or Ruth Bader Ginsburg or some other ancient American luminary while you’re there. The food? It’s fine.
A classic spot for Peking duck, as evidenced by the presence of white table cloths AND a fish tank. Do it on a Sunday night.
Solid upscale Mexican food in a nice backyard setting. We’re fans of all the Toloache locations around town, but this one on 82nd Street is one of the better options for a warm weather meal in the area.
One of the few vegan restaurants in this part of town, and an excellent one at that. Candle Cafe is always packed with people who like to eat “cruelty free” food, though in our opinion, making someone eat a seitan sandwich is pretty cruel.
Looking for an Italian restaurant that won’t break the bank and where you aren’t likely to run into your grandma having dinner? Uva is your move. The prices are good, the crowd is young, and it’s just as useful for date night as it is for a brunch meetup with some friends.
Flex has been a staple of the Upper East Side since it opened back in 2008. The mussels are great and creatively paired with broths of various flavors, and their raw bar is also a good move if you’re looking for some oysters and a glass of wine.
You know that time you ordered chicken tenders at that Irish pub on Third Avenue? Don’t ever do that again. Instead, come drink with your friends at The Penrose and eat their bar food, which is excellent and includes things like fried pickles and a spicy beef sandwich.
Another one of our favorite Upper East Side Restaurants for pasta and a pizza. The food at Bella Blu is not cheap, but it’s always satisfying. Get the penne vodka, a pizza, and their famous Caesar salad and you’re in business.
A Greek restaurant on York Ave. that looks fairly nondescript from the outside, but is anything but once you sit down and start eating. The food is simple, delicious, and made for sharing, which makes Yefsi a great move for a group dinner or that next annoying double date that you have to plan.
Moti Mahal Deluxe is a New York location of a huge chain of Indian restaurants that spans across the continent of Asia. There’s a reason Moti Mahal is so successful, AKA “delux” – the food is incredibly good. Get the butter chicken.
While we love Moti Mahal Deluxe, Om is the Indian restaurant where we eat most frequently. The food is a bit lighter than what you’ll find at other Indian restaurants, while still being incredibly flavorful. And our Indian friends swear by Om’s authenticity, and while that wouldn’t stop us from eating here either way, it’s a nice thing to know.
Earl’s is a tiny restaurant where you can get a nice craft beer and a solid grilled cheese. At least they named it correctly. Hit it for a late night bite after a night at the bars and eat a foie gras taco or a grilled cheese with pork belly and kimchi. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine in the morning.
You can’t really talk about Upper East Side restaurants without at least mentioning Daniel. Yes, this is a stuffy and expensive French fine dining establishment, but if you sit in the salon, you can have a very special meal in a setting that’s a bit more relaxed.
Here is what you should not do – eat at Arlington Club. But you should come here for a drink or two from time to time. The cocktails are actually very good, and the room is cool. Plus, it’ll be full of people hanging out trying to get another drink in before they have to go let the babysitter go home.
The Jeffrey is the best place to drink craft beer in this part of town, especially if you’re looking to do so outside. You’ll find things on tap here that you won’t find in most other bars in the city, and as a bonus, the food is good, too.
This bar on 63rd Street and 1st Avenue has quite the history. It was home to the first ever TGI Fridays, and they also shot the movie Cocktail here. Nowadays it’s a place where people come to watch Premiere League football and get very drunk.
Located in the lobby of the Carlyle Hotel, Bemelman’s is a classic piano bar out of another era with $25 plus drinks that’s ideal for pretending you’re in a hybrid of Gossip Girl and an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. If that’s your thing, it’s worth the splurge, on occasion.