The Upper East Side is changing. There are “cool” new restaurants and a few new subway stations that smell like fresh tennis balls. There’s 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?
From OG establishments to new spots that are actually good, this is your complete guide to 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.
Flora Bar is a museum restaurant that doesn’t feel like a museum restaurant. It’s in the bottom of the Met Bruer, it’s from the same people behind Estela, and you might hear some Wu Tang Clan here. The main draw, however, is the food - and theirs is some of the best on the UES. The dishes are all mostly on the smaller side, and you’ll find such things as lamb ribs, mussels with toast, and one of the better steak tartares that you’ll eat in your lifetime. So if you live on the UES and complain about the lack of cool places with excellent food, this should be your new go-to.
The fact that there’s a Russ & Daughters here is possibly the best-kept secret on the Upper East Side. It’s both a full-service restaurant and a takeout operation, and it’s buried in the basement of The Jewish Museum on 92nd Street and 5th Avenue. It isn’t the most accessible (you have to go through a metal detector at the museum, then hop in an elevator or take the stairs), but it still improves the quality of life on the Upper East Side. Stop by on a Sunday morning and get a bagel with some best smoked salmon in the city.
If you’re ready to drop some serious money on sushi, this is an excellent 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, and the individual pieces of raw fish here come topped with things like seared tomato and quail eggs.
Seki and Gari are very similar – Chef Seki started at Sushi of Gari – but Seki is our favorite sushi spot in NYC because of the laid-back environment and the fact that they’re open until 3am every single day but Sunday. So the next time you want sushi late-night and have forgotten that money is a real thing, come here and spend more than you should.
Legendary sandwiches, legendary cappuccinos, 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.
Blake Lane is a fantastic neighborhood spot that’s great for a casual meal and even better via delivery on your couch. The menu is nice and varied - there are gem lettuce salads, chicken salad sandwiches, vegetable bipimbap, tuna tartare toast, and poke - so you won’t ever get bored on your quest to not eat a burger tonight. lt’s an ideal meet-a-friend-and-catch-up type of spot, and 100% the kind of place you can come in your gym clothes.
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.
The East Pole is from the same people behind Fat Radish, and it’s one of the only places in this part of town with bartenders in waistcoats and a menu that features a lot of 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.
Kaia is one of our favorite spots on the Upper East Side, and it feels like sort of like your cool, world-traveling aunt’s place. It’s a South African wine bar where, in terms of food, you’ll find things like elk carpaccio, a lamb burger, and ground beef covered in egg custard. And if you’re looking for something lighter, the kale salad is also very good. Come here for some alone time at the bar, or bring a first date who wants to try some good wine.
Eastfield’s is another spot from the East Pole people, and it feels like the sort of place you’d find in Noho. It’s good-looking, there’s a vaguely nautical feel, and it should appeal to anyone who likes The Smith. The menu isn’t quite as big the one at The Smith, but there are still plenty of options (from a burger to a kale/quinoa macro bowl). This is a good choice for a date night when you’re looking for a spot that has decent cocktails and a good atmosphere. It also works well for brunch.
A panuozzo is sort of like a giant sandwich made with pizza dough, and San Matteo is one of the few places in NYC where you can get one. This place also does about 25 different kinds of pizza (and we tend prefer those), and they also have pasta, calzones, and small plates - which makes this a pretty solid neighborhood Italian option. The space is large, with brick walls and plenty of windows, and it’s perfect for a casual dinner with some friends or a few children that you’re responsible for feeding. Start with some antipasti, move on to the pizza, and order a bottle of wine if you don’t have anywhere to be in the morning.
Peng’s is a Chinese-slash-ramen spot that’s one of the Upper East Side’s more underrated restaurants. We like the ramen here best (particularly the minced pork one), but their dumplings are also solid, as are the broth-less banmen dishes, and the rice donburis. Nothing on the menu is over $15, and there are also plenty of sakes, making this an ideal low-key weeknight meal.
Whether it be for lunch, brunch, or to watch a “football” game at 7am 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.
The Milton is a pub, but it’s a nice one, and your mom would probably even like it. Mostly, they do food like wings and fish & chips, but they also have salmon and a kale salad. Stop by and have a beer or cocktail while you watch some sports, or bring the kids for brunch. This place is versatile, and it’s a good spot to have in your back pocket.
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 option for dinner with the parents, or even an early in the game date.
Is this the best restaurant on the Upper East Side? If you’re looking for Italian food in an environment that doesn’t feel like your grandma’s house, it probably is. Bring a date, and don’t propose, because that would be too obvious.
Say you moved from downtown to the Upper East Side, and the main thing you miss about lower Manhattan is the abundance of dumplings. In that case, you’ll want to know about Tri Dim Shanghai. It isn’t anything especially fancy or remarkable, but the menu is big, it’s affordable, and it’s both nice enough for a dinner with your parents and casual enough for some takeout on the way home from the gym. There are a bunch of big round tables, so feel free to come with a group, and be sure to get some soup dumplings.
Nica is an old-school Italian spot where the owner will probably introduce himself to you. He might also tell you to try the gnocchi, and you should listen to him. This place is pretty small, and it’s cash only - but if you’re looking for somewhere quaint to eat some pasta and a veal chop on the Upper East Side, it’s a great (cash-only) option. There are white tablecloths on the tables, so, feel free to wear a suit here - but you should also know that this is just a slightly fancier neighborhood spot and there is, by no means, a dress code.
A classic French neighborhood bistro that feels like it’s been around forever, with excellent not-cheap food. Order the goat cheese salad and a roast chicken with fries, every single time, and you will be a successful person.
Up Thai is a spot that all UES residents should know about. Not because the food is incredible, but because it’s reliable. We get the excellent crispy duck and chicken larb. The place itself could pass for a prom dinner location, but know that they do a great takeout operation as well.
Looking for an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side that won’t empty your wallet? 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.
Every neighborhood needs places like East Harlem Bottling Co. Owned by a husband and wife team who felt like their neighborhood needed its own Peach Pit (or Central Perk, or Cheers, depending on which sitcom setting you most identify with), East Harlem Bottling Co. has a communal feel, probably the best selection of beers on tap above 86th St, and most importantly, surprisingly good food - brunch is tasty, and both their burger and wings are excellent. Generally speaking, this place is a home run for this neighborhood.
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, and you could probably show up here in your gym clothes.
THEP is just a little more upscale than nearby the Up Thai, and, while we don’t like it quite as much, it still works well for a night out with friends on the Upper East Side. There’s also a lot of outdoor seating, and the main dining room itself is nice and attractive, with high ceilings and a bunch of hanging plants and lamps. Plus the menu is huge, and it goes beyond the usual Thai noodle dishes that your least-interesting friends order.
If you aren’t familiar with the Meatball Shop, you probably haven’t lived in NYC for very long. It’s a place that got somewhat famous for serving a bunch of different meatballs in various ways, and there are several NYC locations, including this one on the UES. Like Calexico, the Meatball Shop is another place on the Upper East Side where you can go when you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to cook, or when you need to go out for dinner but aren’t trying to spend a fortune. It’s also worth knowing their vegetarian meatballs are actually pretty good.
La Esquina Taqueria is, at this point, a mini-chain in NYC. The tacos can be a little inconsistent, but they’re generally pretty solid, and the guacamole is made to order (at whatever spice level you want). This place is counter-service, so unlike the main La Esquina downtown, it isn’t going to be somewhere you bring a date. But there is a little sitting area, and you can always just grab a few takeout tacos on your way home.
Flex has been a staple of the Upper East Side since it opened back in 2008. The mussels are great, and their raw bar is an ideal place to eat some oysters and drink a glass or three 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 includes things like fried pickles and a spicy beef sandwich. Just don’t expect to do so in peace. This place gets busy, and it’s more like a bar on weekends.
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. This place is also a win with kids.
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.
Sandros is a long white room that comes accessorized with a large, friendly Italian man (the owner) who will pour you grappa at the end of your meal. Hit up this old-school Italian spot the next time you’re having a bad day, and the pasta here will get you feeling alright again.
Moti Mahal Deluxe is the New York location of a huge chain of Indian restaurants that spans across Asia. There’s a reason Moti Mahal is so successful – the food is incredibly good. Get the butter chicken.
Mei Jin Ramen is a little spot near 82nd Street where you can sit on a stool and eat a bowl of noodles on a Tuesday night. It’s a solid ramen place, and you can pretty much always just walk in and get a table. Order the miso beef ramen or, if you want something spicy, go for the chili chicken kind. With its brick walls and hanging lamps, it’s also just cozy enough that it should work for a low-key date night.
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.
While we love Moti Mahal Deluxe, Om is the Indian restaurant where we eat most frequently. The food is a bit lighter, while still being incredibly flavorful. The chicken curry here is one of the best in this city, and we’ve also become addicted to the Bhindi Masala (an okra dish) and vegetable biryani. It’s also very reasonably priced, with most dishes coming in at under $15.
Tanoshi is home to one of the best omakase situations in all of New York City. For around $95 you’ll get 10 pieces of excellent fish, along with a hand roll. Also, it’s BYOB.
It’s a Saturday afternoon, and you want a burger. Go to J.G. Melon. This is an old-school establishment, and they do one of our favorite burgers in the city. It’s on the smaller side, but it’s exactly what you want in a burger, and the little round fries will make you wonder why more people don’t make fries like this.
Heidi’s House by the Side of the Road isn’t somewhere you cross the city for, but if you live the area, it might be your second home. Maybe you even have a cute nickname for it, something like HHBTSOTR. This place is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant/wine bar where you can get a burger, paella, mac & cheese, and just a few other things. If you want to show someone that you know about under-the-radar spots, come here.
Felice is a mini-chain with a few other locations around Manhattan, and it’s both well-designed and a little bit pricey. The food is Italian, and, while it isn’t life-changing, it works for a date night on the UES when all you need is a good atmosphere and a plate of pasta. It’s on the nicer side, but it isn’t uptight, and if you need a drink before dinner, they also have a wine bar next door.
If you’re looking for pho on the Upper East Side, your best option is Pho Shop. The chicken pho is especially good - in fact, it’s our favorite soup on the UES that doesn’t have matzoh balls in it. The beef pho is also great, and if you want a sandwich, feel free to get a banh mi. Pho Shop has plenty of seating, but also know that all of this food delivers pretty well.
They aren’t the trendiest Mexican spots anymore, but we’re still fans of the various Toloache locations around town.They do semi-upscale Mexican food, with things like lobster tacos, steak, and various ceviches. This location on 82nd has a particularly nice backyard, and it works well for an outdoor brunch or a warm-weather date night.
Sable’s is your one-stop shop for the best smoked salmon, sturgeon, and other stuff that goes on bagels. It is, without a doubt, fairly pricey for a very casual deli - but it’s worth it.
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.
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.
Quality slice joints are tough to come by on the UES, but Marinara is exactly that. Here there are more slice options than there are days in the month, and a bunch of them are very, very good. You won’t be disappointed by the classic plain or the pepperoni, but their two best are the buffalo chicken and square, balsamic-glazed bruschetta slice. They are both incredible. They also have salads, pastas, and calzones - but you don’t really need these things. Just get a slice or two and either eat them there, or take them back to your couch.
On any given afternoon, this Greek diner on Madison Avenue is filled with a mix of older 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.
Calexico is a California-style Mexican place where you can get jalapeño poppers and/or a burrito in a bowl with extra “crack sauce.” As you probably guessed, it isn’t the absolute best Mexican food in the city - but it’s good for a quick, casual meal when you don’t actually feel like using your own kitchen. It’s also perfect for an inexpensive night out with a friend or two. There are several locations in the city, and this one on the Upper East Side has a big bar and plenty of tables.
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.
You would never guess it, but they have food and alcohol here. The alcohol is more-or-less standard, but for food you can get calamari, cheese curds covered in gravy, or savory mozzarella French toast. Or you can just have a burger. Ethyl’s is a 70’s-themed bar, they do things like bingo and burlesque, and the whole place feels more LES than UES. If you need a late-night snack beneath a disco ball, this is the place.
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 area. There’s just one long bar (and no tables), however, so it isn’t really where you go for date night.
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. Kidding (sort of). If you need vegan food on the UES, get it here.
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.
If you want to know which of the old-school, overpriced Italian restaurants on the UES is the best, Scalinatella wins 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.