In some ways, the Upper East Side remains exactly the same as it was several decades ago. In fact, some of the best things are practically ancient, including the consulate buildings next to Central Park, burger institutions, the ghosts haunting The Met, and certain French fine dining establishments. But, just like shiny new Q train subway stations, there are a lot of new restaurants that will make your Upper East Side life better, too. And this guide has all of them, all in one place. Consider it our list of the Upper East Side greatest hits, and the only list you’ll need whenever you’re in the area.
You can’t really debate the best Upper East Side restaurants without at least mentioning Daniel. Yes, this is a stuffy and expensive fine dining establishment. But their prix-fixe meal is also one of the best dining experiences you’ll ever have. (There are two options, four courses for $158 or seven courses for $250). In case you want a special meal that’s a smidge more relaxed than what happens in the main dining room, you can order a la carte in the lounge.
Seki is our favorite sushi spot in the neighborhood. It’s similar to Sushi Of Gari – Chef Seki actually started there – but we like this place slightly better because the high-quality fish isn’t drowned out by sauce, and you can always expect a late-night scene. You’ll see a full cast of characters here, like people who have lived in the neighborhood for twenty years sitting at the bar for omakase, as well as sleepy chefs eating after their shifts. If you don’t want omakase, order the $49 special, which comes with nine pieces and a handroll and will give you a sense of their all-time greatest pieces.
Sushi of Gari is the reason Sushi Seki even exists in the first place (the chef trained here and borrowed a lot of specialty pieces from Gari). Our favorite thing to get here is the sushi omakase, which includes a broiled tomato over salmon piece that will legitimately change your month. But you can also come to Gari and spend less on a sushi or sashimi platter.
If you’re looking for the kind of UES night that involves long crunchy breadsticks and overhearing six Italian men argue over many glasses of red wine, you can’t do better than Sandro’s. Between the Roman pastas and lemon-y veal scallopini and the friendly servers walking around pouring everyone grappa, remember this place the next time you’re having a bad day. The bucatini amatriciana should help.
J.G. Melon’s burger is iconic. It’s griddled and crispy on the outside, peachy pink and soft in the middle, and apparently, it’s Gigi Hadid’s favorite burger in the entire city (rightfully so, Gigi). You’ll think about it every time you need a cheap lunch near the Met or feel overwhelmingly sad, happy, or drunk. Also, the J.G. Melon cottage fries are just as important as the burger itself. They’re round, tiny, and will make you wonder why more burger places don’t make fries like this.
You’ll find the UES’s best slice at PQR. The rectangular pizza here has a crispy crust covered in things like broccoli rabe, burrata, sausage, and pumpkin (which is infinitely better than it sounds). You could theoretically sit down at PQR, but more likely you’ll pick up a slice and eat it at or on your walk home.
If you live near Heidi’s House By The Side Of The Road, it might already be your second home. Maybe you even call it “(your name)’s House By The Side Of The Road.” This place is the most reliable spot in the East 70s for a solo dinner or casual catch-up involving some wine and perfectly crispy mac and cheese. If you want to prove to someone that you know the best under-the-radar spots in the neighborhood, bring them here.
A duck salad consisting of thinly-sliced meat. A rich red curry with pungent, ground fish and silky noodles. Sweet meatballs that taste like all the pieces of pork you’ve ever loved. These are just a few things you’ll get to eat at Angkor Cambodian Bistro, a UES restaurant on the last possible block of 64th street before you’d have to start swimming in the East River. You can think of it as the official best secret of the East 60s. Use that information wisely.
If you find yourself in the East 70s wishing for a perfect deli sandwich, let Pastrami Queen be your north star. These sandwiches come on soft rye with exactly the right amount of lean meat. All you need to do is add mustard. Not feeling pastrami? The roast turkey here is also worth your respect and affection, even though it’s objectively a less sexy option. Either way, get some matzo ball soup and a plate of half-sour pickles in the mix, too.
Uva is the best choice if you’re looking for an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood that doesn’t feel like you’ve broken into a diplomat’s house. Uva’s food is pretty simple, but their enclosed back garden happens to be one of the most ideal settings for an affordable date in the city. So the next time you want to appear classy without looking like you’re trying too hard, this is where you should go to eat salads, gnocchi, and plates of cured meats.
JoJo used to be a stuffy Jean Georges French restaurant. Then it got a makeover, and reopened as a much more modern version of itself (still run by the same people). The French-leaning dishes are still excellent, including one of our favorite roast chickens in the entire neighborhood. Come here for a nice date, or direct someone here who wants a cool uptown spot with great food but needs a break from Flora Bar.
An upscale Greek restaurant on York Avenue that dates, your niece, and potato lovers all generally approve of. Not to mention, our absolute favorite Greek spot in the neighborhood (and one of the best in the whole city). Order the zucchini chips, lamb souvlaki, and anything that comes with a side of Greek potatoes - they’re lemony and inexplicably soft. We’d just suggest saving Yefsi for dinners where you’re comfortable spending about $50 per person. The seafood and meat entrees are expensive, but especially good for sharing.
Great sandwiches, tiny cups of espresso, excellent pasta, and even some gelato, all in a charming Italian cafe. Via Quadronno is the best lunch spot near the Met, but it’s also highly useful for a last-minute dinner with a friend.
You should not go to eat Indian food at Moti Mahal Delux without ordering their famous butter chicken. It’s cooked in a clay oven, deep brown in color, and incredibly rich. The UES location is part of a huge chain that spans across Asia (and the owners also run Awadh on the UWS and Bhatti Indian Grill in Midtown East). There’s a reason it’s so globally successful. Eat the butter chicken, and it’ll become obvious to you, too.
As you’ve probably gathered from this guide already, the UES has its fair share of incredible places to have a sushi omakase experience. Tanoshi is yet another one, but it stands out because of its BYOB policy. Their omakase costs $95, and comes with 10 pieces of excellent fish, a hand roll, and an open forum to drink whatever you want by yourself or with a date.
You might know Elio’s as the place where you went with your family once in 2009 or where Gwyneth Paltrow had her 40th birthday party. This classic Italian restaurant is consistently full of loud groups crowded around circular tables, plenty of people wearing jackets, and servers balancing martinis on trays. Even though the food is better at Sandro’s, Elio’s is more fun because it feels like a celebrity hangout from the ’80s. Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time - it gets packed in here (even on weeknights).
Out of all the casual Thai restaurants on the UES, we’ll consistently send you out of your way for Bangklyn. Partly to experience the food (like Southern fried chicken, creamy green curry, and tamarind coconut milk noodles with crab) and partly to experience the unusual set-up. The owner of the restaurant used to be a big deal in the Thai street fashion world, and he uses the restaurant as a vintage clothing shop for his collection. Before coming to Bangklyn, we had personally never eaten noodles next to a pile of vintage jumpsuits. And, now that we’ve done it, we’d recommend everyone do the same.
Is this the best Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side? If you’re looking to eat a plate of $22 bolognese anywhere near the 92nd Street Y, it probably is. Sfoglia feels slightly nicer than your average neighborhood Italian spot, but it’s not quite formal. Bring a date, and focus on the pastas.