And just a heads up I’m not talking about the Gossip Girl version of the Upper East Side. I will not even touch Park Avenue, because you all should know FULL WELL I don’t live, shop or eat there. Ain’t no average twenty-something got money for that.
I must admit that before Stephen and I moved the this neighborhood (despite living in it at the time already), I was hesitant to stay in the UES. I was still pretty new to New York and I craved the action that you get in more tourist-heavy areas. I saw lots of babies and old people in the UES and assumed that was all there was to it. I also lived further east at the time which was more in the Yorkville-dead-zone than in the heart of the Upper East Side.
Luckily, common sense kicked in after checking out a few apartments in the Lower East Side/East Village neighborhoods. What we could afford there was essentially a closet-sized-studio and not even in the exciting parts of the neighborhood. I knew after viewing just one UES place that I couldn’t make that a home and would have to settle for the UES. Two years later in our apartment, and I’m head-over-heels with our street. We’ve ate at almost every restaurant in a three block radius and dang UES has some gems in it.
Stephen and I pride ourselves in trying new foods (especially cuisines I doubt you can even find in our home state of Florida) and truly experiencing the city. I have to say, I feel like we really slayed it thus far. I mean we’ve got 2nd Avenue DOWN. If we haven’t been there, we’ve heard about it and know it a) sucks or b) is on our list for a weekend with guests.
It’s been a fun and fattening ride, so hopefully all my gained calories can help you more than make my dresses tight.
Are you signed up for the newsletter? I’m sharing my publicly viewable custom Google Map with all of these locations marked and ready to be explored. The link will only be available to my subscriber babes. That’s where I put all the goodies anyway, so whatcha waiting for?!
I broke everything down the best way I know how. Every restaurant listed is one we’ve been to and there are only maybe five on here that we’ve only been to once. If we’ve only been once, it’s likely because it was expensive and we’re just saving up to go back. I swear you not a single thing on here is anything but quality food, as far as we’re concerned.
Well, actually some of the 2nd Avenue Bar Crawl spots are a little iffy in quality, but with a group of friends and in the order we’ve carefully specified… you’ll have a ball. That’s right I’ve included a bar crawl AND prime Instagrammable foods that can be found here, because I obviously know the important things in life.
Happy eating and drinking, my friends. Oh, and comment below if you think I’m missing something.
- Bagel Bob’s: When I lived on York, I lived for this place. I still think it’s the best bagel in NYC, and I’ve tried A LOT of bagels. They’re fluffy, soft and the restaurant is insanely efficient.
- What I order: everything bagel with strawberry cream cheese OR everything bagel with sausage, egg and cheese
- Bagel Shop*: Only this year did we discover this place that’s a little closer to our apartment and rivals Bagel Bob’s. If I put my personal attachment to Bagel Bob’s aside, I might even say it ties with it…
- What I order: everything bagel with sausage, egg and cheese
- The Penrose: Honestly, NYC brunch is everything we basic biotches have made it out to be. The Penrose does brunch right when you want to eat amazing food, but don’t need all the mimosas. It’s also insanely adorable in there.
- What I order: avocado on toast and I share a side of hand-cut fries with Stephen
- Maya: The beauty of this place is that it’s all you can drink and all you can eat. You read that right. It’s crazy. You get to switch drinks and try al the tapas on the menu (oh yeah, all you can eat TAPAS), so the experience is incredible. It’s a great deal, about $60, for all that food and all those drinks. We love this place with large groups.
- What I order: literally everything
- Two Little Red Hens: This little place reminds me of a little old lady’s kitchen. It’s decorations are precious, the staff are always courteous and the baked goods are mouthwatering. It supposedly has one of the best cheesecakes in NYC, but I don’t like cheesecake that much so I can neither confirm or deny. I love this spot for (pricey, but worth it) birthday cakes.
- What I order: peanut butter fudge swirl cupcake
- DTUT*: This place is just amazing. It’s got such a cool vibe and has plenty of tables, sofas and cozy spots for you to work during the day. Some things to note: I’ve tried to have a meeting there before, and if you go too late or not the weekend, it gets a little too loud for that. Also, they do not offer wifi on the weekend, so don’t try to work there then unless you’re like penning a book or something. It’s the only place on this list three times…
- What I order: latte
- Cafe Jax: This place is awesome for working. Upstairs looks like a tiny hole-in-the-wall, but once you get your cup o’ Joe, you follow the stairs down into an online business owner’s oasis. There are sooo many vintage tables, chairs and sofas for you to sit at. The wifi’s decent and there are quite a few extension cords around. Also, it’s a known fact that you’re supposed to be pretty quiet down there. People that come with friends or colleagues literally whisper. It’s magical.
- What I order: latte
- The Mansion: This is the diner-est diner of them all. A diner with lots of old people in it is always a good sign to me, and this one is always half full of them. It’s packed, but quick service and has anything you could dream of ordering. It’s great for breakfast and lunch, moderately priced and feels home-y. Best diner in the ‘hood for sure.
- What I order: eggs Benedict or the chicken Caesar wrap
- Midnight Express Diner: Second to that would have to be this diner. It’s actually pretty cute for a diner, and again can feed anyone good breakfast and lunch. It also has been a late-night spot for us which is a pretty impressive diner quality too.
- What I order: classic eggs Benedict or south of the border panini
- Mel’s Burger Bar: This is a great little bar and grill for those of us that want options. It has lots of fries and greasy burgers and all the beer. They also have this game where you try to put the ring on a string on a hook… it’s very entertaining. I wouldn’t say they’re the best burgers I’ve ever had, but some of the better ones in our ‘hood.
- What I order: the fat Mexican burger and we share a side of garlic fries (sweet potato fries are also delish)
- Flip Sigi*: This is the newest spot for us and it has become a fast favorite. We went twice in one weekend, and Stephen is constantly talking about going back. I don’t blame him. Between the two of us we’ve tried four things so far and each one was unlike anything we’ve had before and SO tasty. Stephen ordered the burger and it got soggy fast, which would usually deter me from eating, but I tried a bite when he got to fork and knife status: STILL AMAZING.
- What (Stephen) orders: DP Burger
- Rathbones*: Meet “our bar.” It’s likely the neighborhood spot we frequent the most. The bouncer and hostess know us, we’ve tried most of their specials, and we recommend it to all our friends. Stephen loves everything about this place, but I think it’s best for 1. the chill, sports bar vibe 2. Wing Wednesday’s. Wing Wednesday’s are heavenly, ya’ll.They serve 35 cent wings and $12 pitchers of Coors every Wednesday night. It’s a deal unlike anywhere else in NYC, as far as I know. What’s even better: these wings are actually incredible. Better than any I’d pay $3/wing for. We basically pay $22 (after tip) for 15 wings, a pitcher of beer and a basket of fries. If you live in NYC, you know just how dirt cheap that is. Number one tip from us is to go there 10- 15 minutes before 7pm, unless you’re cool with standing at the bar and waiting for an hour. It gets packed fast, so either be ready to drink the cheap pitchers for a bit or get there early.
- What I order: 5 medium wings, a pitcher of Coors and we share a basket of fries
- San Matteo Pizza Expresso Bar: I’m talking about the one on 2nd and 90th. There’s a new one, but to me it’s not the same. This is a whole in the wall with about four people working there: two at the visible brick oven, one manager who serves you and one hostess who handles deliveries and seating. It seems simple, but there is nothing simple about their decadent, soft pizzas. The textures of both the fluffy crust and the soft, thin middle are the perfect pizza, in my opinion. You’ll feel like you’re in Italy (says someone who’s never been there, but this is what I imagine it’s like).
- What I order: wine and prosciutto e bufala pizz
- Pizza Beach: This place serves great pizza for slightly cheaper than San Matteo and slightly lesser quality. That being said, it’s again a fantastic vibe with adorable decor and a great place to go when you have more than two people with you. San Matteo gets too tight for that.
- What I order: margherita pizza
- Gotham Pizza: This is my go-to spot for cheap pizza and individual slices. We love to order a box of this and watch a movie or bring it to the park with friends. It’s not quite a $1 slice, but honestly, I’ve stopped buying those anyway. I’d rather pay a $1.5o more and get something like this.
- What I order: white pizza or pepperoni and garlic
- Arturo’s: A blogger friend recommend this, and we took my mom once… I adored it. There are two spots in Little Italy that I like the most for authentic Italian, BUT this comes in third for all of Manhattan for me. That’s saying something. I appreciate how old-fashion it is. Again, feels authentic to me.
- What I order: wine and cheese ravioli
- Il Salumaio: I love this place for wine and cheese, and always say I’ll just go for that, but always end up getting pasta too. We’ve had quite a few sweet date nights at this tiny spot and have never left without getting a bottle of wine, an appetizer AND a pasta dish.
- What I order: wine, bruschetta and Tortellini Panna, Prosciutto Cotto e Funghi
- The Meatball Shop: This is an NYC classic spot, but the kind that I never get tired of. I like that you order by using a dry erase marker on your menu, and I love finding out what the daily specials are. You an also get it to-go and head to the best Upper East Side park (Carl Schurz), to enjoy it on the water.
- What I order: mini buffalo chicken balls and spicy pork balls with parmesan cream sauce over rigatoni
- La Pulperia: This was one of those places where you eat things you think you’ve had a hundred times before, but the way it’s made and its flavors are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. This definitely got pricey, especially since we splurged on sangria/beer and an appetizer as well. I know I’ve said this before, but it was truly worth every penny. I’ve been dreaming of the queso fundido ever since.
- What I ordered: red sangria, queso fundido and black seafood spaghetti
- Flex Mussels: I know nothing about what to order here if you don’t like mussels, so if you have a problem with them just skip and know your life is a sad one. LOL I kid, but this place does mussels so well. I recommend getting different kinds of mussels than the people you go with, and try everything. You will be amazed at how they make one type of food pair so well with so many different things. They also give you bread that you better dip into the sauce your mussels soak in, and then just keep asking for more.
- What I order: Mexican Flexy Mussels
- Luke’s Lobster: This is the cheap, grab-and-go version of seafood. It’s great for a quick roll in the summer or warm chowder in the winter.
- What I order: lobster roll or clam chowder
- Chef Ho’s Peking Duck Grill: This is a Chinatown-worthy sit down restaurant that just happens to be on 2nd Avenue. Everything you order is delicious, and the atmosphere is semi-fancy even though none of the people are dressed nice. It’s pretty weird, in a good way.
- What I order: wonton soup and half a Peking duck (to split with table) or pork chow mien and General Tso’s chicken (to spilt with table)
- Poke: This is a BYOB sushi place that just feels and tastes right. It’s so easy to get crappy sushi or overly-priced, tiny-portion sushi in this city, but this is the perfect in between. It tastes great, without being pretentious and is priced reasonably.
- What I order: spicy salmon roll and a kamikaze roll
- Mei Jin Ramen: I’ll be honest with you, I never really tried ramen that wasn’t your stereotypically-poor-college student meal until about two years go. Mei Jin Ramen was my first attempt, and it’s seriously incredible. If, like Stephen, you’re a fan of massive portions, you won’t be disappointed by the size of these bowls. Pro tip: anything labeled “spicy” is no joke. Prepare to sweat.
- What I order: chili chicken ramen
- Pye Boat Noodle: This is probably our second most frequented restaurant in the Upper East Side. We go at least once a month for a few reasons: they have a baller lunch special that includes for dishes for $8, service is quick and friendly and if we miss the lunch special dinner is still like $11 each which is a straight up miracle in NYC. Also, it’s my favorite Pad Thai I’ve ever had…
- What I order: chicken pad Thai
- Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar: Gourmet hot dogs are my jam. I got hooked when I went to Denver a couple of years ago, and I haven’t looked back. this place has a window on the street where you order and like 10 bar stools worth of seating. We love trying the different dogs and are always impressed. We’ve never drank there, but they also have really really cheap happy hour beers.
- What I order: Saigon special or Stueben’s Rueben
- Heidelberg: Two doors down from Schaller’s is this rad place. I will be honest with you and say that I don’t think German food is my favorite, so I didn’t personally love the meal, but I liked the experience and the decor. Stephen did like it, so I imagine if you’re a big meat and potatoes person this kind of place will be your jam. You can also just go for the beers in glass boots, because that is fun in of itself.
- What I order: Hofbrau lager
- Selena Rosa Mexicana: If you want nice, sit-down Mexican in the UES, Selena Rosa is pretty great. It’s typically very casual, but could also swing to be a little more fancy if you went for a birthday dinner or something.
- What I order: grilled chicken fajitas
- Cascabel Taqueria: This is actually where I did my birthday meal this year. It’s very casual and a great spot for both lunch and dinner. I chose it because their margs and their food prices are superb. Drinks are a little more on the $12-$14 side, but if you get tacos or something smaller to eat it balances out the bill nicely.
- What I order: 3 tacos (pescado, carnitas and chorizo) or pollo torta
- Oaxaca Taqueria: I first fell in love with this place in the UWS, but then they ended up adding another one soooo close to our apartment. It’s our go-to for take out tacos to bring back to the apartment and eat in front of the TV.
- What I order: 3 taco combo (chorizo, al pastor and cameron)
- Hummus Kitchen: I’m going through a huge hummus phase right now. This place makes such fresh, flavorful hummus.
- What I order: the Hummus Kitchen appetizer (could be split between 4 people) and shakshuka classic
- Zebú Grill: Stephen has been talking about this place as somewhere he wanted to go for ages, but we just got around to it about two months ago, and it was easily the best meal I’ve had all year. The food is mind-blowingly good, especially for someone like me that crazes black beans and rice all the time and for someone like Stephen, that always wants a good steak. They also have you write in a little notebook when you get your check, which I think is just adorable.
- What I order: picadinho and I can’t find the name of it, but there was a corn appetizer that I would eat every day for the rest of my life
- Drunken Monkey: This is another one of those restaurants that is pretty indescribable. It’s a semi-upscale Indian restaurant that’s dark and cozy with the most incredible dishes. I never knew quite what we were ordering, but everything tasted incredible. The spices and flavoring were so unique, and you just felt like you were eating something spectacular.
- What I order: I honestly can’t remember, and like I said I really had no idea what I was eating. I do know that we just asked the waitress to recommend things, and went with whatever she said,
- The Bagel Shop rainbow bagels*
- Flip Sigi… almost everything
- DTUT’s S’more bar*
- Emack & Bolio’s crazy ice cream cones
The 2nd Avenue Bar Crawl
- The Supply House: It’s good to start here, because it’s such a chill bar. Sometimes you can even sit down and drink depending on how early you’re starting this bar crawl.
- Five Mile Stone: We only go here second if we’ve pregamed in advance. This bar gets packed fast with people in a more “ratchet” headspace. If you enjoy dancing, but don’t feel like you’ve had enough alcohol to do so yet then come back to Five Mile Stone later on
- Ethyl’s : They play great music and have burlesque ladies dancing on the bar. It’s awesome. We like to come here for a few shots or mixed drinks and then move on to somewhere a little less crowded.
- Dorrian’s: Honestly, we usually skip this. It’s just like Stumble Inn, but we will go in if it’s not packed yet.
- Brady’s: This is a cool little sports bar that’s usually filled with middle-aged people, but they often have some space to breathe and room to chat. It’s a nice break in the crawl.
- The Stumble Inn: Again, definitely skippable.
- Iggy’s: We like to end with Iggy’s, because it’s a karaoke bar. Unless you pay someone a nice amount of cash or put your name in wayyy earlier you won’t get to sing. Most of the time, no one in our party does that, but the songs are just so much fun to dance to. Plus, watching other drunk people since karaoke is always a good idea.
Where to get beer:
- Rathbones*: This is a sports bar through and through.
- Treadwell Park: We love going here, because they have a big beer selection and long farmer’s tables to sit at. Anywhere that can be packed, and yet still has too for us to sit is a win in our book. They also have ping pong tables and delicious pretzels.
- DTUT*: That coffee spot I love is also a bar. It’s pretty hipster and magical.
- The Pony Bar: This is is a fun place to go and try new beers. Definitely can get crowded, so go earlier to get a table.
- The Penrose*: That’s right. Good brunch AND good cocktails. They’ve got two long bars for you to order them at too.
- The Milton: I’ve actually never tried a cocktail there, but they look amazing, and we do frequent this place, but it’s usually for fish and chips during Lent. That being said, it’s got a great vibe like The Penrose, so I trust it would also be a good cocktail spot.
- Infirmary: They have a spicy tequila drink that I dig, but they also have a lot of other fancy looking drinks that I’m dying to try.