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Upper West Side Eats

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  • tom whalen Feb 28, 1998 12:05 PM
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I'll be staying near Broadway and 75th soon, and will
no doubt be looking for restaurants in the vicinity.

Guidebooks and websites have yielded the following
list of area restaurants that appear to be cheap,
casual and good. I would appreciate your comments on
these eating establishments.

Key West (2532 Broadway) for breakfast
Sfuzzi (58 W. 65th St.)
West Side Brewery (76th & Amsterdam)
Dallas BBQ (27 W. 72nd)
Gabriela's (685 Amsterdam)
Dougie's BBQ & Grill (222 W. 72nd St.)
Gray's Papaya (2090 Broadway)

Are there any restaurants in the area, regardless of
price, which should not be missed?

Thanks.

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  1. Tom,

    I wouldn't call any of these restaurants totally unmissable, but the ones I'd recommend are:

    Gabriellas, for rotisserie chicken and anything else that catches your fancy.

    Gray's Papaya for hot dogs (it's not a restaurant, just a congested stand-up/take-out joint). The papaya and daiquiri drinks are VERY sweet.

    Dallas BBQ is crowded, noisy, and a mass-feeding operation. That said, for the price, I think they do a more than decent job.

    Never eaten at Key West, Dougie's (although I've heard not much good about it), or West Side Brewery. I'm afraid that Sfuzzi's is no longer with us.

    Another idea:

    Luzia's, Portuguese on Amsterdam between 80th and 81st. If you are there at lunch, ask if it's possible to get the lobster salad (off the menu) which is superb. If she has a duck special, get it. The Portuguese specialties are also terrific.

    If you have time, don't miss some of the specialty food STORES in the area. Fairway on Broadway and 74th, Citarella just north of it on the same block, Zabar's on Broadway and 80th.

    Best,

    Dave

    12 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman
      l
      Lisa Antinore

      Tom

      Saigon Grill on Broadway and about 86th Street (too lazy to look it up right now...) is my favorite Vietnamese in Manhattan!!! Wonderfully sized portions of the freshest stuff... Warm up to Simon, one of the hard working-owners and he'll treat you like a king... (I had him cater one of our office parties and you can not even begin to believe all of the special touches....)
      ,
      Also love Luzias for usually-fantastic Portugese (these days it's a bit uncertain though... gotta somehow avoid the "off-days..." )

      A bit farther up on Broadway- Flor de Mayo for delish chino-latino food...great red beans from the spanish side of the menu anything with black bean sauce on the Chinese side .....

      I'm also a fan of Cafe con Leche on I believe Columbus (can't remember..) for fantastic garlicky beef soup and yummy beans and rice...

      And of course Nick's for incredibly juicy burgers...

      For a bit upscale try Delphini- gorgeous setting, innovative cuisine....

      Have fun!!!

      1. re: Lisa Antinore

        I lived on the Upper West Side for 18 years before I defected to Carnegie Hill. There are some good restaurants on the Upper West Side, especially the cheap, ethnic ones, but if you want to dine seriously then you should leave the neighborhood. Manhattan is not that big. You can get anywhere in a short time on public transportation.

        That being said, in the neighborhood there are three upscale restaurants that I would recommend: Cafe des Artistes, Picholine, and Cafe Luxembourg. Picholine is the most consistently good of the three but all are capable of producing excellent food. Cafe des Artistes is one of the most beautiful restaurants anywhere. Cafe Luxembourg is very hip. I like Sarabeth's as well, but only for breakfast or dinner--not brunch. As for an interesting restaurant that you will only find in New York, try Tibet Shambhala.

        I have a whole web site devoted to restaurant reviews. You may want to visit it at www.shaw-review.com

        1. re: Steven Shaw
          l
          Lisa Antinore

          Steven, you write:

          "There are some good restaurants on the Upper West Side, especially the cheap, ethnic ones, but if you want to dine seriously then you should leave the neighborhood."

          Darlin' ARE YOU FOR REAL??????????????????

          If you believe this, you're talking to the wrong people....

          When did dining "seriously" become synonymous with linen napkins and prixe fixe????? While I do not believe the Upper West Side to be a culinary bastion, there are quite a few (as you would describe them) "cheap, ethnic" restaurants that outshine any dining experiences I've ever had at Picholine, Cafe Luxembourg, or Cafe des Artistes...

          From Daniel to Le Bernadin, to Lutece, to the Four Seasons- I've eaten (I used to have a corporate card when I worked in marketing) at them all. Some have been celestial and others have plain old SUCKED regardless of Ruth Reichl's verbal diaharea or Zagat ratings....

          If truth be told, I'd rather lick rodent poo off of the dirtiest food cart in NYC than return to Cafe de Artistes where I was told last spring (after ordering a $42 bourride that I removed one mussel from and unable to eat anymore after all of the appetizers and a horrible headache, asked to take it home...) that "doggie bags" (you should have seen my ancient waiter's face scrunch up as he said the words) were not "customary."

          I was at a corporate dinner with the most brilliant, sensible client who could not believe what he heard and asked the waiter what would happen to the untouched dish. We were told that it would be "disposed of" ....Puhleeeeeeeeese!

          Anyone who throws food (or books for that matter) out is a savage in my mind and that homeless people literally beg for change outside the establishment makes me even more nauseous. Needless to say when I heard about the little fire last year, I wasn't too bothered. Now if the arepa lady's cart so much as got dented, I'd cry because she creates truly authentic food and prepares it with great LOVE.....

          The moral of the story is GOOD FOOD IS GOOD FOOD and GOOD COOKS ARE GOOD COOKS. Doesn't matter if your coq au vin is prepared by illiterate albinos form Jupiter in a church basement, a crumbling tenement, a greasy streetcart, or a hospital kitchen (highly unlikely...) If it's fantastic it's fantastic...

          If the food is phenomenal and there happen to be linen napkins, valet parking, and maitre'ds, it's like frosting on the cake (if that's your thing..and it sure ain't mine...) but it's the cake itself that's essential... There are plenty of expensive, Zagat places that I enjoy but it's because the food is truly well prepared. I would never, ever say that dining at Daniel is more "serious" than dining at the Peruvian "Pio Pio" in Rego Park..

          Maybe more serious on the wallet, but the buck stops there......

          Burn your Zagat and truly free yourself!!!

          Come check out the many fantastic, authentic restaurants that dot the sidewalks under the seven train tracks, wander around Bay Ridge, have some Guatemalan food in Jamaica, some soul food in St. Alban's, great Thai in Woodside, incredible Vietnamese in Elmhurst.....

          I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.....

          Lisa, Zen Foodist

          1. re: Lisa Antinore

            Gee, I did not intend to elicit such a hostile response. In fact, I agree with most of what you say--and I do not believe there is anything in our two posts that cannot be reconciled. My use of the term "seriously" is not an economic statement. There are "serious" restaurants in all price ranges. Unfortunately, few of them are on the Upper West Side.

            I believe that the Upper West Side is a weak area for restaurants of every kind, and I have done more than my fair share of eating there. If the gentleman who posted the original message in this thread only dines on the Upper West Side then he will surely miss out on the best that New York has to offer.

            Best,

            Steven
            www.shaw-review.com

            1. re: Steven Shaw
              l
              Lisa Antinore

              No hostility here Steven.

              Just a major defense of some of the smaller, less famous establishments that I consider as "serious" as the Zagat constellations.......

              Happy Eating!

              1. re: Lisa Antinore

                Understood and agreed.

                You know what I *do* like on the Upper West Side?: Pizza. I like Vinnie's Pizza on Amsterdam between 73rd and 74th (classic New York slice and the nicest countermen I have ever met), as well as La Traviata Pizza on 68th just west of Columbus (great toppings and I love the spicy salsa and olives they leave on the counter).

            2. re: Lisa Antinore
              d
              Don G. lambert

              Lisa Antinore re Cafe de Artistes. I agree with your
              assessment entirely. For the final Mostly Mozarts
              concert we returned to this place for the third time,
              which was not a charm. We were seated in the back,
              had a surly waiter, and incredibly bad food. I had
              roast duck which was burned so badly I thought they
              got it from a fire sale; my partner's chicken was
              almost as bad. To pay a cent for this mess would have
              been robbery, but a hundred bucks? I had never
              written a letter to the management of an establishment
              before, but I had to express my displeasure somehow.
              Since they did not respond, I hope they read this e-
              mail.

            3. re: Steven Shaw
              m
              Michele Fuchs

              Cafe Luxembourg is one I forgot to mention. LOVE IT!

              Definitely hip and definitely a great meal!

              Michele

            4. re: Lisa Antinore

              Lisa,

              Thanks for mentioning Saigon Grill, which I forgot. Actually, it's on the northwest corner of 87th and Broadway. I particularly like the okra dish and soups.
              I'm not quite as enthusiastic as you are (there are many misses on the menu, IMO), but the place does a terrific job and everyone there is very nice.

              And how could I forget Big Nick's? Love the atmosphere. Love the waiters. But most of all, I love them burgers -- my favorite in the city. I also love the house salad dressing, which is a simple vinaigrette w/marinated vegetables.

              Dave

              1. re: Lisa Antinore

                Flor de Mayo is a wonderful place, around 101st Street
                on the west side of Broadway. Their egg foo yong is
                the best I've had, better even than at the celebrated
                la Caridad (w. side of B'way in the '70's). Flor de
                Mayo's two-level dining room with the two big fish
                tanks is always crowded with a diverse crowd from the
                neighborhood. Try their roast chicken.
                A quiet and completely different experience can be had
                at Alouette, on the east side of Broadway just above
                97th Street. It is entirely French, a compact two-
                story place where you can totally forget the outside
                world. It was cheap enough to be reviewed by Eric
                Asimov in the Times' 25 Dollar and Under column, but
                with wine, coffee and desert, it runs quite a bit more
                than $25/person. Each of my three dinners there has
                been enjoyable and worth the tariff.

              2. re: Dave Feldman

                Tom,
                Key West is just a diner. At least that's what it was when I ate there a few years ago and it didn't remind me of Key West at all.
                West Side Brewery is no different from any other brewery and the ambiance resembles a very dull sports bar.
                I take many of my out of town friends to Carmine's (90th & B'way) for large portions of garlicky Italian food served by friendly, competent people. It is noisy, celebratory and a great place for people watching. Sometimes there is a wait, but the drinks are good at the bar.
                Cafe des Artistes treated my friend and I like we were chamber maids and the food was something I didn't want to take home because we didn't like it enough to finish it when it wasn't a leftover.
                I also enjoy Mad Fish on Broadway on and 76th (make reservations).
                Remember, if you feel gastronomically frustrated eating on the upper west side, you are not alone.
                E.

                1. re: E. Cornell
                  m
                  Michele Fuchs

                  I agree that Mad Fish is a good choice, however, I must disagree with you
                  on Cafe Des Artiste. It is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I think they treat people
                  very nicely, I have never heard anything contrary. Additonallly, the food had never been anything less than
                  great. Maybe you should give it another shot, when did you go? Is it open again since the fire?
                  I haven't heard if it was finished yet. I've had my head in my work and haven't had the time.

                  Sorry you didn't love it!

                  Michele

              3. Picholine -- 35 West 64th (bet, B'way & CPW) should
                not be missed. This is where you can blow all your
                money. Get a reservation for after the Lincoln Center
                theatre crowd leaves ie. after 8 pm. The cheese cart
                is fabulous.

                For breakfast, go to the original Cafe con Leche --
                424 Amsterdam (bet. 80th & 81st St.)

                Pasha -- 70 West 71st St.(bet. Columbus & CPW) serves
                upscale Turkish food in a very comfortable setting.
                The smoky grilled eggplant from the mezze platter is
                very good. My favorite is the manti (small meat
                filled dumplings in yogurt sauce)

                Also try Azure -- 484 Amsterdam (83rd St). Very good
                Mediterranean food. Must try the frozen honey mousse
                for dessert.

                I've heard good things about Delphini -- Columbus Ave.
                (at 85 St) but have not tried it yet.

                As for the restaurants you listed :

                Gabriela's on Amsterdam & 93rd St. serves very good
                and inexpensive Mexican food.

                Sfuzzi was bought by Pino Luongo, and is now called
                Coco Opera. It is definitely not cheap.

                Gray's Papaya is known for cheap hot dogs, if that's
                what you are looking for.

                You can give Dallas BBQ a miss.

                Know nothing about Key West, West Side Brewery, or
                Dougie's BBQ.

                I do hope you plan on going to eat in other parts of
                the city, besides the Upper West Side.

                1. Dear Tom,

                  I've come late to these postings, and some of them remind of the bickering that goes on among the X Files' "Lone Gunmen." Forgive us, we're passionate about two things here, New York City(which includes the other four boroughs, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) and food (which includes anything slower than us which can be made chewable.)

                  From your list, I assume you're visiting from parts far away. Of that list only Gray's Papaya is what I'd consider a uniquely NYC place. It's just damn good dogs. For $2, you get 2 with everything(kraut, and that shameless onion and tomato soup mess that I love only when I'm at Gray's) and either a papaya, or banana daquiri drink(I do daquiri) It's only $2 and it's better than Oscar Meyers at home.

                  All of the suggestions made to you were excellent, if only because they are uniquely NYC restaurants, delis and specialty places. I'd like to add to these to keep your stomach busy:
                  Royale Bake Shop 237 W 72nd for Rugaluh(sp?)not the greatest, but it'll close to you and it's New York
                  Popover Cafe 551 Amsterdam for popovers
                  Barney Greengrass 541 Amsterdam should not be missed for lox, sable etc.
                  Main Street 446 Columbus family style comfort food
                  Columbus Bakery 474 Columbus whatever looks interesting on the menu
                  and two that will exile me from this site:
                  Patsy's Pizza on 74th off Columbus
                  and H & H Bagels 79th & B'way (forgive me all, but half of NYC goes here on weekends for bagels. Every tourist must go at least once)

                  Pete

                  Lisa wants you to venture beyond Manhattan and the UWS, if you do so, expect to spend a lot of time and bring good maps. Queens and Brooklyn have great food places.

                  1. m
                    Michele Fuchs

                    Here are a couple that I would suggest to you, not only for a good meal but
                    also for the atmosphere and the experience:

                    Restaurant 222- Expensive but worth it. It is in a townhouse setting on 79th between B'way and
                    Amsterdam.

                    Chaz and Wilson- Same block, north and east of 222. I believe Monday and maybe Tuesday they have a
                    special dinner price, all entree's around $10. The food is good, reasonably priced basically American,
                    and the restaurant/bar is a nice place to hang. There is live music and the place jams on Wednesday -Saturday.
                    It is a nice crowd.

                    Picholine- 64th, between CPW and B'way another expensive one but not to be missed. If you like chesse, you'll love their's.

                    Josie's-74th and Amst., Healthful, delicious food, great people, and inexpensive. Sometimes there may be a wait.

                    Kinoko- 72th and B'way (Columbus), All-you-can-eat sushi. I am a sushi lover and I find the food here very good. You can keep ordering all night,
                    just don't leave anything on your plate. Plus, they give you a stamp for every $20 you spend. After a bunch of stamps you get a $50 gift cert.

                    Hope this helps!
                    Michele

                    1. There is plenty of food on the Upper West Side from affordable to high end:

                      Ouest (Tom Valenti's restaurant)
                      2315 Broadway (83rd & 84th Street)
                      (212) 580-8700
                      www.ouestny.com

                      Asiate (in the Mandarin Hotel
                      )80 Columbus Circle, 35th Floor
                      (212) 805-8881
                      www.mandarinoriental.com/newyork/

                      Per Se
                      Time Warner
                      10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor
                      (60th and Broadway
                      )(212) 823-9335

                      Jean Georges
                      1 Central Park West
                      (60th & 61st Street)
                      (212) 299-3900

                      Cesca
                      164 West 75th Street (Amsterdam Avenue)
                      (212) 787-6300

                      Fairway Cafe/Steakhouse
                      2127 Broadway, 2nd Floor
                      (74th Street)
                      (212) 595-1888

                      Rosa Mexicano
                      61 Columbus Avenue (62nd Street)
                      (212) 977-7700

                      Cafe Con Leche
                      424 Amsterdam Avenue (80th & 81st Street)
                      (212) 595-7000

                      Flor De Mayo
                      484 Amsterdam Avenue (83rd & 84th Street)
                      (212) 787-3388

                      There are plenty more places. Do you want me to go on? How can people say there is no food here? Crazy!

                      Plus don't forget everyone who comes to the Upper Westside to shop and line up at: H&H Bagels, Zabars, Fairway, Barney Greengrass, Sarabeth's...