Need affordable interesting restaurants on the Upper East Side
I live by Union Square and the ONLY reasons I travel to Upper East Side are the following:
- Sarabeth's: the breakfast & brunch are excellent and I like them better than Bubby's.
- Etats Unis: located at 81st between 2nd & 3rd Aves, with an associated wine bar across the street. Serves a market fresh New American menu (changes about every other week). Has one of my two favorite Manhattan based desserts. The date pudding didn't initially sound appetizing to me, but man is it good!
- Sushi Seki: located on 1st Ave between 62nd & 63rd. New York magazine mentioned in passing that Jean Georges eats there twice a week, so I had to try for myself. Best sushi experience (quality and creativity) I have had so far (edging out Jewel Bako and I have yet to try Sushi Yasuda). I recommend the omakase (Seki's choice). Seki has been behind the counter each of the four times I have been there.
I have always wanted to go to Erminia and Payard Patisserie & Bistro.
I think all the places I have mentioned so far warrant a trip for your downtown friends.
I went to J.G Melon's as part of my limited "best burger" tour. I thought the burger was ok, but not good enough compared to the downtown places available to occasion a return trip.
Atlantic Grill is indeed nice, but Blue Water Grill is nice too, has the same owner and is located downtown, so why make a special trip?
I have heard some good things about Koi from people in the neighborhood, but do not consider the place a destination worthy.
There's a lot of affordable good stuff up there. Cafe d'Alsace at 88th and 2nd is a great Alsatian bistro, also with a great brunch.
Pio Pio on 1st between 90th and 91st (I think) has Peruvian chicken that is amazing. $28 bucks gets you a combo with a bunch of sides plus a whole chicken, it easily feeds 2, could feed 3.
Gauchas Empanadas, next door to Pio Pio has great Argentinean empanadas for $2 or more expensively you can sit and eat churrasco and other steaks.
Those are my regular spots, can't think of others at the moment...