Upper West side Recs
I just moved back to the city from abroad and am craving excellent food recommendations for my neighborhood (W 80s). From my experience there are a million pretty good places but few truly truly exceptional ones, particularly for a relatively reasonable price. Anyone have any recommendations? Also, west branch - worth it or not?
I tried West Branch and was disappointed. But, I may not have ordered correctly.
Fatty Crab just opened next to West Branch. I have not been there yet.
Saigon Grill is always good. And if you have a telephone and live in the W. 80s the food will be there in 20 minutes.
Celeste is very good Italian. Great, unusual cheese course dishes. Always crowded. Cash only. If you get there before 7 PM you will get a table. Later than that you will probabl have to wait. No reservations.
I was at Dovetail during restaurant week. I think that it is over rated. Unusual flavor combinations that don't quite work well together.
Kefi also had a wonderful brunch menu. Went there this past Sunday around noon with 2 friends. No wait. Yummy Greek Eggs Benedict and my friend wouldn't shut up about her salad with fennel in it (I forgot to note exactly which salad it was,unfortunately, as I, too, liked it.) I'm going to Gennaro tonight. Will report later.
i moved to the UWS a few months ago after a year overseas (formerly i'd lived in Union Square) and i posted a similar question this past autumn...
but i don't have many places around here that i like...but these are what i've liked best:
-- Cafe Ronda...my default choice...pretty consistent food...esp. the lamb meatballs, the shepherd salad, and some of the specials like the scallops...
-- Bar Bao...loungey fun New Vietnamese...
-- Earthen Oven...very spicy, excellent quality Indian...
I'll disagree about Saigon Grill: it's a cheap but imho the food is mediocre at best...
Also, the neighborhood is desperately in need of a decent Chinese restaurant...
3rd the chinese restaurants. i love this neighborhood. but i'd love it even more if i had an easy way to settle a good chinese food craving during the week. can be any style, just good and not the watered down crap that ollies, cottage china ufn serve. one place, which isn't great, but has some good dishes, is ivy's. you have to dig through the menu a bit, but there are some "authentic" dishes i actually enjoy.
the one i always get is the chinese sausage stirfried with green onion (i think, haven't been in a long time). it's nothing special, but i love the flavor. since i have access to a car now, i make weekly trips to flushing, which negates the need to settle for chinese food in the uws... but i seem to remember their scallion pancakes are good also.
ahhh... Flushing vs China Fun? no comparison. i know how it is. i hopped over to tangra on grand ave and queens blvd last night while heading back home from queens. needed my indo chinese fix.
i recently tried the Shredded beef with dry bean curd & winter bamboo shoots in spicy bean paste at China Fun. not bad.
We had dinner at Bar Bao last week and really enjoyed it. As you posted in another thread, I believe, the service is really very friendly, in a casual but not too folksy way. I thought the room and bar were lovely - more of a down town vibe (but then, hey, I live on the UES, so I don't know too much about down town vibes these days!), and the food was good. I think we had summer rolls with pork, crispy spring rolls, duck fried rice (I know ... but it was very tasty!), the short rib appetizer (though I'm not convinced that meat was short ribs, as it was served medium rare and was tender) ... I'll try to remember what else. The only less than exciting note was the dessert, which I wanted to like - maybe crepes with caramel - but the corn in it just didn't do it for me. Fun place to go after an UWS movie.
Simon, thanks for the Cafe Ronda recommendation. We went tonight. It was a perfect spot for a nice but not fancy get-together.
The tapas were all a hit. The serrano ham dish was nicely presented and perfect for sharing. We really enjoyed the chorizos. The empanadas (one chicken, one beef) were fine. By the time I got around to eating them they were a bit on the cold side so that probably detracted. I liked the beef better than the chicken. The roasted cauliflower seemed to go over well. I'm not so big on cauliflower but was happy to have it as a fourth dish, and a vegetable.
After all the tasty tapas, accompanied by wine, we were psyched to tuck into the paella. That was a bit disappointing, though. Nothing awful but just not very flavorful or seasoned. We skipped dessert but the manager actually kindly offered us some port after we had mentioned that we didn't find the paella to be on par with the rest of the meal.
All in all, a nice neighborhood place with a cosy interior and friendly and attentive service.
Some of my favorites:
Best burger and fried chicken: Harriet's Kitchen (Amsterdam near 84th)
It's a total dive with one table, but AMAZING burger and fries. Good for take-out/delivery.
Italian: Gennaro (Amsterdam at 92nd)
Cash only. Reasonable prices. Great pastas.
Argentinian Steak: La Rural (Amsterdam b/w 97th and 98th)
cash only. Nice back patio. Lovely, reasonably priced steaks.
Seafood Shack: Mermaid Inn (Amsterdam b/w 87 and 88)
excellent squid salad, fun, bustling atmosphere. Right next door is a new Belgian bistro as well--haven't tried the food, but they have a fab list of Belgian beers on tap.
Amsterdam b/w 101st and 102nd
As a former Los Angeles resident, this is the best Mexican I've found on the UWS. Burritos are flavorful and the guac is fresh.
For more recs, check out my UWS Dining Guide (it's Columbia-centric for my fellow grad students, but should have some useful tips): http://uwsdiningguide.blogspot.com/
i like eriny's suggestion of noche for authentically made, greasy, street food style mexican. it's good for nyc, but probably about average if you're going by california standards.
i whole-heartedly echo suggestions for kefi.
certain things are still excellent at thai market (which used to be wonderful, but has gone downhill a bit, as they try to trim costs). skirt steak, whole fried fish, daikon radish appetizers are good.
ouest is on the more expensive side, but it's consistently very good (about 95% of the time) and they do have an early bird dinner special (which i unfortunately have never been early enough to try). bar boulud and compass are a quarter notch down from ouest. very good.
gabriela's (mexican, mexican fusion) and spiga (italian, italian influenced) are both a bit better than "pretty good", though not amazing.
same with dovetail (expensive), telepan (expensive) and pasha (medium), probably, although occasionally, i hit on really spectacular preparations.
i'd count west branch (medium), celeste (inexpensive to medium), earthen oven (inexpensive to medium), cafe ronda (inexpensive to medium), and mermaid inn (medium to expensive) among the among the "pretty good, but not exceptional" places in my book. add la vela (inexpensive to medium) and burger joint (inexpensive) to that list, as well.
Some great suggestions for this ex UWSider, now migrated to the barren UES. I'm particularly keen to try Kefi and West Branch.
But no-one mentioned 'Cesca, which I think is really good. Or Cafe Luxembourg, which is a lovely room with a great burger. Or even Gabriel's, which is a very good standby.
I really like Bar Boulud in the 60s- havent seen it mentioned in this thread. Agree with the many Kefi recs - love that place. Had a great meal at West Branch several months ago. LOVE Shake Shack burgers - best burger Ive had in the City. Hampton Chutney is good too for interesting dosas - casual atmosphere (no table service). We also really like Bistro Casis - french bistro on Columbus and 71st - go for lunch, similar menu but prices are much better and order the steak sandwich - delicious.