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Feb 1, 2009 06:26 PM

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?


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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RichardW

      telepan and Dovetail (don't judge them by RW, I had a great dinner there recently)

      I second Celeste, but it is not a quite, relaxing place

      Shake Shack UWS is just like the original

      1. re: EatingOutMA

        I second Kefi. Amazing food, and I don't know how they keep prices that low.

        1. re: angiebc290

          Third Kefi. I had dinner there with my parents on Sunday, and EVERYTHING was delicious. The level of consistency and quality at the place is truly extraordinary. To give another example, I've never ever had a fishy fish there; the fish always tastes fresh and excellent.

        2. re: EatingOutMA

          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.

          1. re: saltnseltzer4me

            So.. I wasn't a big fan of Gennaro although my mom loved it. Oh well!

        3. I second Celeste for a casual meal. When my friends (and their kids) moved to the UWS, I suggested it and they all enjoyed their respective meals very much. But do get there early, especially on weekends. Are you tied to the 80s?

          And welcome back to NY!

          1 Reply
          1. re: drummergirl

            definitely not tied to the 80s - was just a frame of reference as the upper west side is often defined liberally from columbus circle to 125th st.

          2. 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 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...

            7 Replies
            1. re: Simon

              That's been true for a long, long time. I grew up in that neighborhood, and in the 70s, there used to be some good Chinese restaurants there. I don't know what happened.

              1. re: Pan

                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.

                1. re: FattyDumplin

                  can you recommend some authentic dishes in ivy's, FattyDumplin. i go there often but mostly for scallion pancakes and general tso's chicken. i lean more toward noodle dishes and meat entrees rather than veggies or seaford.

                  1. re: nativeNYer

                    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.

                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                      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.

              2. re: Simon

                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.

                1. re: Simon

                  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.

                2. 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.

                  Noche Mexicana
                  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):

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: eriny

                    I think the UWS Mermaid Inn has closed. Or am I confused?

                    1. re: floretbroccoli

                      that's too bad... although, the last couple times i'd been there, the quality of the food had slipped noticeably.