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Upper West Side, cool spots and tasty food on a low budget

Hello! I will be staying in the Upper West Side for the first time(I usually stay in East Village) and was hoping for some suggestions for some tasty grub. I dont want to spend a boatload. I would say per person for breakfast $10, lunch $10 and dinner $20 or even a little more if its really good, plus drinks. Any suggestions? I will only be in town for 2 nights and my first night I will be arriving at the airport at 8pm, so a recommendation for something open a little late for dinner would be great to, THANKS SO MUCH!

I'm staying on 87th between Amsterdam & Columbus, I would also love a few suggestions for some cool bars and things to do. I like bars and restaurants with a good atmosphere but friendly surface, nothing too stuffy:)

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  1. For restaurants, there's this great vegan restaurant called "Blossom" on 85th and Columbus. I'm nowhere near vegan, but the food is great and you can definitely get a good meal for under $20 for either lunch or dinner.

    There's also Jackson Hole on 85th and Columbus which is mostly burgers, but they're well priced and HUGE. They have a bar inside too, so it might be a good meal for your buck.

    1. kefi if you order carefully

      1. Celeste (Amsterdam btw 84/85) offers good Neopolitan food at reasonable prices (cash only). A bit more pricey, but Bistro Citron (Columbus btw 82/83) is excellent classic bistro fare. La Mirabelle (86th, just west of Columbus) is also very good.

        1. Hmm...
          Would suggest maybe B. Cafe (Belgian rather than French, good beers, basic comfort foods) over Bistro Citron, and it's a bit cheaper I think. Agree with the recommendation to try Celeste -- but be warned that it's often packed during prime time, though the turnover is quick. Kefi is also a good choice.

          For breakfast/brunch Good Enough to Eat is the classic recommendation -- if you're alone you can probably snag a seat at the bar without much of a wait on a weekend.

          For burgers, would avoid Jackson Hole (their burgers are huge but sort of soggy/steamed) in favor of the new Shake Shack on Columbus near the Museum of Natural History. The burger at French Roast on Broadway is also decent.

          Another good choice might be Land Thai -- they have a lunch special that fits your price range during the week and dinner is quite cheap as well if you order carefully.

          1. George Keeley's has great beer and burgers. It might look like a simple pub, but they are a cut above. Barney Greengrass really sets the standard for breakfast for me in the neighborhood, and though their bagels and lox will cost you a bit more than $10, it is well worth it. Otherwise I'd also consider visiting Malecon No. 2, Flor de Mayo, Saigon Grill, Land Thai, or Pio Pio.

            1. For Bars that are a bit more relaxed, I'd say George Keeley's or the Dead Poet. Fred's is also nice, relaxed and a little quieter than the other places on that strip of Amsterdam. Further uptown, the ding dong lounge (105th and columbus) is a great spot.
              For food, Kefi is doable if you stick with sandwiches or sample some apps. Telios on Broadway and 92nd(?forget exactly) has been decent for me so far. For breakfast, Good enough is okay, but maybe try Cafe con Leche (80th and Amsterdam) good coffee and Juevos Rancheros, or head to levain for some baked goods. I really like Fairway's breakfast, but mainly for their pancakes. Lunch and dinner, Land Thai is good, Celeste, Bar Bao has been enjoyable, but might be a little more than you want to spend.

              3 Replies
              1. re: UWSEater

                I've never had breakfast at Cafe con Leche but used to have dinner there now and then and after some thoroughly blah experiences, gave up on them.

                Tampa: I think that you might want to take the subway out of the neighborhood a lot of the time. I'll second the recommendation of El Malecon, Amsterdam between 97th and 98th, for excellent Dominican pollo a la brasa, and I'll add a recommendation for Jerusalem Restaurant, Broadway between 103rd and 104th, for excellent, quite inexpensive falafel, shawarma, et al. (caveat: my last experience there was several months ago), but Kefi is really going to stretch your budget. See for yourself:


                I usually spend around $30/person there. If you're willing to do that, it is definitely worth it.

                In general, though, the Upper West Side is a very problematic neighborhood for good, inexpensive places that aren't mobbed to Kingdom Come.

                  1. re: RussianGirl

                    I don't like cafe con leche too much other than a few breakfast things, but their coffee is good, and the cubanos are decent as well, and it's a decent spot to relax at. I forgot to mention Pio Pio and Malecon. Pio Pio has a chicken plate for around $25(I think) that is more than enough food for two people, and their chicken is great, as is the garlic sauce it comes with. A little further uptown is La Rural (97th and Amsterdam), a nice Argentinian steak house with a garden out back. If you split the paradilla you;d be close to your range for dinner. Food has always been good there, and the garden is fantastic if it's a decent night.
                    Kefi is tough, but I though they started a lunch Prix Fixe that would make it a little closer to the ranges provided.
                    Burger wise, I'd say Shake shack, Nice Matin (79th and Amsterdam) and George Keeleys (83rd and Amsterdam) are at the top, not too fond of Harriet's burger or Jackson Hole.
                    Also, Big Nick's (76th? and Broadway) is interesting, and a divey New York kind of place with okay food, and one of the thickest menus I've ever seen.

                1. Kashkaval (sp?) is inexpensive and very delicious, although they do not take reservations so you would probably have to wait for a table.

                  1. I really like the burger at Harriet's Kitchen--it's a divey take-out spot, but you could eat there (or get it to go and eat in the park if it's nice?) and then go have fun Belgian beer at B. Cafe's bar. Harriet's is at 502 Amsterdam between 84th and 85th: http://erinskitchen.blogspot.com/2007...

                    I also like Buceo 95, a Spanish tapas and wine joint on 95th between Amsterdam and Broadway. If you stick to the simpler tapas, they do a good job, and the wine by the carafe is reasonable. The staff is ridiculously friendly, the place is always bustling and feels neighborhood-y. Might be hard to keep it under $20 unless you split a carafe with a friend. Definitely open late.

                    Mermaid Inn is currently running a Blue Plate Special--lobster roll and blue point beer for $20 between 5 and 7. Lovely complimentary chocolate pudding for dessert. It's on Amsterdam between 87th and 88th.

                    Finally, I enjoy Noche Mexicana--relaxed spot for great burritos, a bit further north than you--on Amsterdam at 103 I think. You can definitely get a couple beers and a burrito for 20 or under.

                    Oh--also--if the weather's nice, grab picnic fixings at Fairway and go to the park!

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: eriny

                      My parents have been getting a lot of prepared items from Fairway, and I find many of them not very appetizing, though some of the soups have been OK. What do you like best there?

                      1. re: Pan

                        Fairway tends to be bland, even when a dish sounds mouthwateringly exotic (as with Indonesian-style noodles) and flavorful (as with garlic-studded flank steak). I suppose that's what makes the bluehairs such die-hard customers, but for those of us with tastebuds intact, there are some decent options. Their spinach pie, tuna and whitefish salads are favorites. Eggplant florentine, roasted cauliflower and chicken a la king are pretty good as well.

                        1. re: JungMann

                          the chicken soup is pretty good (not too salty, no starch, lots of white meat)

                          1. re: Simon

                            Yes, is it. The fish soup (chowder?) and Italian wedding soup are also OK, as I recall.

                            JungMann, my parents do have lower tolerance for hot pepper than when we lived in Malaysia, but they would love more flavorful food than the stuff they're getting at Fairway, which is really out of convenience, because both of them are usually too tired to want to cook.

                            Do you have any suggestions for better sources for prepared foods on the Upper West Side? Some wrinkles: Neither of them eats any pig-meat items, mother eats no fish, father eats nothing but vegetables, fish, and kosher meat/poultry and doesn't eat mixed meat/poultry and dairy.

                            1. re: Pan

                              Re: Prepared foods at Fairway (I assume you mean from the area across from the coffee.) I find the best stuff is the "kid food": macaroni & cheese is quite good, mashed potatoes, turkey meatloaf, and the chicken and fish fingers are good if you like that sort of thing. If you choose carefully the salads are also good.

                              Soup-wise, I'd agree with the recs for the chicken noodle and italian wedding. I've also liked the white bean and escarole but I believe it contains pork (and it sometimes is a bit salty). Only "bad" soup I've had there was the autumn vegetable.

                              1. re: JMJD

                                I guess the Italian wedding soup is a big seller. I'm a fan, too, along with Tuscan vegetable (I think that may be the same as the white bean and escarole?). The NE clam chowder is also yummy if you're up for A LOT of heavy cream.

                                Fairway salmon salad is also tasty to serve with crackers or something. There was a post earlier talking up Fairway's egg salad so I tried some and now I'm hooked. It's almost addictive - a little scary!

                                By the way, for anyone with a sweet tooth, the rainbow cookies in the bakery section are delish and very reasonably priced relative to what I've seen at bakeries. Also like the rosemary foccacia, which is sold at the same counter.

                                1. re: uwsgrazer

                                  I was one of the first Fairway fans on that egg salad thread. It is very simple, but a perfect marriage of flavors in its simplicity. The soups, however, I have always found underseasoned. I'd argue the same is true of their pesto sauces which I've been known to use on occasion.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    i usually spike their chicken soup w/ some combo of lemon, garlic, cumin, and/or egg...

                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      Okay, what do they do to make that egg salad so tasty?? I thought I tried to look at the ingredients once to try figure it out but gave up. Probably too busy scraping the remains off the inside of the container.

                            2. re: JungMann

                              My father got the Eggplant Florentine recently, and I thought it was sub-par, and certainly nowhere near as good as the food my parents used to cook.

                        2. 2nd the post about skipping Jackson Hole, in favor of Shake Shack. I've never had anything I've liked at Jackson Hole. Calle Ocho has a pretty affordable unlimited Sangria brunch on the wkends. For more of a take-out counter vibe, try Hampton Chutney for Indian-inspired dosas...

                          1. Nice Matin at W. 79th and Amsterdam serves all day long and if you choose carefully, it will fit into your budget. I like their omelets, which are real French omelets. They have outdoor seating in nice weather. I'm also a fan of Popover's at 86th and Amsterdam -- again, great for breakfast and lunch.

                            1. St. James Gate on Amsterdam and 81st. You could get lunch for just over $10. And dinner within your budget. If you don't eat there, go in for a few pints. Happy hour Monday through Friday is $1 each. The place is great and the food and service is wonderful.

                              1. Farther uptown (107th St.& Columbus), the Thai Market. We had a terrific meal in this tiny place and since they had no liquor license, the wine was very well priced. Now, that said, I have heard that they now have a liquor license, and were recently (March 2009) cited for some kitchen/bathroom violations. We would go back in a heartbeat once those issues were clarified/fixed.

                                1. I was at Nonna(85th and Columbus) last night and they had a salad and pasta special for $15. Besides that, I love Soup Stop, next to Jackson Hole on Columbus Ave. Firehouse also has Lunch and Dinner specials.

                                  1. My wife, daughter and I visited the UWS Shake Shack for the first time this past weekend. I don't know if I would say it was the best burger I have ever had, but it was really, really great. The bun is amazing. And the fries were as good as they get. And cheap. If you go, just get there kind of early. By the time we left at noon the line was getting very long.

                                    1. btw, there is a Jacque Torres chocolate shop at 73rd and Amsterdam. It's worth the short walk. Also, do not miss the Levain Bakery on 74th between Amsterdam and Columbus. There you will get the most amazing chocolate chip cookie you have ever had. Enjoy your stay!

                                      1. i really enjoy Lisca- on 93rd and Amsterdam. solid and delicious pasta dishes and great service. i think they are having a weekday special on pastas for $11.
                                        also gennaro's accross the street is great too.