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May 13, 2009 04:45 PM

Upper East Side Restaurant Chatter (and more)

I’ve lived on the Upper East Side / Yorkville / East 80s for the past year (84th and 1st to be exact) and have come to rely on a number of quality, moderately priced restaurants. I’ll list what I’m partial to below. I’d be interested on any suggestions for branching out. I unfortunately don’t have the scratch to go out to higher-end places with any frequency (and when I do, I head downtown). Also, most days I'm a vegetarian, unless I can find really quality meat, preferably locally sourced. Without further ado:

Taco Taco (2nd Ave., b/w 89th and 90th) – My go-to Mexican food in the area, though prices have been creeping upwards and I could use a lower-priced mexican option for take-out. If you haven’t tried the horchata fresca natural, then do yourself a favor next time and order it. The roasted poblano tamales are also a (cheap) treat.

Wu Liang Ye (86th, b/w 3rd and 2nd aves) – My go-to Chinese, though again not as cheap as I would like and I’ve come to realize that typical NYC Chinese cuisine isn’t particularly kind to vegetarians.

Green Kitchen (77th and 1st) – The best diner in the area in terms of food, service, price, and cleanliness.

The Mansion (86th and York) – Another quality diner, and it has the virtue of being very close to me.

Good Health (1st Ave., b/w 74th and 75th) – I order from this place a ton. Consistently good, healthy, tasty food at reasonable prices.

Candle Café (3rd Ave., b/w 74th and 75th) – A little more pricey, but good veggie options nonetheless.

Beyoglu (3rd ave., b/w 80th and 81st) – Love this place for a quality sit-down meal with friends. Wish they would start delivering.

Chennai (1st Ave., b/w 86th and 87th)– Southern Indian and delicious, though sometimes inconsistent quality. I would like to explore other Indian options in the area, but don’t see anything that’s appealing.

Spice (2nd Ave., b/w 73th and 74th) – Not great, but served as my go-to Thai along with Sala Thai…until I found out about…

Land (2nd Ave b/w 81st and 82nd) – Really like the food here. Never too greasy, always tasty, reasonably priced, and the décor is nice when you eat in.

Healthalicious (2nd Ave., b/w 83rd and 84th) – Wish they had more veggie options, but the grilled vegetable sandwich does a pretty solid job.

Sushi Suki (York, b/w 83rd and 84th) – Thought this was the best sushi place, though I’ve never been blown away. Any other recs?

M. Rohrs (86th, b/w 1st and 2nd Ave.) – I work from home, but sometimes need a place to sit for coffee. I actually don’t like this place that much (really weird decorations, signs, and just all-around incongruous), but it can be a good retreat from time to time.

Emack & Bolio’s (1st Ave., b/w 81st and 82nd) – go-to neighborhood ice cream place.

Still waiting to try: Cipolla Rossa, Sfoglia, Itzocan Bistro

I should also mention that I’ve seen a few new places open up recently:

Two Boots (84th and 2nd) – Have always loved Two Boots and am now glad to have it in the neighborhood, though I could use another pizza place for when I’m not craving Two Boots (sorry, Pintaile’s doesn’t do it for me).

Giana’s Coffee Shop (1st Ave, b/w 82nd and 83rd) – This new slender coffee shop is great. Excellent coffee, and latte art if you’re into that sort of thing. The small euro sized sandwiches look pretty good too. They are just introducing wifi and the benches are comfy enough to work from your computer for an hour or so.

Hummus Kitchen (2nd Ave, b/w 83rd and 84th) – Another solid addition, filling in an under-represented cuisine in the area.

Unknown Name Creperie (York Ave. b/w 83rd and 84th) – Next door to that hell-hole of a bar (Saloon’s). Had one of their crepes, which was good, but not filling enough, especially for the price. Will have to come back for a Panini.

The Big Cheese (1st Ave., b/w 81st and 82nd I think) – This new cheese shop is awesome and I hope it survives. They know their stuff and stock excellent cheeses for any palette.

As for buying groceries, the neighborhood has turned me into a FreshDirect guy (sorry Gristedes and Food Emporium). I do use some shops though, like Ottomanelli’s Deli (makes me want to eat more meat), Nature’s Gifts (cheap fruit and veggies that are always on the verge of spoiling), and U Don’t Know Nothing Produce (if I need something in a pinch). Better food market suggestions would be appreciated (Agata and Valentina?).

I could also use a go-to beer bar. Right now, it is Ryan’s Daughter. I also like the occasional trip to Brandy’s Piano Bar. But there has to be some better spots that aren’t frat party parodies.

And finally, my General Rule of Thumb for the UES: when in doubt, trust the places on the streets; avoid the places on the avenues.

Anything I'm missing??

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  1. Thanks so much for the great list - most of them I know since my Mom lives in your neighborhood, but others we haven't tried yet.

    You already have a couple of good diners on your list in Mansion and Green Kitchen, but Gracie Mews on 1st and 81st has been consistently good over many years. They have a steamed veggie platter - we're picky about our veggies and this doesn't disappoint. The Mews Waffle on the weekend brunch menu with the fresh berries on top is also great! I would say that out of all the many meals I've had there, the only thing I haven't liked are the burgers since they tend to be overcooked, but that doesn't sound like it will be a problem for you.

    For Chinese we've enjoyed Chef Ho's on 2nd btw. 89th & 90th (right near Taco Taco) Even though many people order the Peking Duck, we've found the veggies were quite good.

    Vespa on 2nd btw. 84th & 85th has a nice tiny back garden which is good for the upcoming (hopefully!) warmer weather. The pastas are delicious and there are good veggie appetizer selections, too.

    Pyramida (Middle Eastern) on 1st & 78th is so tiny - 2 tables I think? - that you pretty much have to get delivery, but everything is very fresh and tasty.

    Andre's Hungarian Cafe on 2nd btw. 84th & 85th is too meat intensive for your meals, but the coffee and pastries (esp. strudels) are delicious!

    That's all that comes to mind right now. Don't have better food market selections...I don't think they exist.

    1. Thank you for all of the suggestions! I recently moved to the area and have been trying to figure out where to go. This is a great list. I'll definitely have to try Sushi Suki - I've only been to Poke on 85th between 1st and 2nd, but I wasn't a fan of their cash only/$18 minimum per person policy. Does anyone have any other suggestions for sushi in the area?

      I'm with you on looking for non-frat party bars...I will let you know if I come up with anything.

      6 Replies
      1. re: whitneybee

        My favorite sushi places these days are Gajyumaru and Tokubei 86, in order of preference.

        Kurio on E. 92nd is a restaurant with a smaller bar, and has wonderful cocktails, if that helps on the bar situation at all.

        Where on the UES are you, more or less?

        1. re: MMRuth

          I'm on 86th, on the same block as Tokubei 86, but I'm willing to travel a bit for good food or a good bar. I'm glad to know Tokubei is solid though.

          I also want to add Cilantro to the list of good/affordable places - they have a $10 fajita night every Monday, and it's a great deal.

          1. re: whitneybee

            I would definitely go around the corner to the other place then and try it. We tried Tokubei first, but prefer the other one. They are both open for lunch on Saturdays, which can be somewhat unusual for a sushi place. I tried Cilantro once and wasn't that thrilled with it - but that sounds like a good deal. You might head up to El Paso Taqueria on 97th off Madison some night to see how you think it compares.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Thanks for the recommendations - it's good to know that they're open for lunch. As for Cilantro, we've been going to fajita night because my SO and I are both on fairly strict recent-college-grad budgets, and it's a really good deal. It is good though - we wouldn't be going if we thought it was inedible. I'll definitely look into El Paso Taqueria though.

              1. re: whitneybee

                I'll keep my eye out for other budget deals at good places then! I like the tacos at El Paso, and they are quite reasonable.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Has anyone tried the $30 meze for 2 and wine special at Peri Ela? I walked by the other day and the place was packed. Just wondering if it's a filling dinner, I went for the regular menu a few years ago and it wasn't the most memorable meal for the price.

                  Peri Ela
                  1361 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10128

      2. For groceries, you aren't that far from Citarella, which is my "basic" grocery store. Have you tried the newish cheese store - Big Cheese - just a couple of blocks south of you on 1st? They had a nice selection of cheese. If you eat fish, there is an excellent fishmonger in the area as well - Dorian's - York & 83rd.

        Edit - Just saw that you had mentioned Big Cheese.

        1. Great list, lbirds!!!

          Here's some more:
          Burger One (Mex food/burgers)
          Grace's Marketplace
          There's a fantastic Greek grocery store on Lex between 80th and 81st (don't know the name)
          Mimi's Pizza
          Sushi of Gari
          Candle 79
          Pita Grill
          Tal Bagels (man, I'd kill for one in my hood!)

          3 Replies
          1. re: LeahBaila

            >There's a fantastic Greek grocery store on Lex between 80th and 81st

            Likitsakos - try the yogurt ...

            Likitsakos Market
            1174 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10028

            1. re: squid kun

              Same as Nature's Gifts actually - all owned by two Greek brothers. And yes, SQ, great yogurt!

              Nature's Gifts
              1297 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10028

              Nature's Gifts
              320 E 86th St, New York, NY 10028

            2. You can't beat Paty's Tacos (the truck on Lex at 86th) for inexpensive, authentic Mexican takeout. I had lengua taco's last night....SO GOOD!


              4 Replies
              1. re: TipsyMcStagger

                That's good to know - is it there only in the evenings, do you know?

                1. re: MMRuth

                  A La Turka Turkish
                  Finnegans Wake for a great burger. Irish Pub
                  B Cafe Belgian
                  Vermicelli Vietnamese

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    >>>>That's good to know - is it there only in the evenings, do you know?<<<<

                    They claim 11am-11pm, 7 days a week.


                    1. re: TipsyMcStagger

                      I saw them yesterday around 1 pm, in front of the Barnes & Noble.