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Toronto to UWS - best, hippest, most reasonably priced food?

LemonLauren Jan 2, 2012 07:23 PM

Visiting from Toronto in February with two other ladies, late-20's, early-30's. Looking for places that new, fun, and serve amazing food for reasonable prices (yes I realize, most are in Williamsburg or Greenwich Village). We're staying in the Upper West Side (80th/1st) but are more than willing to travel particularly if the good spots are near shopping/museums where we may also spend time.

Personally, I love small plate, grazing-type places with focus on local ingredients and great treatments of veg and seafood, though I don't shy away from pork, red meat, offal, etc, I prefer to make veggies/seafood my focus. (For reference some of my favourite recent meals have been at Enoteca Sociale in Toronto, Publican in Chicago and Incanto in San Francisco). I'd be willing to do one meal in the $20-30/main dish range, but prefer cheaper if it's doable. Affordable wines by the glass also an asset.

Last time in NYC CH'ers sent my husband and I to Inoteca and we LOVED it. So I'm looking for whatever is great, new or old, given what I've detailed above. Thanks so much!

  1. k
    kathryn Jan 2, 2012 07:31 PM

    80th and 1st is Upper East, not Upper West. I'd double check your location.

    What is your preferred price range per person, before tax, tip, drinks?

    It's easier to give recommendations if you can give a per person food only cost, especially if you seek small plates. Those small plates can really add up. Especially seafood.

    20 Replies
    1. re: kathryn
      AubWah Jan 2, 2012 07:59 PM

      Toronto is very hip. 80th and 1st is not hip, the upper west side is definitely not hip, so the subway is your best friend. try char no. 4 in cobble hill brooklyn. thats a great neighborhood you would like.

      1. re: AubWah
        coasts Jan 2, 2012 08:09 PM

        i'm guessing OP meant UWS between 80th & 81st. if so, she'll have immediate access to the B,C, & 1,2,3 line. that means easy access to Chelsea, West Village, Soho, & East Village. i can't stop recommending Empellon to people. i just love it. could be priced a bit high though for this thread.

        Empellon Taqueria
        230 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

        1. re: coasts
          kathryn Jan 2, 2012 08:58 PM

          Ah. Yes. Whereas NYers read two numbers as "street" and "avenue"...

          East Village is not as convenient to the UWS as Chelsea, West Village, etc are. (Also the B only runs commute hours and not late nights or on weekends.)

        2. re: AubWah
          GoodGravy Jan 2, 2012 09:08 PM

          Parts of Toronto are hip (King & Queen West, Leslieville, Bloor West) and parts aren't (Scarborough, Etobicoke, Bay St. area).

          I'm on the UES, so the UWS is foreign to me. But, when I've ventured over there I've had good ceviche at Momoya and shared pizzas, burrata bruschette and wine at Osteria Cotta.

          427 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

          513 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024

          1. re: GoodGravy
            prima Jan 2, 2012 09:17 PM

            I agree with what you're saying, sort of like Manhattan, TO has areas that are more hip and areas that are less hip ;-) King West has become what I'd consider to be Toronto's provincial answer to the Meatpacking District (neither of which I consider "hip", but "hip" seems to be relative ! ), and Bloor West has become a fairly sleepy mom & stroller kind of neighbourhood lacking destination restaurants. But you're right, Scarbough and Etobicoke are not hip (yet- things can change! ) ;-)

            LemonLauren, I find UWS on the whole kind of sleepy. When I've stayed in that area, I've usually taken a cab or the subway south to the areas I find more interesting foodwise. Of course, there are some non-hip food gems on UWS (most of which pop up through a UWS search). I would walk 20 blocks out of my way for Barney Greengrass and Levain Bakery (for their massive chocolate chip cookie). If you like small plates, maybe mezes at Kefi will work for you. Fish Tag ( http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/fish-tag/menu ) might also be worth a visit.

            If you cross the Park, to visit the Met, I recommend the short walk to Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie, if you like schnitzel, European tortes & Euro coffee in a fin de siecle atmosphere. Cafe Sabarsky is good, but it's not hip.

            Here is a "cool, hip UWS" thread from last August: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/800939

            Barney Greengrass
            541 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

            Cafe Sabarsky
            1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

            505 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024

            Levain Bakery
            167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

            Fish Tag
            222 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024

            1. re: prima
              GoodGravy Jan 3, 2012 07:55 AM

              I was thinking of Bloor West of Bathurst being hip w/ the influx of Korean and South American, not Bloor West by High park which is more family neighborhood, just like the UWS.

              Back OT, I prefer Jacques Torres double chocolate mudslide cookie to Levain's. But, since they're around the corner from each other, you can easily do a side by side comparison. If you want to add Insomnia's version to the comparo, you'll need to walk a few blocks further north, but it's probably worth the trip. Insomnia's also open long after JT and Levain for your post-boozing cookie needs.

              To throw an old school pace into the mix, La Caridad is something Toronto doesn't have much of: ropa vieja, picadillio, boliche, lechon asado, masita de cerdo, carne guisada, all served w/ rice & beans, plantains, etc.

              Levain Bakery
              167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

              Jacques Torres
              285 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023

              La Caridad 78
              2199 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

              Insomnia Cookies
              405 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

              1. re: GoodGravy
                prima Jan 3, 2012 08:09 AM

                Guess I'll have to try a Torres mudslide cookie & check out Insomnia next time I'm on the UWS.

                Jacques Torres
                285 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023

                1. re: prima
                  uwsister Jan 7, 2012 01:19 AM

                  Insomnia doesn't hold a candle to Levain!

                  1. re: uwsister
                    GoodGravy Jan 8, 2012 12:10 AM

                    Sure it does. Levain's not all that plus it's not open as late as Insomnia. JT's cookies got Levain's beat.

                    1. re: GoodGravy
                      coasts Jan 8, 2012 04:34 AM

                      Insomnia is, on their best day, marginally better than Toll House. That's not to say I haven't ordered from them late at night to satisfy a whining Mrs. Coasts, but their cookies are pretty lame.

                      1. re: coasts
                        uwsister Jan 8, 2012 09:35 AM

                        "Marginally better than Toll House" - that's an apt description for Insomnia. I think people get sold on "warm cookies right out of the oven" thing. They lose 90% of their appeal and taste once they cool down. IMO they're certainly not worth time and calories for someone who's visiting from out of town.

                        1. re: uwsister
                          GoodGravy Jan 8, 2012 07:52 PM

                          Let's keep in mind that Insomnia is the place to go for cookies after midnight when neither JT or Levain are open. And visiting single ladies may feel the need for cookies on the way to the next bar or lounge. While you might think tollhouse cookies aren't chowish, it's worth a visit if you're in the area and need cookies to soak up the alcohol.

                          1. re: GoodGravy
                            uwsister Jan 9, 2012 02:35 AM

                            Every year I eat ice cream sandwiches with Tollhouse cookies (purchased at my local deli) in my weight, so I certainly am not denouncing chowish-ness of Tollhouse cookies. I am just denouncing paying too much for same quality cookies simply they are hot out of the oven and smell all sexy. You do make a good argument for all the single ladies bar-hopping in UWS. OP is staying in UES though.

              2. re: prima
                LemonLauren Jan 3, 2012 05:22 PM

                Thanks for the recs! Seeing as I am actually UES, I'll see if any fit in our plans.

          2. re: kathryn
            LemonLauren Jan 3, 2012 05:20 PM

            RIght, I did mean UES. Should have looked at a map.

            I can do at least one meal around $40/person before tax/tip/drinks, but prefer most around $20.

            Thanks :)

            1. re: LemonLauren
              kathryn Jan 3, 2012 05:47 PM

              $20pp before tax, tip, drinks is going to be more "cheap eats" in Manhattan unfortunately. I'd advise you to be very careful of small plates & tapas restaurants, as you'll spend more like $40-50pp at our more popular ones.

              You might be able to do Sorella (which is about $25-30pp) and Kuma Inn (which I believe is still BYOB so that keeps costs down a bit). Other small plates restaurants like Danji, Txikito, ABC Kitchen, Bar Room at the Modern, Tertulia, Fatty Cue, etc. are likely going to be over your budget.

              Kuma Inn
              113 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

              The Modern
              9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

              240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

              95 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

              ABC Kitchen
              35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

              346 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

              359 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

              Fatty 'Cue
              50 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

              1. re: LemonLauren
                prima Jan 3, 2012 07:43 PM

                You might want to consider Flex Mussels on the UES. My friend wanted to trek from W 44th (where we were staying) up to the UES for dinner one night, but it didn't work out. I'm hoping to try out their donuts on a future visit.




                Flex Mussels
                174 East 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028

                1. re: prima
                  GoodGravy Jan 3, 2012 09:14 PM

                  Untitled at the Whitney is mostly new (less than a year old), it's at a museum and it's a Danny Meyer restaurant. When we went in May, it was family style so no small plates. Good treatment of ingredients though. I guess the closest comparison is Frank at the AGO.

                  As for Flex, make reservations or go at off hours. It's crazy busy.

                  945 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021

                  1. re: GoodGravy
                    carcrash Jan 4, 2012 06:11 PM

                    I love Untitled- for brunch/lunch, but particularly for dinner. Weekly changing, very short menu by a phenomenal chef doing wonders with deceptively basic dishes.

                2. re: LemonLauren
                  Pan Jan 4, 2012 02:53 AM

                  Even Inoteca is hard to do for $20, unless you just have a salad and an appetizer. All of the other places I mentioned are probably over your budget. I eat out for $25 or less quite a lot, but mostly in Chinese restaurants, which you have a lot of in Toronto. I think you should spend a lot of your time in the outer boroughs, where you'll find more restaurants within your budget. If you haven't already done so, post to the Outer Boroughs board and ask for advice.

              2. p
                Pan Jan 3, 2012 12:19 AM

                I suppose Aria Wine Bar may still be hip, but anyway, it's good. If you are in fact on the Upper West Side, Buceo 95 is relatively hip and pretty good, but the rest of the neighborhood is not very hip at all. If you prefer to go uptown than downtown, perhaps the Red Rooster is still hip, and I found it excellent when I went there (but that was last February, I think, and it was not really new then, either). I see your husband went to Inoteca. The Lower East Side location is not new at all but it's still hip and still good, and if you go there, you'll be in the midst of a fun neighborhood for barhopping, whereas the Upper West Side (again, if you're really going to be there) is dead. I think you should do what the song says and go "Downtown, where all the lights are bright..." :-)

                98 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

                Buceo 95
                201 W 95th St, New York, NY 10025

                117 Perry St, New York, NY 10014

                Red Rooster
                310 Lenox Ave, New York, NY 10027

                1. sadie Jan 3, 2012 10:54 AM

                  Hop on the 1 and go to Buvette -- it's just what you're looking for! Small plates and drinks any time of day, charming atmo, and newish to boot. (And as someone young living on 85th and West End -- well, yes, the subway is indeed your friend!)

                  42 Grove St, New York, NY 10014

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sadie
                    sadie Jan 3, 2012 10:56 AM

                    And while I know folks on this board are torn on Bar Jamon, I think it's a great spot to consider if one is visiting the Union Square area.

                    Bar Jamon
                    125 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                  2. jonkyo Jan 3, 2012 05:38 PM

                    Definately go to the Yemeni Cafe and Restaurant on Atlantic in Brooklyn. That has been a mainstay for the local Yemeni people for a long time and eventuall had actually been discoved by food enthusiats. It is the real deal:

                    1. d
                      dyrewolf Jan 4, 2012 06:47 AM

                      You should spend a lot of time downtown, stay close to your subway line or just kick in for a cab (divided by 3 it isn't so bad...)

                      But while on the upper east:
                      +1 for Flex, and make a rez on Opentable and you'll be fine
                      Toloache 82 is another hot place for the UES
                      have a burger at UES Shake Shack (86th St 2nd - 3rd)
                      get a glass of wine and some food at Uva (77th and 2nd)

                      1486 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021

                      Flex Mussels
                      174 East 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028

                      Shake Shack
                      154 East 86th Street, New York, NY 10028

                      Toloache 82
                      166 E 82nd St, New York, NY 10028

                      1. u
                        ukitali Jan 4, 2012 09:56 AM

                        So I cannot afford to eat most restaurants suggested here on a daily basis so I know exactly where your coming from. This would be my game plan: I'd suggest splurging on a few nice lunches and then going with ethnic/take-out, counter places for the rest of your meals. There are many restaurants that have a $30 and under prix fixe for lunch and are otherwise unaffordable for dinner. Ex. Del Posto, Riverpark, Ciano, Toqueville, Aldea. Pick a 2-3 of them and enjoy a nice, long leisurely lunch.

                        As a rule it's quite difficult to find affordable, good places to eat near museums and shopping. I'm not familiar with the UES but it's a very quick subway ride down to the East Village where you'll find cheap eats a plenty (Luke's Lobster did just open a branch on 81st though) Pizza in general is quite affordable. Any of the places mentioned on this board are doable under $20. Seafood and tapas will generally drive the price up but if you order carefully it can be done. My favorites are Tia Pol, Las Ramblas and Yuca Bar (half-priced tapas on Tuesdays and lively atmosphere!) A little out of the way, but one of my favorite BYOBs is Nook on on the west side. Worth the trip to save some $ on alcohol. In terms of Italian my affordable favorites are Bianca, Otto/Lupa, Paprika, Max and V Bar. Thai and Chinese are also money savers.

                        Most of your meals won't be gourmet or fancy or necessarily "authentic" but they'll be enjoyable and you'll save money. No need to go to the outer boroughs.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: ukitali
                          prima Jan 4, 2012 10:14 AM

                          I agree that there isn't much need to go the outer boroughs, especially if your time in Manhattan is limited.

                          I usually only visit NYC for 3 or 4 nights, and most of the people and things I plan to see are in Manhattan, so almost all my dining take place in neighbourhoods close to the people/sites I plan to see. I create short lists of restaurants I want to try, within a 15 or 20 minute walk of where I plan to be, to cut down on cross-Manhattan taxis & subway rides, if I've only got 72 hours to spare.

                          Even though I haven't noticed a lot of hip places on the UES, there are a number of affordable, tasty places on 2nd Ave, 3rd & Lex in the 80s & 90s. I had a decent meal at Marmara (not hip or stylish, so I don't think it's what the OP is looking for, but decent Turkish mezes) on my last visit.

                          The cost of a return taxi from the UES to EV could run $20-$25, so dining in the EV might end up being cheaper, but depending on which restaurant you choose, it could end up costing you as much or more as a good restaurant on the UES, by the time you include the cost of travel.

                          1660 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128

                          1. re: prima
                            ukitali Jan 4, 2012 10:22 AM

                            And I agree that there are likely many nice place on the UES. Just follow the locals! Also the 4/5/6 train that runs on the east side is super safe even late at night so don't discount the subway (or bus) to save some more money.

                            1. re: prima
                              Pan Jan 4, 2012 11:51 AM

                              If money is any kind of object, there's no reason to take a cab in Manhattan unless you have too much to carry, are sick, or are in a rush and traveling at a time of day when a cab would be quicker. A trip from Astor Place to 86th St. on the 6 train takes about 35 minutes.

                              1. re: Pan
                                dyrewolf Jan 4, 2012 01:03 PM

                                +1 about the subway or better yet, change at 14th St for the express....

                                1. re: Pan
                                  prima Jan 4, 2012 02:48 PM

                                  Agree completely, Pan & dyrewolf.

                                  When I only have 2 or 3 full days in Manhattan, I wouldn't even want to spend the 35 minutes on a subway in both directions for a single, more economical meal in the East Village.

                                  I'd rather find something within a 20-30 minute walk of wherever I'm at and save both the subway fare & the transportation time, so I could use the money and time saved on something else. When I'm in the mood for a longer walk on my visits, I'll often walk from midtown (where I usually stay) down to the EV, Chinatown or LES and nosh along the way, or head up to the UES or UWS, but those walks take up a significant part of my day. ;-)

                                  1. re: prima
                                    Pan Jan 4, 2012 03:50 PM

                                    But what is good and economical on the Upper East Side? It seems to me, the thing to do is take the subway down and consider walking around the East Village (or whatever neighborhood you choose) and perhaps barhopping to be part of your trip, not to just go there to eat and then immediately go back.

                                    1. re: Pan
                                      prima Jan 4, 2012 05:17 PM

                                      Agree completely with what you're saying.

                                      Marmara is pretty good and economical, and it's located in Yorkville. Not sure if most Chowhounds consider Yorkville part of the UES. I guess it's part of the Greater UES. My meal at Marmara in Yorkville was cheaper my last 2 meals in the EV (at Hearth & Mercadito).

                                      I also had Cafe D'Alsace (mains are mostly under $25, which seems reasonable for a bistro anywhere in Manhattan), Pascalou (another bistro, mains under $26), Beyoglu, Chicken Festival, Pio Pio & Cascabel on my short list for good and reasonably economical on/near the UES on my last visit.

                                      200 E 81st St, New York, NY 10028

                                      Pio Pio
                                      1746 1st Ave, New York, NY 10128

                                      Cafe d'Alsace
                                      1695 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10128

                                      1308 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128

                                      Chicken Festival
                                      1584 1st Ave, New York, NY 10028

                                      1538 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                                      1660 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128

                                      179 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009

                                      1. re: prima
                                        Pan Jan 4, 2012 05:34 PM

                                        I went to Hearth last week and spent $80/person (though that includes 2 bottles of wine shared 4 ways, tax, and tip). It is not a good example of an economical or even fairly-priced restaurant in the East Village. By the way, I was underwhelmed with my meal - the highlight of which was chili hot chocolate. Have they gone downhill? It sure seemed like they have.

                                        I do consider Yorkville part of the Upper East Side.

                                        1. re: Pan
                                          prima Jan 4, 2012 05:37 PM


                                          I was somewhat underwhelmed by my meal at Hearth, too, and we had travelled by taxi from midtown. Our meal for 4 included only a few wines by the glass, and it was close to $80 per person, although we all had 3 courses. Glad to hear it wasn't just me who thought it was kind of pricey for the EV.

                                    2. re: prima
                                      Simon Jan 4, 2012 06:24 PM

                                      for someone in NYC for 3 days, i would recommend trying to avoid consuming even a single calorie on either the UES or UWS, with the exception of random bagels...99% of the best food in NYC is found elsewhere...

                                      1. re: Simon
                                        sadie Jan 5, 2012 10:21 AM

                                        Did we ever discover exactly where OP is staying? (And Simon, I'd agree -- with the exceptions of Greengrass and Sabarsky, respectively -- the latter I especially like for breakfast when it's quiet and unrushed.)

                                        1. re: sadie
                                          Simon Jan 5, 2012 10:52 AM

                                          I like Sabarsky too

                                          1. re: sadie
                                            kathryn Jan 5, 2012 10:56 AM


                                            1. re: kathryn
                                              sadie Jan 6, 2012 08:35 AM

                                              Thanks! How did I miss...? That said, I stand by the Buvette rec!

                                      2. re: Pan
                                        LemonLauren Jan 5, 2012 04:00 PM

                                        Thanks! I'm a walker, so, weather permitting will be on foot/transit over cabs.

                                  2. p
                                    plf515 Jan 5, 2012 02:12 PM

                                    As others said, UWS is not really hip. Mostly families, lots of babies. Some retired people. We do have good food here, but mostly not what you are looking for.

                                    But Fatty Crab is pretty interesting and fun.

                                    Fatty Crab
                                    2170 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

                                    1. l
                                      LemonLauren Jan 5, 2012 04:05 PM

                                      Thanks everyone and sorry for confusion! I guess I'll narrow it down a bit for you...

                                      We will be staying at 80th/1st, so Upper East Side. We don't need to eat nearby but will want to take transit instead of cabs. We'll be 2 or 3 ladies, late twenties, city-savvy, so as long as we're safe in the areas suggested we're willing to make an evening of exploring.

                                      I like the idea of bar hopping. Are any of the places mentioned places, nearby to each other, where we can sharing plates with drinks, then on to another one? Eataly was been recommended by some chef friends up here.

                                      I also think we can budget for one splurge dinner, up to $70/person, but we are looking at doing a day in Williamsburg/Brooklyn so might do that there.

                                      We are not looking for stylish, but rather, hip in the sense of somewhere unique, different, fun, original. Like the Black Hoof or Enoteca Sociale or Drake in Toronto...

                                      And because I'm a legit foodie (more than my companions), I might do something crazy like the lunch prix fixe at Eleven Madison Park, unless you recommend something else for an all-out food experience.


                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: LemonLauren
                                        Pan Jan 6, 2012 11:29 AM

                                        Unique, different, fun, original, small plates with drinks - sounds like you're looking for a place like Momofuku Ssam Bar. It may cost you around $50/person or more, though, depending on how much you order.

                                        As far as safety is concerned, aside from the usual precautions you'd take in any city, there's no reason to worry in Manhattan, nowadays, and you can take transit anywhere on Manhattan, too.

                                        Momofuku Ssam Bar
                                        207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                                        1. re: Pan
                                          LemonLauren Jan 10, 2012 07:24 AM

                                          Yes, Momofuku is definitely on my radar. Why Ssam over the other outlets?

                                          1. re: LemonLauren
                                            kathryn Jan 10, 2012 08:03 AM

                                            The downtown ones are hipper and Ssam has a more diverse menu.

                                      2. i
                                        intrepid Jan 6, 2012 02:18 AM

                                        in general CH not good for hip recommendations, CH good for cheap big quantity food

                                        but having said that go to


                                        125 La Salle St, New York, NY 10027

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: intrepid
                                          uwsister Jan 7, 2012 01:22 AM

                                          What? OP is staying nowhere near Pisticci, and even if she were - I wouldn't send anybody who's only in town for three days to Pisticci anyway. There's nothing "hip" about it either.

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