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Jan 2, 2012 07:23 PM

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

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!

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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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

          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

            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 ( ) 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:

            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

              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

                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

                  Insomnia doesn't hold a candle to Levain!

                  1. re: uwsister

                    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

                      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

                        "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

                          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

                            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

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

          2. re: kathryn

            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

              $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

                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

                  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

                    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

                  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. 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. 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

                    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. 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. 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