The Upper West Side doesn’t always get the restaurant credit it deserves. But we think there’s actually never been a better time to eat in the neighborhood. From classic Jewish delis and Dominican standbys to some of the best new places to eat Szechuan or Vietnamese food in Manhattan - the options on the Upper West Side will satisfy nearly any mood you (or the people you need to please) are in. Don’t believe us? Read on.
Bánh opened in 2020 and is already one of the best restaurants to have graced the neighborhood in years. They specialize in Vietnamese dishes like Bún Bò Bơ with sizzling butter beef, bánh mì filled with charbroiled pork belly that’s a top contender for the best ones in the city, and the banh chung chien appetizer - a deep-fried rice cake brick made of ground mung bean that’s filled with pork and comes with a tangy soy dressing. Between an appetizer and an entree, you can easily walk away having spent $30 on an exciting dinner here. Plus, the casual set-up makes it perfect for a meetup with a friend or a date near Amsterdam Avenue and 107th Street.
If we had to pick one singular bagel to reign supreme, it would be the untoasted everything bagel with scallion cream cheese from Absolute Bagels on Broadway and West 108th Street. Tiny and round like a softball, each springy dough globe you’ll find here has a blistered bottom. The dough itself tastes malty and sweet, like it had a daydream years ago about being a dessert. But the real magic is how Absolute Bagels’ subtle sweetness is counteracted by the salty garlic-everything seasoning that adheres to the exterior. Absolute Bagels also makes fantastic Thai iced tea (the place was founded by Sam Thongkrieng, who moved from Bangkok to NYC in the ’80s and worked at Ess-A-Bagel for years). The straightforward sweetness of the tea adds some needed relief to the salty-garlicky, gushing cream cheese experience.
The combination of fat, salt, and spice makes any fried chicken sandwich at least some degree of delicious. But rarely are they as memorable as the Nashville Hot Chickwich version at this casual new Korean restaurant on the Upper West Side. Chick Chick’s play on Korean-Nashville Hot Chicken is crunchier than it is fiery, and we could write an entire review of this twice-fried, chili-dusted poultry production with pickles and creamy white sauce. But Chick Chick’s allure extends way beyond one sandwich. From an unexpectedly light kale caesar salad to soy-pepper wings, and a kimchi fried rice with chicken sausage and rich egg yolk, chicken shines in all its forms here. It’s a perfect place to pick up some takeout for your kids or to have a casual meal with a friend for around $20.
We once went to Mama’s Too when it was 15 degrees outside. We had to wear pants under our pants, and it was worth it. That was the first time we tried their shroom and sausage slice as well as the cacio e pepe pizza with its four types of cheese and cracked black pepper, both of which will enrich your life in ways you have yet to fathom. And those aren’t even the best slices here. The square pepperoni one is worth a trip across the city, and the classic margherita with fresh basil is just about as noteworthy as the one at Di Fara. If you live on the UWS, you should visit this tiny slice shop once a week, and if you don’t live on the UWS, you should still plan a visit as soon as possible.
The quintessential UWS restaurant Old John’s Luncheonette reopened in the same 67th Street location, but now with a new name, and a spruced-up dining room, and amazing homemade ice cream. This is a great place to eat a thick, satisfying burger and drink a martini with someone near Lincoln Center, but we’d also recommend bringing some children in your life for grilled cheese and ice cream sundaes. Despite its newness, Old John’s has old school charm - jazz playing over the speakers, staff who have been working there for years, and egg creams at the ready.
The Amsterdam Avenue location of this Washington Heights Dominican spot serves dishes like emparedados, mofongo de chicharron, and our personal favorite, rotisserie chicken. For $7.50, you get a half-bird with skin that tastes like it’s coated in brown sugar, and for another $4, you can and should add a side of boiled green bananas. If you’re looking for somewhere on the UWS to bring your whole family for a great dinner that’ll cost around $10 per person, this is the place. They’re currently open for takeout and outdoor dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For a while, Han Dynasty was our go-to spot for Szechuan food on the Upper West Side. That place is still useful to keep in mind (you’ll find it listed below), but we’d also recommend trying Yu Kitchen on Broadway for takeout or a casual meal with your family. Between their silky mapo tofu covered in a viscous pork and mala sauce, and the wontons bathed in a deep red chili oil, consider Yu Kitchen the most exciting new place to eat Chinese food in the neighborhood.
El Mitote in the West 70s makes the neighborhood’s best Mexican food, including delicious comida corrida platters that come with rice and brothy Guadalajara-style black beans (where the owner grew up). All of the food is served on bright-colored trays, so we like to think of this place as a cafeteria for people who have fun and enjoy enchiladas. We recommend this neighborhood spot for anything from a date to dinner with your family, just show up on the early side if you don’t want to wait for a table since they don’t accept reservations.
Miznon North is an Israeli restaurant with sister locations in Tel Aviv, Paris, and a counter-service spot in Chelsea Market we like a lot. Unlike the other NYC version, this 72nd Street restaurant is full-service and massive. It’s fun and busy in here, but it doesn’t get too loud. Which makes it a great place for dinner with a group or just someone you’ve been married to for 30 years. We especially like the run-over potato (which comes smashed as thin as a wedding invitation) and the golden whole fried branzino in a pan full of roasted vegetables.
Curry King has been operating from noon to midnight for years, in large part serving cab drivers on a lunch or dinner break. Come here and check out the lineup of their vegetable stews, fried snacks, and tandoori meat - since it changes somewhat every day. The thing that always remains, though, is the $6 vegetarian lunch special where you can get dal, salad, rice, and a vegetarian entree. No matter what, we recommend ordering the garlic naan - which is baked fresh in the back and served piping hot on a paper plate. It’s as thick as it is fluffy, and the size of an analog clock you’d find on a classroom wall.
Will you remember the classic French bistro dishes at Cafe Luxembourg forever? Absolutely not. But you will remember the experience, and the fact that you may see Fran Lebowitz taking a meeting in a corner booth with two extremely tall people. This classic Upper West Side restaurant is more about dining in a dim-lit, red-leather booth institution than it is about any singular plate of food. Having said that, you could order the French onion soup and a martini, and be perfectly satisfied by your meal here.
The combination of high-quality sushi, garden patio, and under-$100 omakase make Sushi Nonaka one of the greatest secrets of the Upper West Side. This upscale Japanese spot operates out of the bottom floor of Korean restaurant Boka (the owners of the two businesses are married), and there’s almost no signage. Walk in and the host will take you downstairs, past a chic sushi bar, and out to a back garden that looks like an Architectural Digest cover story. Sushi Nonaka offers a couple of omakase options (as well as a la carte sushi service), with a selection of fish changes depending on what they get shipped that day. During a past visit, some of our favorite pieces were the lightly seared sea bass, striped jack with smoky yuzu sauce, and flaky, sweet unagi.
Eléa is a Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side where you can have a great meal and also pretend you’re downtown. There’s a bar area upstairs and a big dining room in the basement, and it’s perfect for a somewhat upscale dinner that isn’t insanely expensive. Your options range from salads to lamb chops to a whole grilled fish - just be sure to start with a few of the dips (we especially like the hummus), and try to not fill up on the complimentary bread. Also, make a reservation. As mentioned, this is the rare sort of uptown spot that feels like something you’d find below 34th Street, and as a result, it gets very busy.
Moonrise Izakaya is one of the coolest places to have a group dinner on the UWS. As soon as you sit down, someone will probably hand you a complimentary glass of sake. Which, scientifically, will only encourage you to drink more sake and set up a temporary living room in the loud space here. We’d suggest ordering a bunch of small Japanese plates like a skillet of hot cheesy corn and some delicately fried karaage (and then excusing yourself to admire the ode to Sailor Moon in the bathroom). Between the sake, the shareable food, and the fun neighborhood feel, Moonrise Izakaya is perfect for the next time you want to spend a few rowdy hours with some friends near West 96th Street.
The classic brick-walled Upper West Side old-school Italian spot, Celeste should be at the top of your list for Sunday night dinners with the family. They’re famous for their 10-inch Neapolitan pizza (which they also have available in gluten-free form), and you’ll do very well with a simple fried artichokes topped with crispy herbs. One thing to be aware of: it’s cash only.
This counter-service Japanese curry shop operates inside of a ramen restaurant right across the street from the 72nd Street train stop. We often wake up in the middle of the night thinking about their croquette sando - with carb-heavy deep-fried potato and creamy coleslaw on toasted milk bread. But their pork tenderloin sando also has a perfect balance of crunchy and squishy elements. No matter if you choose to eat it in Central Park or on your couch, each sando order comes with four thick halves and a small tub of coleslaw on the side, leaving you with enough food for at least two meals.
An unfortunate truth is that this city possesses very few places to eat Hawaiian food. So if you’re near 106th Street, consider yourself lucky to have Makana close by. The casual space, quick service, and sub-$20 dishes make this an excellent restaurant to remember for a weeknight dinner, a solo lunch, or simply the next time you’d like to eat sweet-salty spam musubi. In addition to the musubi, we love eating Makana’s poke bowls piled high with refreshing tuna, edamame, seaweed salad, and crab salad.
Bar Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s “casual bistro” across from Lincoln Center. We use sass quotes to indicate that this French restaurant still feels a bit fancy by plebeian standards ($19 dollar cocktails, a curved-ceiling dining room that looks like a wine cellar and Moma made a baby, etc). Even though its sister restaurant, Boulud Sud, is currently closed, you can still order many of the French and Mediterranean leaning dishes at Bar Boulud - like octopus a la plancha and trout almondine. You should rely on this place for evenings where everyone in your party will want an entree and a glass of nice wine. There’s typically an exciting fish special, as well as a different magnum of wine being poured by the glass every night. Another worthy idea: sit at the bar area by yourself and look mysterious.
Sushi Kaito is a 12-seat omakase sushi restaurant where everyone sits at the chef’s counter owned by Yoko Hasegawa. There are two seatings per night at 6pm and 8pm, and you have the option of a 13-piece omakase for $98 or 17-piece omakase for $135. Every meal also comes with Japanese cold somen noodles and a rotating dessert. It’s one of the best sushi experiences you can get in this town for the money, and it’s definitely worth a trip to West 72nd Street sometime soon.
The menu at Awadh on the Upper West Side primarily focuses on the region of Northeastern Indian by the same name, so you can expect lots of low and slow-cooked meats and biryani cooked in clay pots with naan blanketed over the top. Whenever we come here (usually with family members or a date), we order galouti kebab made from minced lamb.
This gourmet deli and grocer has been in the same location for over 80 years. They sell high-quality cheese, meats, and hundreds of packages of chocolate babka daily - but the real star of Zabar’s is their smoked fish. Eat a bagel with smoked whitefish or nova from their takeout area on the corner of 80th Street and Broadway.
Another classic Upper West Side smoked fish destination. Although, unlike Zabar’s, this 1908-established Jewish deli has plenty of room to sit and eat a real brunch. Show up early for a table on weekends, and bring a crew for plates of eggs, latkes, and nova.
This transplant from the Upper East Side serves the best sushi on the neighborhood, and also the most expensive sushi on the Upper West Side. This is true particularly if you go for Gari’s famous omakase, which varies in price depending on the fish available. (We’ve spent around $125 on ours before.) But if you’re in a position to splurge on sushi, Gari’s omakase will be well worth your money. It usually includes a broiled tomato over salmon piece that will legitimately change your month - the warm, sauteed tomato in combination with chilled buttery salmon results in a deluxe, umami-rich, hot-cold experience. You can also come to Gari and spend a bit less money on a $45 sushi set or $39 sashimi platter, or a la carte rolls and pieces.
The best things about this French bistro on 104th Street and Broadway are as followed: they have a long list of French wines in the $20 range and food that’s consistently buttery and delicious. Plus, if the idea of sitting on one of their sidewalk patio wicker chairs, eating mussels in a dijonnaise sauce on a breezy night makes you want to smoke a cigarette even if you don’t smoke cigarettes, we relate and that’s exactly why we love coming here.
This casual Thai restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue specializes in street food. The dining room is even designed to look like a market, with signs hanging from the ceiling. You can surely rely on curries and noodle entrees here, but what makes Thai Market stand out is the selection of smaller snacks inspired by street food in Bangkok. Try the daikon cakes sautéed in a sticky soy sauce with bean sprouts, eggs, and scallions, or the Thai Market egg crepe filled with shrimp, hot peppers, tofu, and sweet coconut sauce. One more thing to know: Thai Market fuels Columbia students in the same way that Red Bull and late nights do, so you’ll probably spot a bunch of 20-year-olds here.
Treat the Upper West Side location of Han Dynasty like your north star on rainy Wednesdays on your couch or casual Saturday nights out with a group of friends. The original Han Dynasty started in Philly before opening up a few locations around New York. As much as we’ve enjoyed everything we’ve had here, we typically order the same six-ish things on repeat - mostly because we’d be too sad eating here without them by our side. The dan dan noodles and wontons in chili oil are both essential sharing items. As for mains, we suggest trying the excellent and numbing mapo tofu as well as dry pepper-style chicken draped in chiles. An added bonus: the UWS location is significantly roomier than its East Village counter part.
There aren’t many rowdy dining options in this neighborhood, unless you count plates of wings between games of beer pong at the sports bars on Amsterdam. The exception is Jacob’s Pickles, a Southern comfort food spot that you’ve almost certainly heard of if you’ve ever done drank bloody mary’s during brunch above 59th Street. They’re incredibly serious about craft beer here, and most things on the food menu are fried, and/or smothered in something. Yes, there’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to pickles. Get a couple of those, plus a fried chicken biscuit drizzled with honey and topped with spicy sour pickles.
Between the crunch of airy, fresh baguettes, the acidity of pickled carrots and daikon, and richness of pâté and mayo, even the most average bánh mì is often pretty delicious. But why settle for average when you can go to Saiguette on Columbus Avenue. The menu here is huge, with everything from pho and spring rolls to lobster curry and steak over rice - but don’t leave without a massive bánh mì. Our favorite is the pork shoulder, but they also do them with steak, chicken, and shrimp. There’s only a small bar area available for sit-down dining. You can always take your sandwich back home or walk two blocks east to the park.
The Ribbon is from the people behind The Blue Ribbon, and they just so happen to serve the kind of steakhouse-adjacent American food that chain became famous for: oysters, roast chicken, bacon cheddar burgers, and big plates of Caesar salad. Keep The Ribbon in mind for dinner with your family or brunch with a couple of friends.
If you haven’t been to the original Daily Provisions in Union Square, know that the excitement around it is more than justified (and not just for the crullers). Their newer uptown location has the same juicy rotisserie chicken, incredible sandwiches, and pastries, with the added bonus of more seating. To get a cruller, you’ll have to come early, but otherwise you should use this spot whenever you want something light and quick on a weeknight, or at 11am on a Sunday when the only thing that can get you out of your apartment is a bacon, egg, and cheese (and your dog).
Angaar is a casual Indian restaurant on 73rd Street on the UWS where you can get some really good aloo gobi and a bunch of great curries. When you walk in, you’ll see roughly five tables and a staircase leading to the second floor dining area. Which is just to say that we wouldn’t bring a huge group here unless you want to feel like you’re squished into a dollhouse. This place is great for a casual date or catch-up with a friend who has a really good story regarding a goat in Riverside Park. They also do a vegetarian lunch special during the weekdays where you get dal, two vegetable dishes, rice, and naan for $13.
Marlow Bistro is a neighborhood cafe filled with candles and potted plants, not unlike the setting for a first date scene in a ’90s romantic comedy. The food here skews mostly Italian with Mediterranean influence, including a thin-crust pizza with burrata and za’atar, and a dish with mussels, clams, and chorizo. We find the most success here by bringing a date and sticking with pizzas and pastas.
Jin Ramen is just one small room with a bunch of tables, and if you grab one of the smaller ones along the wall, it’ll work for a date night with someone you’ve only met a couple times. And if you aren’t quite in the mood for ramen, you can get something like a salmon sashimi rice bowl, chicken curry, or soba noodles.
One requirement for identifying yourself as a New Yorker is being able to name your favorite neighborhood diner. If you live on the Upper West Side, then your answer is easy - Viand Cafe. Like at its Upper East Side location, the menu ranges from omelettes to meatloaf, but the most important thing to know is that they roast their turkeys in-house. Which means you should be ordering their turkey sandwich. The big booths and midnight closing time also make it a good option if you want to eat some pancakes for your second dinner.
The Mermaid Inn is the Upper West Side’s foremost Happy Hour destination, particularly for anyone who enjoys oysters, spritzes, and first dates. (Well, maybe tolerates first dates). They serve $1.25 oysters and $9 mini lobster rolls every day from 4:30-6:30pm, as well as $9 cocktails and wine. Plus, unlike their East Village location, you can make a reservation ahead of time for a table here.
Our all-time favorite place to eat vegan and vegetarian food in the neighborhood. The food isn’t necessarily light just because it’s made to highlight vegetables, like some delicious chickpea fries and dairy-free vanilla cake that we’d happily eat on our birthday. Come for lunch, a 2pm pastry snack, or for a catch-up with a friend (especially when you want to keep your under or around $20 per person).
It’s possible all you’re looking for is a quiet table where you can eat grilled octopus, duck liver mousse, and drink enough wine to convince yourself that traveling isn’t that cool anyway. This longstanding neighborhood French bistro on 79th Street is a perfect “We Got A Babysitter” restaurant for a night out.