I have a special place in my heart for this neighborhood because I used to live on the Upper West Side, but you all need to give it the love it deserves too. Is it the most chaotic or energetic of the city? No, not in the slightest. Which is why I kind of love it because it feels more suburban and homey. But there’s still that NYC buzz and hum stirring in the air. There’s beautiful buildings (both high rises and long-standing walk ups). There’s art teeming from Lincoln Center itself and adjacent to it. There’s the ability to get lost in Central Park from so many access points. And there’s some GREAT bites to eat and beverages to drink. So without further ado, I present my comprehensive guide to the Upper West Side (I’m sad that not all my neighborhood guides will rhyme like this one, so I’m talking full advantage of this both corny and poetic moment).
I tried to make this as concise and diverse as possible, with each spot serving a different purpose on here. These are by no means the ONLY spots, but what I believe to be the best of the area within their specific category of cuisine, my favorites.
If you want to see everything I’ve posted about this neighborhood on Instagram, head to my hashtag #BFBHUWS. I will also update this guide as I see fit to make sure you’re getting recommendations to the best spots possible.
Starting at 60th St to 72nd St.
- Your to-go, cheap eats spot inside Columbus Circle that is affordable and fantastic. David Chang’s Bang Bar sits in one of the most expensive areas, amongst fine-dining establishments serving tasting menus of $300+ pp, selling spit-roasted street meet wrapped up in grilled flatbread for $6-7. It’s blatantly rebellious and odd for its setting, and it’s delicious.
Mandarin Oriental (for a photo-opp)
- If you’re visiting and want a quintessential NYC backdrop, head up to the lobby of Mandarin Oriental and walk straight to the back windows. Be a New Yorker and don’t look intimidated, but strut like you’ve paid $700/night to stay here and get that shot.
- This was my bodega in college. Every New Yorker has theirs and loves it. Is it the best food I’ve ever had? Probably not. But I’ll always appreciate those $6.99 salads (with 5 free toppings) and sandwiches.
- Classically delicious and comforting on all fronts. The Smith has perfected the art of variety, and is consistently a solid performer for dinner (whether it’s date night, family meals, group dinners, etc.). Feeling some spicy salmon tartare? Check. Or how about a decadent bowl of Ricotta Gnocchi with truffle cream? Yup. Or maybe some of the best mac and cheese in the city? They’ve got that too. And it’s all gloriously reliable.
- To set the mood and tone before heading into the theater, have a meal at Lincoln Ristorante. Or maybe just come here for lunch because it’s great. Located right outside Lincoln Center, they are serving elevated Italian cuisine with a side of excellent hospitality.
- The first omakase I’ve ever tried was here because it was $45 for 12 pieces of nigiri sushi and a hand roll. Now it’s $48, but it’s still one of the best deals in the city that always includes toro (fatty tuna) amongst some other major players in the omakase game.
- HELLO incredible Israeli food. From the eccentric genius that is Eyal Shani, North Miznon is his first sit-down restaurant in NYC, and it’s wonderful. There is a hyper-focus on fresh, simple ingredients in their natural form. This place teleports me to my time in Israel, and that should be a reason enough to come.
72nd to 100th St.
- The BEST, I repeat, BEST cookies in NYC. At me if you don’t agree, and we can have a debate that will eventually prove why these chocolate chip walnut hockey puck cookies reign.
- This is both a Cantonese and Cuban in one, and it’s one of the reasons New York is what it is. It’s the epitome of cultures and cuisines coming together and making no-frills delicious food.
Pickle Hospitality Group
- Between 84th and 86th St on Amsterdamn and Broadway lives these incredible concepts by the Pickle Hospitality Group. Jacob’s Pickles for an epic southern comfort brunch, Lucky Pickle Dumpling Co. for take-out dumplings and noodles, Tiki Chick for a strong cocktail and fried chicken or spam sandwich, and Maison Pickle for an elevated American-French comfort experience. I love ALL, I repeat ALL of these places. Each one deserves its rightful place on this list, and each has its own vibe and culinary purpose.
- From 5-7PM daily, The Mermaid Inn has a $1.25 Oyster Happy Hour plus other discounted bites and beverages. That + the quality of their seafood is why I come here.
- This funky and fun Japanese Izakaya is exactly what the neighborhood needed. And while they don’t take themselves seriously, they treat their food program with the utmost care and respect. I really liked everything I tried on my visit here, and the vibes are on point.
100th St. to Columbia (116th St.)
- Some of the best pizza you’ll find, period. Frank’s square slices (plus his one round house pie) are so well-thought out. Every ingredient and detail comes together harmoniously for an epically flavorful and crunchy yet light bite. You need this pizza in your life.
- Low-key Hawaiian BBQ in NYC? Makana is it, and they have several locations all through the Upper West Side. Welcome to the island (sorry neighborhood) of awesome Spam Musubi and Loco Moco.
- Come to Calle Ocho for one reason: unlimited sangria brunch with your entrée. That’s right. They have 10 different types of sangria to choose from. Mix and match. Choose one and stick to it. It’s really up to you – but you have 1.5 hours to do it.
- Think Chipotle of Chinese cuisine. It’s fun, it’s flavorful, and it’s really quite satisfying. Especially their Tomato Pork Noodles (this is a must order for me). If you’re vegetarian, go for the Sesame Noodles.
These are places I either have only been to once or haven’t been to in a while.
- Oxbow Tavern: New American comfort food
- Bella Luna: neighborhood Italian joint
- Crave Fishbar: epic seafood spot
- Osteria Cotta: cozy, date night Italian restaurant and wine bar
- Pizzeria Sirenetta: delicious rustic Italian cuisine and Neapolitan pizza
- The Ribbon: I haven’t been for dinner (just a drink), but it’s from the Blue Ribbon Group and I trust them
- Leyla: comforting Turkish cuisine with cozy Mediterranean vibes
Alright – that’s it for this guide. Keep following along @befatbehappy for more adventures and additions.