Upper East Side Restaurants to Pre- and Post-Game the Met Gala

For spotting celebs on and off your phone, don’t sleep on these Upper East Side restaurants.

Exterior of JoJo Restaurant
Exterior of JoJo Restaurant | Photo courtesy of JoJo Restaurant
Exterior of JoJo Restaurant | Photo courtesy of JoJo Restaurant

New York City’s notorious fashion holiday is here again: the Met Gala. Held on the first Monday of every May, the Met Gala theme this year is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” We’ll cop to the fact that we’re deeply obsessed with all the red carpet updates and might even be hanging out on the Metropolitan Museum of Art stairs to catch a glimpse of our favorite celebs (we’re earnestly holding out hope for appearances from icons like Rihanna and Zendaya).

Before and after the drool-worthy (and oftentimes… confusing) looks hit our feeds, we’re posting up at the best spots to eat plus drink near the uptown action. Along with classics like Bemelmans, Daniel, and JG Melon, here’s all the Upper East Side restaurants we suggest dropping by.

Anita Gelato
Anita Gelato | Photo courtesy of Anita Gelato

Since starting their journey out of their family kitchen in Tel Aviv in 1998, Anita Avital and her youngest son, Nir, have created a worldwide gelato empire. With locations in cities like Sydney, London, and Barcelona, and a second store in NoMad, the Upper East Side Anita Gelato still attracts lines down the block. Among the popular flavors are Mascarpone Ricotta and Strawberry as well as White Chocolate and Pistachio Cream.

Café Sabarsky
Sachertorte at Café Sabarsky | Flickr/Jocelyn & Cathy .

The resident cafe of the Neue Galerie has commanded an avid fan base over the past few decades for its traditional approach to Viennese fare. Named after Neue Galerie’s co-founder Serge Sabarsky, Café Sabarsky is a work of art with ornate touches like early 1900s upholstered banquettes, ornate lighting fixtures, and a Bösendorfer grand piano. Try everything: from the Wiener Rindsgulasch mit Spätzle (beef goulash) and Bavarian Eggs with Ham to the Sachertorte (dark chocolate cake with apricot confiture) and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).

Available for Reservations

Among the ranks of NYC’s old-school red sauce joints, Elio’s has stood the test of time. Chances are high of spotting somebody who’s someone and the no music ambiance is the perfect spot for actually carrying a conversation. Go-tos include any of the seven spaghetti variations, Broiled Veal Chop, and the off-menu chicken or veal parmesan. For something sweet, go for the Tiramisu.

Flex Mussels
Flex Mussels | Photo courtesy of Flex Mussels

After a fire forced this 15-year-old Upper East Side fixture to close last year, Flex Mussels has officially relocated to a new home nearby on Third Avenue. Known for its ten exploratory iterations on mussels, the revamped kitchen also offers new items like Tuna Crudo (ginger, lemon) and Seared Tilefish (tomato, corn, lime). The seasonal oyster program pairs seamlessly with a few dirty martinis.

Available for Reservations
Jeremy’s | Photo courtesy of Jeremy’s

Jeremy’s is an Austrian-influenced cocktail bar from the team behind the iconic butcher shop and Upper East Side institution, Schaller & Weber. Led by third-generation owner, Jeremy Schaller, the eponymous watering hole sits two doors down from its butcher shop sibling and features a quaint 25-seat interior. The star of the show is the beverage program, which is made up of timeless cocktails, Austrian schnapps-infused drinks, and Austria-sourced wines. Bar bites include Spicy Octopus Toast (calabrian chili, sun dried tomatoes) and Jeremy’s Steak Sandwich (caramelized onions, blue cheese).

Available for Reservations
JoJo Restaurant | Photo courtesy of JoJo Restaurant

After more than 20 years of serving the Upper East Side, renowned chef/restaurateur Jean-Georges (Tin Building) briefly closed his first solo restaurant in 2016 to undergo a contemporary revamp. Post-facelift, JoJo Restaurant’s brownstone interior is now airy and light, which complements the locally sourced and seafood-centric menu. Guests can order dishes like Peekytoe Crab Cake with Sugar Snap Pea Remoulade and Maine Lobster Roasted in the Shell with Herb Butter, as well as throwback classics like the Slowly Cooked Salmon with mashed potatoes, black truffle vinaigrette, and snap peas.

Available for Reservations
La Pecora Bianca
La Pecora Bianca | Photo courtesy of La Pecora Bianca

The seventh La Pecora Bianca restaurant in NYC sits pretty on the Upper East Side. With an interior inspired by the Amalfi Coast—light wood accents, elegant tile work, and mid-century decor—the branch easily stands out from its siblings. Location-exclusive menu items include small plates like the Fritto Misto (calamari, shrimp) and pastas such as the Spaghetti Chitarra (lobster, chili). Other coastal Italian dishes include the Garganelli (roasted wild mushrooms, arugula pesto, garlic) and Chicken Paillard, as well as can’t-miss desserts including the Olive Oil Cake.

Available for Reservations
Ramen at NR | Photo by Zenith Richards

The sister bar to ROKC, NR draws inspiration from the cuisine of 19th century Japanese port towns. Similar to its sibling cocktail destination, NR specializes in ornate cocktail presentations like the Pineapple + Passionfruit (vanilla, lime, burned cinnamon) and Yuzu + Sansho (gin, yuzu sake, honey, orange blossom). Fill the table with small plates like the Karaage Fried Chicken and Truffle Egg Sandwich, or opt for one of the five ramen variations.

Available for Reservations
First dubbed Pastrami King, when the business originally debuted in Williamsburg, Pastrami Queen (or at least some iteration of it) has been in operation since 1956. Must-eats at the quaint Upper East Side digs include: Hand-cut Hot Pastrami on rye, a kosher Frankfurter with sauerkraut and mustard, Matzoh Ball Soup, and the Roast Beef sandwich on garlic bread.

With long communal tables and Pickle Martinis at the ready, The Penrose is an Upper East Side hotspot. Whether you’re looking to squad up by the bar or are lucky enough to snag a seat at an indoor table, the vibe is always convivial (and sneaks towards rowdy on a good night). Open until 3 am on Mondays, this is a solid bet for a late-night sip and bite. Share Popcorn Chicken or go in on a Penrose Burger & Fries.

Available for Reservations
Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes Bar | Photo courtesy of Phil Hughes Bar

Yorkville’s Phil Hughes Bar is an ideal landing place for a casual hangout. The oldest Irish pub in the neighborhood, the family-owned-and-operated dive bar has a pool table, jukebox, and five large TVs for an optimal game watching experience. With authenticity in mind, the joint imports glassware from Ireland (to achieve that perfect Irish pint) as well as a range of Irish crisps (or potato chips). Pull up a seat at the bar or show off your pool-playing skills.

Chef Sandro Fioriti has been known for serving up authentic Roman cuisine on the Upper East Side since 1985. After his popular eatery (which previously occupied a spot on East 81st Street) closed in February, Fioriti found a second wind (at the age of 74!) and a new locale for Sandro’s to reopen just a few blocks away on East 86th Street. The menu consists of longtime guest favorites like the Spaghettini Al Limone, Rigatoni Burrata, and Pollo Cacciatora alla Romana (white wine, rosemary, lemon).

Available for Reservations
Sushi Noz
Interior at Sushi Noz | Photo courtesy of Sushi Noz

With a stellar reputation for its traditional omakase experience, Sushi Noz has consistently drawn crowds since debuting in 2018. Led by chef Nozomu Abe (Noz 17, Noz Market), the $495-per-person meal showcases Japanese ingredients for an array of appetizers, Edomae-style nigiri, and more. The interior features impressive stretches of blonde wood and sources inspiration from Edo period teahouses.

Thep Thai is a can’t-miss neighborhood spot. Menu highlights include the Khao Soi (egg noodles, creamy coconut broth, bone-in chicken), Avocado Massaman Curry (sweet potato, onion, fried shallot), and shareable Thep Platter (crab rangoon, spring roll, chive pancake, fried chicken dumplings, and fried shrimp dumplings). With a notorious no-reservation policy (it adds to the spontaneity of the experience), guests can join the waitlist online or try their luck at the door.

Approachable steakhouse Quality Eats offers a reliable meal via a choice of chops, a raw bar selection, starters like Artichoke Mac & Cheese, and entrees including The Patty Melt Club and Lemon-Charred Chicken. You may know its smaller, but largely similar predecessor in the West Village.

Available for Reservations
Izzy Baskette is a Staff Writer for Thrillist New York. Find her on Instagram.