The Definitive Upper West Side Dining Guide

upper west side dining guide
Courtesy of RedFarm

“The Upper Best Side,” as it’s known to people who live above 59th Street, has never really been known as an epicenter of cool. That’s changed in the last several years, as the neighborhood has become home to some of the city’s most exciting restaurants, which have in turn shed more light on the decades-old mainstays. From old-school Jewish fare to the city’s best dan dan noodles, here’s what you need to be eating on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

white gold butchers
Eric Medsker

<h2>Best for a big cut of meat: <a href="; target="_blank">White Gold Butchers</a></h2>

<em>375 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
Chef April Bloomfield’s butcher shop/restaurant boasts an all-female crew that breaks down whole animals (raised in upstate New York specifically for White Gold) into steaks and chops, served both raw at the counter (to cook at home) and plated in the restaurant. Stop by in the morning for egg, cheese, and meat breakfast sandwiches; after 12pm for savory pasties stuffed with red wine-braised beef; and for dinner, when a deceptively simple plate of beef and peppers may be one of the best pieces of meat you’ve ever had.

barney greengrass
Flickr/Kok Chih & Sarah Gan

<h2>Best for sit-down Jewish fare: <a href="; target="_blank">Barney Greengrass</a></h2>

<em>541 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
Doling out lox, schmear, and chopped liver for 100 years, this not-quite-Kosher Jewish deli is an Upper West Side mainstay. You can order everything from sturgeon sandwiches and lox scrambles to eat at the often-packed formica tables, but those without time to sit down can also grab a dozen bagels and babka to go.

Maison Pickle
Courtesy of Maison Pickle

<h2>Best for a booze-soaking brunch: <a href="; target="_blank">Maison Pickle</a></h2>

<em>2315 Broadway</em><br />
A sister restaurant to comfort-food haven Jacob’s Pickles, the slightly more gussied-up Maison Pickle focuses on classic French dip sandwiches (there are five varieties on the menu, each oozing with jus and fondue or aioli on a house-baked roll) in addition to other hangover cures like fried chicken and pancakes (or more standard waffles) and mac &amp; cheese.

Nice Matin
Nice Matin

<h2>Best for easy French fare: <a href="; target="_blank">Nice Matin</a></h2>

<em>201 E. 79th Street</em><br />
Just steps from the American Museum of Natural History, this laid-back French bistro is place to hit when you’re looking for an easy and reliably good dinner. Choose from hors d’oeuvres like escargot and tomato toast and hearty, elegant entrees like steak frites and chicken paillard. The best deal is the set menu, which includes an appetizer, meat, and dessert for $42.

Levain Bakery
Levain Bakery

<h2>Best for a giant chocolate chunk cookie: <a href="; target="_blank">Levain Bakery</a></h2>

<em>167 W. 74th Street &amp; 351 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
Two friends’ mission to bake the greatest chocolate chip cookie known to New York City led to well, the greatest chocolate chip cookie in New York City -- served steaming hot, melty, and gooey in the middle and studded with walnuts for extra bite. Eating this half-pounder in one sitting isn’t difficult, but bring a friend so you can share other cookie flavors.

gray's papaya
Flickr/David Joyce

<h2>Best for a quick, cheap hot dog: <a href="; target="_blank">Gray's Papaya</a></h2>

<em>1090 Broadway</em><br />
The only Gray’s Papaya left in New York City, this iconic, banana-yellow stand lets you scarf down cheap hot dogs while you wait for the 2 train. The famed Recession Special (for $4.45) includes two franks (sauerkraut optional) and a sugary fruit drink served in a signature styrofoam cup.

<h2>Best for 2am baked ziti: <a href="; target="_blank">Big Nick's</a></h2>

<em>70 W. 71st Street</em><br />
If you need some cheesy carbs to soak up all the beers you drank at the string of collegiate bars on Amsterdam Avenue, look no further than this just-grungy-enough diner slinging out pasta-topped slices of pizza until 4am. Stumble into a plastic seat, order one last pitcher of cheap beer, and indulge in the multi-page menu of pies, baked pastas, Greek dishes, and breakfast.

Mermaid Inn
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

<h2>Best for oyster happy hour: <a href="; target="_blank">Mermaid Inn</a></h2>

<em>570 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
This nautical happy-hour haunt fills up just before 5pm, when East Coast oysters go for $1 a pop, along with $5 beers, $7 wines, and $8 cocktails until 7pm. If you’re not too concerned about getting a deal, stay after dark to indulge in grand platters of clams and crudo, as well as a selection of West Coast oysters.

<h2>Best for mole and mezcal: <a href="; target="_blank">Cafe Frida</a></h2>

<em>368 Columbus Avenue</em><br />
One of the city’s original upscale Mexican destinations, Cafe Frida offers an extensive list of agave-based spirits (tequila and mezcal) alongside platters of mole-doused chicken and beer-braised lamb barbacoa tacos. There’s also a dedicated vegan menu, ranging from elote with pumpkin-hemp cheese to a quinoa-stuffed chile relleno.

Courtesy of Tessa

<h2>Best for build-your-own Benedicts at brunch: <a href="; target="_blank">Tessa</a></h2>

<em>349 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
While you could go the avocado-toast route (it’s spiced with harissa and made tangy with preserved lemon), the standout at this Italian-Spanish-French restaurant is the build-your-own Bennie menu, that lets brunchers choose a base (potatoes, English muffins, or deep-fried arancini), sauce (several flavors of hollandaise) and topping (think pork belly, lobster, and lump crab) to dress up their poached eggs.

Flickr/Adam Cohn

<h2>Best for to-go Jewish fare: <a href="; target="_blank">Zabar’s</a></h2>

<em>2245 Broadway</em><br />
Good for much more than your grandmother’s weekly grocery shopping, this supermarket-homewares store-cafe combo is your one stop for all Jewish delights. Load up on challahs, matzo ball soup by the quart, freshly sliced lox by the pound, and all the rugelach and babka your kitchen can handle.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

<h2>Best for red-sauce dishes: <a href="; target="_blank">Parm</a></h2>

<em>235 Columbus Avenue</em><br />
A massive sibling to the SoHo joint of the same name, this red-and-white-checkered Italian-American spot is your go-to for a modern take on a classic chicken Parm (or a vegetarian-friendly eggplant Parm), best paired with a side order of pasta in a Calabrian chili-spiked sauce.

Jing Fong
Courtesy of Jing Fong

<h2>Best for Chinatown-style dim sum: <a href="; target="_blank">Jing Fong</a></h2>

<em>360 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
An offshoot of Chinatown’s famed dim-sum emporium, Jing Fong’s smaller, second location uptown offers a pared-down selection of handmade dumplings and savory steamed treats. Fill up on pork, shrimp, and peanut dumplings along with larger entrees and vegetable-centric sides while sipping Asian-inspired craft cocktails.

The Ribbon
The Ribbon

<h2>Best for cozy but upscale comfort food: <a href="; target="_blank">The Ribbon</a></h2>

<em>20 W. 72nd Street</em><br />
This dim-lit New American institution invites you (and probably your parents) to luxuriate in a leather banquettes for shareable plates like fancy deviled eggs topped with trout roe, homemade pate, and Buffalo-style cauliflower. Making a meal out of the wide range of appetizers wouldn’t be a mistake, but if you need a heavy plate to feel like you ate a meal, choose from a range of spit-roasted meats, or on Sunday and Monday nights, fried chicken.

Saravana Bhavan
Flickr/Jonathan McIntosh

<h2>Best for a vegetarian Indian feast: <a href="; target="_blank">Saravana Bhavan</a></h2>

<em>413 Amsterdam Avenue</em><br />
The Upper West Side has a serious lack of curry and tandoori, which is why this mini-chain (with another location in Curry Hill), should be your neighborhood go-to. Enlist a server to help you navigate the menu of over 100 types of finger foods, dosa, and curries for a set “business meal,” which offers a taste of multiple veg-friendly menu options all on one tray.

the fat monk
Courtesy of The Fat Monk

<h2>Best for fancy bar snacks and cocktails: <a href="; target="_blank">The Fat Monk</a></h2>

<em>949 Columbus Avenue</em><br />
Though the menu at this gastropub may seem all over the place (think Mediterranean with hints of Asian and New American), it’s full of Inventive dishes like lobster gyros, crab tater tots, and crispy duck wings pair extremely well with an extensive beer and wine list, plus cocktails made from house-infused spirits.

han dynasty
Courtesy of Han Dynasty

<h2>Best for dan dan noodles: <a href="; target="_blank">Han Dynasty</a></h2>

<em>215 W. 85th St</em><br />
A Philadelphia (and, subsequently, East Village) export, Han Dynasty’s Uptown outpost is much more spacious, but boasts the same ultra-spicy Szechuan fare. You’re here for the dan dan noodles, bouncy and coated in ground pork and served with as much chili oil as your tongue can handle.

sushi of gari
Courtesy of Sushi of Gari

<h2>Best for splurge-worthy sushi: <a href="; target="_blank">Sushi of Gari</a></h2>

<em>370 Columbus Avenue</em><br />
If you’re willing to spend, Sushi of Gari is your best bet for fresh sushi on the UWS. You’re not getting your standard three-roll combo here, but rather maki stuffed with crab stick, avocado, and smelt fish roe and sushi pieces brushed with homemade sauces and glazes. The best deal here may be the $29 Sushi Regular, which includes eight pieces of sushi, a piece of bluefin tuna, and your choice of roll.

red farm

<h2>Best for fancy Chinese with New York flare: <a href="; target="_blank">RedFarm</a></h2>

<em>2170 Broadway</em><br />
An offshoot of the popular West Village restaurant doling out modern Chinese food, RedFarm is heavy on New York influences, from bacon and egg fried rice to the popular Pac-Man-shaped shrimp dumplings. Still, don’t overlook some of the simpler sounding dishes that provide equal amounts of comfort, like sautéed snow peas with garlic or three chili chicken.

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Melissa is a writer based in NYC. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.