It’s an urban legend that you die a slow foodie death when you move from downtown Manhattan to the Upper East Side. A-Tooch convinced herself that the money she would save in rent could be spent on cab fare to travel back downtown to eat.
I’ll admit, I did not give the UES enough credit. In just a few months I have found some awesome and unique joints that can rival many downtown hot spots. Yep, I said it. Here are just a few of my favorite places, along with my idea of their “downtown counterparts.”
Earl’s Beer & Cheese
1259 Park Ave (btwn 97th & 98th St.)
Looks and feels like a little East Village niche food shop but actually, you’re almost in Harlem. Always a bunch of great beers on tap that pair perfectly with the infamous Earl’s Taco – braised pork and all the fix’ins in a scallion pancake shell. Yup.
Feels a little like: Wechsler’s Currywurst
1590 2nd Ave (at 83rd St.)
This may be the only place smack in the middle of the 2nd Ave subway construction that is actually thriving. Lots of space, unique, home-grown cocktails and Pat La Frieda burgers. Even though the menu is small, absolutely every item on it is delicious. I love the battered Irish sausages. Sometimes the crowd can be a little, er, “preppy” for my liking, but the food and drink is always good.
Feels a little like: Spitzer’s Corner or Bua (which is owned by the same group)
1431 3rd Ave (at 81st St.)
No site, but more info here: nymag.com/listings/restaurant/beyoglu
This is one spot that I actually made the trek uptown to way before I moved. Really affordable meze (Turkish/Mediterranean tapas) done right. Get anything meat, especially the Iskender Kebab. Great decor and ambiance makes it perfect for date night or a small group dinner. It’s a NY Mag Critic’s Pick, too. They must be doing something right!
Feels a little like: Bi Lokma
1269 Lexington Ave (at 85th St.)
This coffee shop/bakery, owned by the genius behind the Max Brenner chocolate empire, has some of the most decadent items ever — nutella coffee?! A friend clued me into their chocolate chip pillows (so good they don’t dare include themselves in the same category as cookies). Even though they run about $4-5, I’ve made tons of friends try one and none have been disappointed.
Feels a little like: Starbucks’ cooler older sister, and with a major makeover. There’s another location in Chelsea, too.
So, stop bugging your friend who lives uptown about how you “really don’t want to go north of 14th street.” Give the UES a shot. Remember, we harbored all you people post-Hurricane Sandy.
Oh, and since restauranteurs aren’t exactly flocking to open shop in the UES, restaurants have overall more space. This means you won’t be on a two-hour wait list then crammed in a 30-person dining space