Upper East Side restaurant guide: The best places to eat

Our Upper East Side restaurant guide points you to critic-approved places to eat in the neighborhood, including trusty favorites and the latest hot spots.

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It’s no surprise that the Upper East Side is home to some of the city’s swankiest eateries, but east of the Gold Coast, there are plenty of spots catering to nonmillionaires. Our restaurant guide includes some of the city’s best French restaurants and one of NYC’s 12 best sushi restaurants. And don’t overlook museum eats.

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Daniel

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Even in the worst of times, a world-class city needs restaurants offering the escape of over-the-top coddling and luxurious food, with a star chef who's not just on the awning but in the kitchen and dining room, too-—in short, a place like Daniel. The most classically opulent of the city's rarefied restaurants, Daniel Boulud's 15-year-old flagship emerged from a face-lift last fall, looking about as youthful as a restaurant in a landmark Park Avenue building realistically can.

  1. 60 E 65th St, between Madison and Park Aves, 10021
  2. Three-course prix-fixe: $105
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Café Boulud

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

While New York is home to plenty of top chefs, haute-cuisine dominance has long been a grudge match between two French contenders, each recognizable—like Diddy or Prince—by a single name. Though Jean-Georges had the edge for a little while, 2009 has been the year of Daniel. In the past 12 months, Daniel Boulud earned his third Michelin star, graced the big screen in a documentary biopic, refurbished two restaurants, opened another and announced plans to expand to

  1. 20 E 76th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, 10021
  2. Average main course: $36. AmEx, DC, MC, V
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Sasabune NY

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

The only menu you’ll find here is for drinks. The fish prepared at this tiny outpost of a popular L.A. sushi spot is governed entirely by chef Kenji Takahashi’s whim. There’s nothing to fear (except maybe the wasabi—they use the much spicier real stuff): Sasabune’s omakase is culled from Takahashi’s daily New Fulton Fish Market finds. He and his team dole out raw numbers, from favorites like salmon and yellowtail to more exotic sea creatures, including bonito in a

  1. 401 E 73rd St, at First Ave
  2. Average omakase: $65 AmEx, MC, V
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Sandro’s

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Ebullient chef and owner Sandro Fioriti (Il Buco) is omnipresent in his bustling Roman eatery, whether he’s carving prosciutto on a vintage slicer or racing from the kitchen to the dining room. His menu includes a fine bucatini all’Amatriciana—pleasantly chewy pasta and chubby bits of pancetta in spicy tomato sauce—and a special of prosciutto-stuffed chicken draped in fontina, dotted with tiny mazza di tamburo mushrooms. Caveat emptor: The tiramisu was like something out

  1. 306 E 81st St, between First and Second Aves
  2. Average main course: $21. AmEx, MC, V
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Sushi Seki

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

For the best fix for a late-night sushi jones, you’ll need to go east…Far East. No matter: locals, sushi snobs and off-duty chefs alike crawl in to this completely conventional façade on First Ave until 2:30 a.m. to sample an original selection of raw fish. The Sushi Seki formula: unusually flavored variants of popular sushi cuts (milky king salmon, medium-fat tuna, chopped and deep-fried egg) complemented by a dollop of subtly head-turning sauce (jalapeño atop yellowtail,

  1. 1143 First Ave, between 62nd and 63rd Sts, 10021-77
  2. Average : $50. AmEx, MC, V
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Café d'Alsace

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The decor and chaotic bustle evoke a brasserie you might see in a Godard film. The large portions of robust, earthy food are served in overgrown vessels that barely fit on the diminutive tables. Bone marrow (la moelle), simply prepared with only sea salt and grilled toast, comes with actual bones in an earthenware crock. Bigger appetites will appreciate the choucroute garni—a sausage-bejeweled heap of cured cabbage with white wine and juniper berries. The 120-bottle-strong beer

  1. 1695 Second Ave, at 88th St
  2. Average main course: $19. AmEx, MC, V
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Sushi of Gari

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

While many neighborhood Japanese joints serve sushi rolls with wacky names, Sushi of Gari chef Masatoshi Sugio prefers to play with unusual ingredients and oddball combinations. Adventurous eaters brave long lines to cram into his small place and order a sushi tasting menu (Gari’s Choice) that runs between $70 and $80. Sugio has been known to pair seared foie gras with daikon radish; salmon with tomato and onion; and spicy tuna with mayo, Tabasco and sesame oil. Less

  1. 402 E 78th St, between First and York Aves, 10021
  2. Average main course: $28. AmEx, DC, MC, V
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Park Avenue Spring

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

Manager Michael Stillman, chef Craig Koketsu and design firm AvroKO have conceived an ode to the legendary Four Seasons, except that the design, the uniforms and the very name (it will be Park Avenue Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer depending on—you guessed it—the season) will rotate along with the menu. “Summer,” for example, means sunny wall panels and ample clusters of flowers to go with the warm weather foods. Appetizers showcase produce (baby beet salad, corn soup)

  1. 100 E 63rd St, between Park and Lexington Aves, 10021
  2. Average main course: $34. AmEx, MC, V
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The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

In New York, Jean-Georges Vongerichten is known for bringing a spare Asian aesthetic to haute French cuisine, for maintaining a flagship at the top of its game while juggling more modest projects all over the city, and for somehow managing to be all places at once. In addition to being one of the city’s most celebrated chefs, he is also one of its savviest businessmen, making a killing spinning off restaurant franchises around the world. Basically, he’s created various

  1. The Mark Hotel, 25 E 77th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Average main course: $25. AmEx, MC, V
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Il Ristorante Rosi Parmacotto

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Critics choice

New York City is in the grip of an Italian small-plates epidemic. What was once the province of the Spanish tapas bar is now a cross-cultural scourge: With so many shareable platters making the rounds, the formal and soothing rhythms of a grown-up Italian restaurant—tables swathed in white linen, four modest courses from antipasti to dolce—seem just about extinct here in Gotham. Enter Cesare Casella, a literal dean of Italian food in the city (he heads up the Italian Culinary

  1. 903 Madison Ave, between 72nd and 73rd Sts
  2. Average main course: $25. AmEx, MC, V
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Alloro

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Chef Salvatore Corea (Cacio e Pepe) channels his wildest impulses into this daring trattoria, decorated in a riot of emerald green. As outrageous-sounding as the dishes are, they’re mercifully restrained in execution. The cocoa sauce served with a seared-shrimp starter is balanced and not at all sweet. A fine eggplant Parmesan offers a traditional timbale alongside a modern version (cold whipped eggplant mousse beside a Parmesan chip and a nugget of fried mozzarella). Desserts

  1. 307 E 77th St , between First and Second Aves
  2. Average main course: $22. AmEx, MC, V
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Hospoda

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

If your memories of Prague are a collegiate haze of 50 cent beers and $3 beds for the night, steam table stews and gray rail-station links, then consider Hospoda your adult update. The Czech capital, evolved a bit from its days as a backpacker hub, is now a cosmopolitan city with serious food worthy of an export. And this stylish eatery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side—an American offshoot of La Degustation, one of Prague’s most successful restaurants—offers a very good

  1. 321 E 73rd St, between First and Second Aves, 10021
  2. Two-course prix fixe: $32; three-course prix...
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El Paso Taqueria

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

A 2003 offshoot of a same-named restaurant farther uptown, this lively spot is modestly decorated with light green walls, high-gloss wood tables and Aztec-inspired artwork. The made-to-order, tangy guacamole presented in its own mortar is excellent. Even more flavorful are the sopes—corn-flour patties layered with spicy chorizo, beans and stringy Oaxacan cheese. Tacos, burritos, chimi-changas and fajitas are popular entrées, but it’s the more unusual regional specialties

  1. 1643 Lexington Ave, at 104th St
  2. Average main course: $15. AmEx, Disc, MC, V
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Spigolo

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

Don’t mistake this cozy brick-walled spot for just another pasta-slinging joint. Satisfying Italian fare—like grilled shrimp with farro, plump raisins and pine nuts, or garganelli tossed with a rustic fennel and sausage ragù—comes courtesy of Union Square Cafe vet chef Scott Fratangelo. His wife, Heather, also a USC refugee, handles desserts: Her caramel affogato and bombolini will put your morning coffee and doughnuts to shame.

  1. 1561 Second Ave, at 81st St
  2. Average main course: $25. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V
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Luke's Lobster

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

A father-and-son team channels coastal Maine with kitschy decor and, more important, an authentic lobster roll that's short on mayo and long on value. If this is your child's first crustacean experience—whole juicy claw meat nestled inside a toasted, buttered bun—consider her ruined for just about anywhere else.

  1. 242 E 81st St, between Second and Third Aves
  2. Average main course: $15. AmEx, MC, V
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Le Pain Quotidien

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This charming Belgian chain, a bread-lover’s heaven, is a comfy all-day hangout. Groups of girlfriends meet to gossip and splurge on pastries, couples swap newspaper sections over coffee, and solo diners strike up conversations at huge communal wooden tables. Breakfast offerings are simple—frothy café au lait; baskets of rustic European breads, croissants and brioche; soft-boiled eggs; granola-yogurt parfaits. Come lunchtime, there’s a long list of salads and intriguing

  1. 1131 Madison Ave, between 84th and 85th Sts, 10021-47
  2. Average sandwich: $8. Cash only
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Shake Shack

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Upper East Side location of Danny Meyer’s burger stand serves Shack standards, along with a menu of frozen concretes exclusive to this location (the “Pineapple Upper East Side Cake” is made of pineapple, shortbread and maraschino cherries). Carnivores of all sizes love the burgers made from fresh-ground sirloin and brisket and tucked inside a pillowy potato roll; vegetarians will be more than happy to sink their teeth into a satisfying portobello cap stuffed with cheese

  1. 154 E 86th St, between Lexington and Third Aves
  2. Average burger: $5. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V
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Rouge Tomate

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

The holidays can try the limits of even the most dedicated gluttons. Rouge Tomate, which opened just as feasting season kicked in, is a great place to recover from all those five-alarm meals. The restaurant is based on a novel conceit in these pork-belly-loving times—why shouldn’t food that’s good for you also taste good? Despite boasting an in-house nutritionist, Rouge Tomate is hardly a fat farm. In fact, if the place didn’t spell out its self-conscious “health

  1. 10 E 60th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Average main course: $25. AmEx, MC, V
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Rao’s

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

If you thought getting a table at Per Se was tough, try getting into Rao’s. On second thought, don’t. Rao’s (pronounced “RAY-ohs”) is really a private club without the dues. To eat here, you’ll need a personal invite from one of the heavy hitters who “owns” a table. CEOs, actors, politicians, news personalities and neighborhood old-timers have a long-standing arrangement with legendary owner Frankie “No” Pellegrino, and that's what ensures a seat at one of the

  1. 455 E 114th St, at Pleasant Ave, 10029
  2. Average main course: $20. Cash only
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Üsküdar

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

With only a few faded photographs of Istanbul scattered on the walls and a discreet display of nazar boncugu (the Turkish symbol for warding off the evil eye) it’s clear that instead of relying on the decor to convince you of its authenticity this tiny no-frills space relies on its quaffable wines and homeland comfort food. Leeks cooked with potato, onion, and carrot in olive oil works well beside a not-too-salty tarama spread. And whole grilled branzino is a flaky, moist

  1. 1405 Second Ave, between 73rd and 74th Sts, 10021
  2. Average main course: $14. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V
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Martier

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

We could easily spend a day at this Sutton Place triple threat, which features a high-end boutique, full-service spa and café over two expansive floors. The fun starts downstairs at the ritzy spa, which offers basic manicures and pedicures ($25–$40) amped up by Chanel and Christian Dior polish, medical-grade facial peels ($175–$225), laser hair removal ($95–$695) and private slate-tiled showers to rinse off in after your Swedish massage ($135). Though you can have the

  1. 1010–1014 Second Ave, between 53rd and 54th Sts
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