Best Upper East Side restaurants
The signature offering is a burger that invites comparisons to the revered Corner Bistro’s. Melon’s is pricier for the very basic model, but it’s arguably just as tasty. Served austerely with a few slices of red onion and pickle, these handfuls must be eaten quickly, before the juice soaks through the bottom of the bun. Several of the genial bartenders, hosts and servers (in genteel ties and sweater vests) have been greeting patrons by their first names since the pub opened in 1972.
The pedigreed duo behind Obama-fave Estela and its Soho sequel Café Altro Paradiso took over the basement level of the Upper East Side’s Met Breuer museum. Adjacent to the sleek 74-seat restaurant—sparsely decorated with midcentury-style banquettes, an expansive marble bar and large windows overlooking a private courtyard—is the team’s Flora Coffee, serving java, pastries and to-go sandwiches during daytime museum hours.
The most classically opulent of the city's rarefied restaurants, Daniel Boulud's flagship is still a big-ticket commitment of time and money, but—from the waiters who sweep up to the table like synchronized swimmers, to the whole fish filleted on an old-school cart—you won't find such lavish attention to detail without springing for a ticket to Europe.
The fish prepared at this tiny outpost of a popular L.A. sushi spot comes a la carte, or governed entirely by the chef’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.
Poke bowls brimming with fresh fish and rice are all over New York these days, but Peruvian-style ceviche is still relatively unknown. At the first full-service Mission Ceviche location, chef José Luis Chavez prepares classic and Nikkei (Japanese-inspired) versions, as well as other traditional South American dishes.
Celebrity chef David Burke's résumé includes ventures both serious (Townhouse, Fishtail) and head-scratching (anyone remember Hawaiian Tropic Zone?). Here's hoping his latest—this farm-to-table venture in Soho—falls into the former category. The 95-seat dining room channels the refined-rustic zeitgeist with denim banquettes, a wooden ceiling and woven leather chairs. Local, seasonal fare is the focus, but Burke's signature playfulness is visible in dishes like Ants on a Log (bone marrow with snails and fennel butter) and the Sunday special Shanks a Lot (three shanks of different meats). Upstairs at the glass-enclosed Treehouse Bar, guests can order cocktails, such as the Pomegranate Frost (cachaça, pomegranate, rose water, champagne) and the Rabbit Hunter (bourbon, ginger beer, mint, lime), and snack on flatbreads with savory spreads served from preserving jars.
The onetime East Village institution, now located in Murray Hill, brings its chopped liver, corned beef and pastrami to the Upper East Side. Brothers Josh and Jeremy Lebewohl, the founder's nephews, stay true to the original with the same menu of Jewish standards at this 70-seat location.
Considered by many vegans to be among the best meat-free restaurants in Manhattan, this welcoming restaurant (which has both Upper East and Upper West Side locations) serves healthy, fresh and surprising dishes prepared by a kosher kitchen in a space more casual than its counterparts.
The sweets at this uber popular bake shop are almost too pretty to eat—think rich chocolate cakes covered with elaborate icing flowers, creamy cheesecakes and cream-filled cupcakes.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Robyn Lee
While many neighborhood Japanese joints serve sushi rolls with wacky names, Sushi of Gari 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). 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.