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Rejected by outsiders as boring and elitist, the Upper East Side is home to more than the stereotypical Waspy families to the west of Lexington Avenue and young'uns seeking affordable-for-Manhattan rents to the east. Yes, the residents are polite and cultured, but down-to-earth and welcoming, too. Artistic minds flock to Museum Mile and the myriad galleries, while athletes hit their stride as they jog along the East River or circle the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. And though big-name businesses abound abound between 59th and 96th Streets, residents will tell you that the best neighborhood spots are still the independent nooks with genial owners, who make customers feel at home.
Dylan Lauren, founder and owner, Dylan's Candy Bar
"I love the black-and-white cookies at Pick a Bagel. I really like the frosting, and I've been all around town. They're always fresh. I don't really eat the cakey part, which tastes like yellow cake. But their white frosting isn't sugary, it's more of a fondant vanilla frosting. And they're always soft! Literally, I'll go [out of my way to go] there at night to get one."
Pick a Bagel, 1475 Second Ave at 77th St (212-717-4662)
"I grew up on the Upper East Side. I started off on 91st and now I'm in the 70s. The area on the Upper East Side, especially Carnegie Hill and the 70s between Lexington and Fifth Avenues, I think have become very much their own neighborhoods. I think everyone's got their own areas, you know. They don't go north of 59th Street or 14th Street or what have you...but those who venture to Carnegie Hill and the area above 86th Street [along Fifth, Park and Madison will find] very charming neighborhoods. It feels very personal, very family-oriented. It's a bit more of classic New York. I happen to like the old historic mansions, town houses, post offices and museums. You feel like you're in a mini Europe over there."
"I like all the local coffeeshops. Caffe Bacio and Corrado Caf are both very charming. Via Quadronno is wonderful too, like a little taste of Italy. Bacio is my chai latte go-to, and Quadronno is my cappuccino and European-atmosphere spot."
Caffe Bacio, 1223 Third Ave between 70th and 71st Sts (212-737-4730) * Corrado Bread &, 960 Lexington Ave at 70th St (212-774-1904) * Via Quadronno, 25 E 73rd St at Madison Ave (212-650-9880, viaquadronno.com)
Felicia Stingone, director of marketing and business development, 92nd Street Y
"S. Feldman Housewares is just one of those amazing kitchen stores. I have a weakness for those. I once bought a breadbox and a butter dish, even though I didn't really need them. I think it's also family-owned, which is part of why I love it. It's the kind of place where I'll go in and say, 'Well, I'm looking for a stainless-steel breadbox,' and they'll find it and order it for you."
S. Feldman Housewares, 1304 Madison Ave between 92nd and 93rd Sts (212-289-3961)
"Corner Caf and Bakery has the most insane pumpkin muffin on the planet. I love the fresh pumpkin seeds they put on top, and the aroma of yummy baked goods just permeates for a block radius. It's like a siren's call when I'm walking by it to work every morning. I normally get a cup of coffee and a muffin. I'm trying to stop, but it's hard to resist."
Corner Caf &, 1645 Third Ave at 92nd St (212-860-8060, cornercafe-bakery.com)
"There's this amazing Turkish restaurant on Lexington called Peri Ela. It's a very intimate spot, and they have this meze platter with small plates like hummus and white-bean salad. It's $30 for the two-person platter and a bottle of Turkish wine. It's a great place to go after a lecture at the 92nd Street Y. It's actually the only place my husband and I go up here!"
Peri Ela, 1361 Lexington Ave between 90th and 91st Sts (212-410-4300, periela.com)
Rene Price, director, Neue Galerie
"The proximity to Central Park is key. I have a daily walk with my dog, Milly von Barksky, pre-9am. In fact, Milly is my inspiration for a design shop [of dog accessories] I started at the museum, Neue Hund. We use the Park so often, I decided that Milly should become a philanthropist for it. There's a plaque on a bench that says IN THE NAME OF ALL DOGS, THANK YOU CENTRAL PARK FOR YEAR-ROUND BEAUTY on the west side of the Great Lawn near the Delacorte Theater."
Central Park, Great Lawn, Central Park, enter at 81st St (212-310-6600)
"For the best organic vegan food, I go to Candle 79. I love the food, and the staff is extremely nice. They have a matre d' who's been there for many years who I like very much. I love their seitan specials, which change daily, and the food is prepared with a lot of care. For coffee, Sant Ambroeus is great, and of course we have a fantastic Viennese coffee house at the museum [called Caf Sabarsky]."
Candle 79, 154 E 79th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-537-7179, candle79.com) * Sant Ambroeus, 1000 Madison Ave between 77th and 78th Sts (212-570-2211, santambroeus.com) * Caf Sabarsky, inside Neue Galerie, 1048 Fifth Ave at 86th St (212-288-0665, cafesabarsky.com)
"The best jeweler is opening in October—and that's De Vera, which will be another boon to the neighborhood. Everything's unique. The store's down in Soho now; it's like entering a small museum. I'm a collector, so it's a temptation every time I go in. My favorite piece is a multistone necklace that they actually named the Rene necklace. It has 18 different precious and semi-precious stone—everything from coral to fire opal to ruby—with an 18 karat gold bezel."
De Vera, 26 E 81st St at Madison Ave (212-288-2288, deveraobjects.com). Store opens Oct. 15.
"Crawford Doyle Booksellers has a knowledgeable staff, fantastic selection, and they can order anything for you. I just go in and snoop around. Our bookstore is wonderful and very focused on the culture and era, but if I want to get away from that, I go there."
Crawford Doyle Booksellers, 1082 Madison Ave between 81st and 82nd Sts (212-288-6300)