10 Best Restaurants on New York's Upper West Side: Bright, beautiful, savory



Bracketed by Central Park and Riverside Park, and distinguished by regal, two-towered apartment buildings along Central Park West–The Upper West Side is home to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, sweeping views of Central Park and a big chunk of wealthy New Yorkers pushing strollers. There's culture in the form of the American Museum of Natural History, the Beacon Theatre or the Apollo Theater. For years, people thought the UWS was inferior to the vivacious food scene downtown. After all, how could pre-war buildings and sterile dining rooms compete with the energy and charm of Soho and the Village? 

All that's changed. 

Today, the Upper West Side's Michelin-starred hotspots like Per Se and Boulud Sud rub shoulders with neighborhood standbys that have stood proud for decades. Places such as Barney Greengrass, where New Yorkers line up around the block for smoked sturgeon and lox, and at Celeste, pizza and pastas have held the hearts - and stomachs - of locals for ages. 

Newcomers like Awadh and RedFarm have brought some of downtown's ethnic charm a little further north, the Upper West Side is no longer a graveyard for delicious eats. Instead it's become a dining destination with residents from all over the city taking notice and trekking past Columbus Circle to see what all the fuss is about. And not long ago, the Bromberg Brothers moved their spectacular American cuisine at The Ribbon to the former Franconia Hotel.

When diners arrive, they're not disappointed in what they find. You won't be either after perusing our list of the Upper West Side's most revered restaurants. 



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Owned by Giancarlo Quadalti, who owns Teodora on East 57th Street with his wife, Roberta Ruggini, Celeste serves honest, rustic, and flavorful Neoplotian-style pizzas. Set in a tiny space of 18 tables, this is a family-friendly and sure way to please picky pizza and pasta palates A small collection of appetizers like the shaved baby artichokes with parmesan, or the fritto misto di pesce (fried fish) or the feagatini di pollo (chicken livers) could be enough for an entree, but do try one or two of the pastas linguine in clam sauce or the ravioli burro salvia (ravioli in sage butter), appear just as regularly on diners' tables as the wood-fired pizzas. Celeste is also cash only and fills up quickly every night of the week. To dodge the hordes, plan on arriving at 5PM, or prepare to hit the neighboring bars for a pint while you wait for a table to open up.


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Good Indian food and the Upper West Side have not traditionally been synonymous with one another. That is, until the upscale duplex Awadh opened its doors on Broadway in 2014. Awadh specializes in slow-cooked Indian cuisine from the Hindi state of Awadh - many of the dishes, including the lamb shanks soaked in an aromatic stock, are cooked on low heat for over 24 hours. Chef Gaurav Anand also dreamt up one to the most delightful appetizers on the menu: crispy okra. You'll recognize standbys like chicken tikka with saffron and cashew gravy here, kebabs, kormas, biryanis and breads, in addition to more upscale options like crab meat with butter and garlic. On the fence about giving it a shot? Indian food fanatics from all over the city say this is among the very best Indian restaurants in New York right now.


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Ethiopian cuisine is rarely talked about outside of foodie circles, but one trip to Zoma and we're willing to bet you'll be raving to your friends about this African fare. Packed to the rafters with vegan and vegetarian options in addition to meaty delicacies, Zoma recently won Michelin's Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes the best moderately-priced restaurants. Regulars insist on ordering the honey wine to accompany your mega-sized portions of everything from kitfo (steak tartare) to awaze tibs (marinated and stir-fried lamb cubes served with onions and green peppers). And a heads up on dining etiquette: Ethiopians often eat with their hands, and Zoma encourages its patrons to follow suit.


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The Ribbon
Photo courtesy of Steve Hill


 

The Ribbon is the Blue Ribbon Restaurants' first restaurant on New York City's Upper West Side and its eight outpost in the city. Brothers, Eric and Bruce Bromberg have created something of a mini-empire as they pair classic food, local ingredients with crisp service. Just West of Central Park, The Ribbon's industrial décor captures the grace of its 1920's predecessor - the infamous Hotel Franconia. So slip into a banquette for a meal among friends and family, you're bound to recognize many of the Blue Ribbon classics.The menu features delights for all palates, from sushi to fried chicken, spit-roasted meats, seafood with an extensive bar and whisky menu.


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The uptown answer to Russ & Daughters, Barney Greengrass is a New York institution that serves up smoked fish platters, caviar and bagels. Located on Amsterdam Avenue, this deli has won best deli in New York more times than we can count, and for good reason. Though the aesthetics of the space could use an upgrade, what's coming out of the kitchen is one of the most authentically Jewish meals this side of Israel. Breakfast is the meal of choice at Barney Greengrass, so prepare to wait for a table during peak hours. Or, opt to use the waiting time to hit up the ATM - this joint is cash only on weekends.


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Braving the crowds is worth it when it comes to scoring a table at RedFarm, the Upper West Side Haute Chinese American take on dim sum. While dim sum purists often decry the hefty price tag of these bite-sized eats, RedFarm's loyal patrons have no problem dishing out a few extra dollars to elevate their Asian experience. Ed Schoenfeld and chef Joe Ng have perfected this concept by introducing what they call, "innovative Chinese cuisine with greenmarket sensibility," and is one of the only Chinese restaurants in the city where you'll find the farm-to-table mindset alive and well. Start with the famous Pac Man shrimp dumplings and graduate to larger mains like mussels with eggplant or lobster with chopped pork and egg while sipping on sake, or a collection of more inventive cocktails.


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Just a few blocks north of Keller's Per Se, this may well be chef Daniel Boulud's ode to all Mediterranean flavors from the shores of Southern France to the coast of North Africa, from Italy to Morocco, Turkey and beyond. A semi-open kitchen gives a glimpse of the magic. A popular dinner choice for Lincoln Center theater-goers, Boulud Sud's ambiance is simple and well-coordinated - the perfect backdrop for the bold flavors of the cuisine. Patrons have the option of ordering a la carte, or choosing the three-course prix fixe menu for $60; Express lunch costs $19 from Mon.-Fri. and weekend brunch prix fixe clocks in at $34. Portions are generous, dine alfreso in warm months; hard to take a misstep here. And yes, there is hummus, falafel but neither is like any you have tasted elsewhere.


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One of the world's most famous chefs, Jean-Georges Vongrichten is also a savvy businessman whose constellation of culinary successes span the globe [to Tokyo's Roppongi Hills). The two-Michelin starred Upper West Side location remains the jewel in the crown that remains the gold standard for the chef's subtly Asian-inflected, French haute cuisine. His now-legendary salmon tartare and young garlic soup remain enormously popular with Harry Winston-wearing hotel guests, well-dressed ladies who lunch, and top-tier executives from nearby offices. The front room, Nougatine, has a sleek, modern aesthetic, neutral color palette and increasingly casual atmosphere; Tasting Menu at lunch costs $158. Both dining rooms, however, maintain their stalwart service standard, expense account-worthy cuisine and bright, dappled natural light over Central Park West.


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Chef Thomas Keller is the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide. Lauded for its fabulous Central Park views, this Columbus Circle treasure serves French-influenced American cuisine that matches, stride-for-stride, the magic of Napa's French Laundry. In fact, Per Se takes nods from its West Coast sibling in several regards, from the signature blue door entrance to the elegant, yet understated decor. What's more, each embraces owner-chef Thomas Keller's proven hands-on approach and impeccable attention-to-detail. At Per Se this means that all three of the prix fixe menus are determined daily are perhaps one of the reasons Keller's masterpiece has earned him three Michelin stars. Expect to drop a pretty penny, as each tasting menu costs $325 before alcohol. Reservations - a must - are accepted two months in advance.


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Meet Maria Lisella

No matter how many countries Maria Lisella has visited (62), this native New Yorker finds the world at her doorstep in amazing Queens where its residents speak 138 languages.

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