Post Overview: Best restaurants Upper East Side
Few neighborhoods in New York City are as famous as the Upper East Side (UES). Featured in a plethora of films and TV shows (any Gossip Girl fans here?) the neighborhood is esteemed for its opulence, wealth and status.
It’s impossible not to feel like a movie star yourself when visiting museums, social clubs and restaurants in the Upper East Side. Putting on your best outfit and going out for dinner and drinks with friends is akin to pure bliss!
And you might be worried a visit to the best Upper East Side restaurants will leave you with crippling credit card debt. However, you’ll be pleased to hear I know of a few places you can eat like royalty without paying like one.
That’s right! There’s plenty of rich food to go around, you just need to know where to find it. And I’m going to help you. As a local I know of all the best restaurants in the Upper East Side that laymen like me can afford to frequent.
I’m eager to get to the good stuff, what do you say we dive right in?
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Best Restaurants Upper East Side
Who would’ve thought that an old-school bar would also be one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side? That’s exactly what the Penrose is, and not only is the food delicious but the setting is perfect for a date.
The rustic-vibe in the bar is cozy and during the brunch hour the whole joint is bright and welcoming. Pair your meal with a breakfast cocktail from the bar and make the most of your visit.
As far as food goes, the Penrose has created the greatest thing since slice bread: pumpkin spice latte french toast sticks. Made with brioche and pumpkin spice latte syrup – the appetizer alone cements the Penrose as one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side.
And if you prefer sleeping in you don’t have to miss out on a visit to the Penrose. In the evening it truly shines as one of the best bars in the Upper East Side, being strictly 21+ after 8PM and churning out strong, delicious cocktails like clockwork.
Dinner at the Penrose is actually quite affordable when compared to other Upper East Side restaurants, with most plates costing less than $20. The portions are also generous, so this is a can’t miss spot for all my fellow foodies.
Address: 1590 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Opened in NYC in 2009, Luke’s Lobster is a family owned business bringing Maine style lobster rolls to the masses. It didn’t take long for the small shack to expand, now operating in ten states and being responsible for one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side.
I know seafood can be pricey, but believe me the premium is worth it. By owning their own seafood purchasing business Luke’s Lobster is able to buy directly from trusted fishermen and you can taste the quality with every bite.
The quality leaves little room to wonder Luke’s Lobster is one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side. In a neighborhood known for it’s (often) superficial opulence, Luke’s actually delivers a great value.
They don’t skimp on the actual seafood and the menu should come with a warning label that says, caution: highly addictive.
The nationally recognized lobster rolls are the star of the show, but the menu has a few other options. There’s also crab and shrimp rolls, as well as lobster mac & cheese and an amazing clam chowder.
Address: 242 E 81st St, New York, NY 10028
Quality Eats takes a modern approach to steakhouses by being bright, welcoming and lively as opposed to the dimly lit, opulent status quo we’re used to. It’s a breath of fresh air and one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side.
I’ll be the first to say when compared to other Upper East Side restaurants the menu is on the smaller side. However, most of the folks visiting a steakhouse will opt for, well, steak. There are five cuts to choose from each of which are less than $50.
There are also a handful of other items like meat-filled salads, as well as burgers and sandwiches. And if you’re feeling adventurous why not opt for the grilled octopus? Trust me – it tastes like chicken. 😉
As a meat lover I have yet to try a dish I didn’t like at Quality Eats, which is why I consider it one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side. And not only is the food good, they have an impressive assortment of house cocktails that will take your meal up a notch.
And lastly an added suggestion – If you’re visiting with friends be sure to get the monkey bread. It’s a fluffy bread served in a cast iron pan meant to be pulled apart and shared (and it’s only $6!).
Address: 1496 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
I married into a Mexican family, and the one dish I find myself asking my mother in law for most? Ceviche! After seeing Mission Ceviche touted as one of the best in New York City I knew I had to try it for myself.
I quickly realized two things, the first is that it’s a Peruvian restaurant, and two, there’s more than one type. I opted for the mixed seafood option and let me just say – flavor bomb.
Every bite introduced new textures and layers to the intricacies of seafood. Mission Ceviche serves more than a meal, it provides an experience and there’s no doubt it’s one of the best Upper East Side restaurants.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the next time I visit it has a Michelin Star (it’s already been Michelin reviewed) or wins an award. Not only is the food delicious, but the presentation is immaculate and really showcases the freshness of every ingredient and its vibrant colors.
There are of course other menu items the bulk of which focus on seafood. However – one of the best dishes is seco norteño, which are slow braised short ribs and alone warrant Mission Ceviche a spot among the best restaurants in the Upper East Side.
And if you’re looking for one of the most innovate Upper East Side restaurants for drinks Mission Ceviche checks that box too. Focusing on Pisco (South American brandy) you’ll enjoy an eclectic selection of cocktails you won’t find anywhere else.
Address: 1400 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Sojourn wears many hats that all fall under one umbrella: best restaurants in the Upper East Side. Brunch? Sojourn. Happy hour? Sojourn. Dinner date? Sojourn.
Let’s start with brunch, Sojourn is one of the best brunch restaurants in the Upper East Side. For a very reasonable $30 you’ll get bottomless mimosas, bloody marys or sangrias.
Happy hour runs from Monday through Friday from 4:30PM to 6:30PM and is headlined by $7 glasses of wine (cha-ching!). There’s also $8 appetizers that will hold you over as you sip on your drink.
And there are few Upper East Side restaurants more intimate for a date night. The copper wrapped bar, flickering candles and endearing wood tones are sure to impress your date. Just do yourself a favor and leave room for dessert, the cheesecake is divine.
Address: 244 E 79th St, New York, NY 10075
Richard Sandoval is an internationally renowned chef and has built Maya into one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side. By focusing on Mexican cuisine the restaurant has a familiar, homely taste and Sandoval has opted to push boundaries bringing tried and true favorites to new sophisticated levels.
The elevated Mexican restaurant is not like what you’ll find at a food truck either (not hating – I love food trucks).
Perhaps best known as one of the best boozy brunch restaurants in the Upper East Side, Maya is so much more than a place to get drunk. You’ll find every dish is methodically thought-out and if you take the time to savor it you’ll be taken on a roller coaster of flavors.
My favorite dish is the barbacoa, which is a braised lamb shank served in a guajillo broth. Maya never misses its mark, cooking it to peak tenderness and retaining all the meat’s natural flavors and enhancing it with spices.
And of course, Maya makes a mean margarita. In fact, Maya has a wide array of cocktails and wines that elevate your meal. Not only is it one of the best Upper East Side restaurants, it holds its own as a tequila bar and even has flights enabling you to try something new.
Address: 1191 1st Ave, New York, NY 10065
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province that’s world renowned for its seafood, specifically its mussels. It’s also the home of the original Flex Mussels, before it came to be one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side.
The relationships that Flex Mussels built with mussel farmers on Prince Edward Island enable the restaurant access to the plumpest mussels in town.
Not only are the mussels tasty, they’re extremely satisfying – every time I visit I leave in a food coma! The mussels come in one of ten sauces, but the dijon mussels are what make Flex one of the best Upper East Side restaurants.
Made with dijon mustard, creme fraiche, white wine and parsley the sauce is so good you’ll be using the shells to scoop it long after the mussels are finished.
There’s also a wider selection of seafood available, including a fried calamari appetizer that is a must-order for my husband. However, no matter what you do save room for dessert because Flex’s homemade donuts are impeccable.
Address: 1431 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10028
AOC East is home to a charming wine bar, complete with exposed brick, stocked liquor shelves and tables that have been well loved over its more than five years in business.
As one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side you’ll find it’s easy to lose track of time. Once the rosé hits the table it seems to flow like water and the never ending supply of appetizers and small bites help keep your belly happy.
If you get hungry you’ll find French staples like ratatouille, French onion soup and escargots. The laid back atmosphere makes AOC East one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side for a casual date-night.
There’s the occasional live musician that adds a subtle charm and the staff is welcoming. At times it’s easy to forget you’re enjoying one of the best Upper East Side restaurants and instead feel you’re at a friends house!
Address: 1590 1st Ave., New York, NY 10028
NR is one of the best Upper East Side restaurants on cold, rainy New York City days. Everything about the restaurant puts forth a warm aura, from its decor to its food.
You’ll find wooden chairs that have been smoothed over by the countless folks who have sat down to enjoy a meal. The exposed ceiling joists give the space a slightly rustic feel and the ceiling lights offer a homely glow.
And the food is nothing to scoff at either. As one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side you’ll find fresh plates served still steaming and tantalizing in both look and smell.
I’ll warn you that NR is one of the more expensive ramen restaurants in the Upper East Side but I will say it’s worth it. There’s also a solid selection of appetizers, soup currys and oysters.
And part of what makes NR one of the best Upper East Side restaurants is the innovative and diverse cocktail menu. There are your tried and true classics, but there’s also deliciously original drinks you’ll only find at NR.
Address: 339 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021
Uva is Italian for grapes, it’s also one of the best Italian restaurants in the Upper East Side. The restaurant is cozy, reminiscent of an old Tuscan villa and perfect for a romantic date night.
There’s a back garden that’s open year round and maintains the same snug atmosphere of the restaurant. They must be adding a drug to their flickering candles because I can’t help but feel warm inside whenever I visit.
But we don’t crown the best Upper East Side restaurants solely off of looks, no, it’s all about the food. The fresh pasta at Uva is worth writing home about, with the truffle gnocchi being especially cathartic.
Pair your meal with one of more than 40 wines by the glass and you’ll too be feeling warm inside. The only thing that could make the experience better is good company, so bring a friend!
In the evening Uva bustles with a lively crowd that can get loud, but what can you expect – it’s one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side. Unfortunately there are no reservations for parties of less than six.
Address: 1486 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
Serving Thai street food favorites, Up Thai has brought the authenticity of street food into a dazzling setting. It’s one of the cutest restaurants in the Upper East Side adorned by rustic furniture, greenery and colorful lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
As the name would suggest you’ll find upscale Thai food, perfect for a date spot or a casual business meeting. The menu rotates seasonally in order to ensure optimal freshness and traditional Thai dishes get a modern facelift.
The fried rice claypot is a can’t miss item and if I’m in the area I’ll purposely give myself a long lunch in order to snag the meal. Made with sea scallops, shrimp, chicken, Chinese sausage, onions, mushrooms and scallions it’s one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve ever had.
This isn’t only one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side, Up Thai also holds their own at the bar. There’s a decent menu full of refreshing drinks that will are both tasty and strong.
Address: 1411 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Cafe d’Alsace hails from a region that’s been part of both part of Germany and France, so the cuisine is a mixture of both cultures. Third generation chef Philippe Roussel really works some magic in the kitchen and capitalizes on both countries’ flavors.
As one of the most popular restaurants in the Upper East Side the ambience never disappoints. Locals fill the space with jovial chatter which makes the one of the best places to have drinks with friends.
For brunch you can’t afford to miss the crepe souffle, which is topped with a tasty passion fruit sauce and makes Cafe d’Alsace one of the best brunch restaurants in the Upper East Side.
If you visit for happy hour you will find $7 beer, $10 wine, and $12 cocktails perfect for a little afternoon fun. And if you work up an appetite stay for dinner and enjoy the European cuisine.
Address: 1703 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10128
Xi’an Famous Food
Named after Xi’an, one of the easternmost cities in China (and last stop on the Silk Road!) Xi’an Famous Foods is not only one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side, it’s one of the most affordable.
Traditional noodle-centric meals are made from family recipes with the motto, “if it’s not spicy it’s not as good”.
Now the food won’t make your tongue go numb (unless you want it to) but bear in mind the house made chili oil is what adds the kick, but it’s also what packs the flavor. Most dishes have a customizable spiciness level so you’re fully in control.
The best selling B1 pork burger and B2 spicy cumin lamb burger are both under $7 and make Xi’an Famous Foods one of the best cheap-eat restaurants in the Upper East Side.
My favorite dish is the A2 Liang-Pi, which is a stir-fried noodle dish with scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro, cucumbers and spongy cubes of house made gluten and is *chef’s kiss*
Address: 328 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075
A Spanish restaurant and tapas (appetizers) bar, Boqueria is one of the best Upper East Side restaurants for date-night. The space is warm and inviting and the food is reminiscent of a classy Barcelona restaurant.
The tapas are tasty and made with fresh, seasonal ingredients so you’ll find yourself wanting to try all of them. Plus, Boqueria has one of the best seafood paellas I’ve ever had (rice, monkfish, squid, shrimp, clams, mussels).
And trust me when I say the Nutella churros at Boqueria are one of the best desserts in New York City. I know this is a post of the best Upper East Side restaurants, but if you’re anything like me you’ll have to finish with something sweet.
I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve scarfed down my dinner in an effort to get it out of the way and get to the churros. Feel free to call me crazy, but only after you’ve tried them for yourself!
Address: 1460 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
JG Melon has been around since 1972 and has become one of the most iconic restaurants in New York City and an Upper East Side icon.
Think perfectly juicy and flavorful patties sandwiched between buttery buns, it simply doesn’t get better than this. The fries are worth an order and the decor alone warrants a visit.
The interior is tightly packed and full of watermelon-themed paintings and posters, which offer a great distraction as you fight off the hunger intensified by the delicious smells of burgers being delivered to tables around you.
It’s a cash-only establishment frequented by prominent New Yorkers, like former mayor Michael Bloomberg who calls these the best hamburgers in the world.
But apparently he’s not the only one, Gigi Hadid and Bobby Flay have also shared similar sentiments. With all the (well deserved) fanfare it’s safe to call JG Melon one of the most famous restaurants in the Upper East Side.
Address: 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Best Upper East Side Restaurants (Post Summary)
- JG Melon
- Xi’an Famous Food
- Cafe d’Alsace
- Up Thai
- AOC East
- Mission Ceviche
- Quality Eats
- Flex Mussels
- Luke’s Lobster
- The Penrose
Map of the Best Restaurants Upper East Side
Love the Upper East Side? Us too! Check out some of our other guides regarding the charming New York City neighborhood.
- 15+ Great Things to Do in the Upper East Side
- 8+ Satisfying Cafes in the Upper East Side
- 10 Delicious Upper East Side Bakeries
And there it is my friends! The best Upper East Side restaurants according to yours truly. I hope you enjoyed the post.