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15 Best Restaurants on the Upper East Side (Locals Can’t Help But Love)

Xi'an Famous Foods

Few New York City neighborhoods 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.

And while you might be worried that a visit to the best Upper East Side restaurants will leave you with crippling credit card debt, I’m happy to report I know of a few places you can eat like royalty without paying like one.

I’m eager to get to the good stuff, what do you say we dive right in?


Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (10 Best Neighborhoods +3 to Avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.


Best Restaurants Upper East Side

Table of Contents: Where to Eat on the Upper East Side

The Penrose

Website: The Penrose
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1590 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Good to Know: Fair prices, great cocktails

The Penrose boasts a charming rustic vibe, creating the perfect setting for casual Sunday brunches with friends. Known for its classic American dishes, don’t overlook the irresistible French toast sticks. Come evening time, the Upper East Side restaurant transforms into one of the neighborhoods top bars, strictly 21+ after 8PM.

Surprisingly budget-friendly for the UES, most dinner plates are under $20, offering ample portions, making The Penrose a must-visit for foodies seeking the best dining experience on the Upper East Side.


Luke’s Lobster

Website: Luke’s Lobster
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 242 E 81st St, New York, NY 10028
Good to Know: Menu variety, quality-sourced seafood, fair prices

Opened 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 proudly operating in ten states.

It’s no secret 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.The quality leaves little room to wonder how Luke’s Lobster became one of the best restaurants in the Upper East Side.

The nationally recognized lobster rolls are the star of the show, however; the menu also offers alternative options. There are crab and shrimp rolls, as well as lobster mac & cheese and an amazing clam chowder.


THEP Thai Restaurant

Website: THEP Thai Restaurant
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1439 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Good to Know: Modern takes on Thai food, date-night friendly

THEP Thai Restaurant is the new kid on the block having only opened its doors in 2019. Offering an authentic taste of Thailand in a contemporary way, the UES restaurant has become a local favorite in short amount of time.

The menu boasts a diverse range of dishes, from aromatic curries to flavorful stir-fries, each prepared with the utmost precision. Praise for the Upper East Side restaurant comes highly thanks to their commitment to traditional flavors and high-quality ingredients.

Beyond the delicious fare, the friendly staff at THEP Thai creates a welcoming atmosphere that adds to the overall dining experience.


Mission Ceviche

Website: Mission Ceviche
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1400 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Good to Know: Menu variety, sustainable sourcing

A hidden culinary treasure on the Upper East Side, Misson Ceviche is well-known for its vivid mix of flavors and commitment to providing a genuine Peruvian dining experience. This UES restaurant, which was founded out of a love for ceviche, has grown to be a neighborhood favorite thanks to its varied menu, which highlights the freshest seafood and authentic Peruvian ingredients.

With a commitment to sustainable sourcing, Misson Ceviche not only tastes good but also promotes responsible dining. 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.


Sojourn's Best Brunch Upper East Side
Image Courtesy Open Table

Sojourn

Website: Sojourn
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 244 E 79th St, New York, NY 10075
Good to Know: fair prices, popular brunch spot, great happy hour

Sojourn excels in various roles, all under one impressive umbrella: excellence. From brunch to happy hour and intimate dinner dates, Sojourn stands out as one of the best Upper East Side restaurants. Brunch, priced reasonably at $30, offers bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, or sangrias with an entree purchase.

Happy hour, Monday through Friday from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, features $7 glasses of wine and tempting $8 appetizers. The ambiance for a dinner date is unparalleled, with a charming copper-wrapped bar, flickering candles, and warm wood tones. Don’t forget to save room for the divine cheesecake. Sojourn truly excels in every dining scenario.


Maya 

Website: Maya NYC
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1191 1st Ave, New York, NY 10065
Good to Know: Popular brunch spot, great happy hour

Internationally renowned chef Richard Sandoval has transformed Maya into a top Upper East Side restaurant, specializing in elevated Mexican cuisine that goes beyond what you’re used to. Recognized as a premier boozy brunch spot in the UES, Maya offers meticulously crafted dishes that take taste buds on a flavorful roller coaster.

The standout barbacoa, a braised lamb shank in guajillo broth, exemplifies Maya’s commitment to peak tenderness and enhancing natural flavors with spices. Maya, under Sandoval’s culinary prowess, exceeds expectations with every dish, making it a must-visit for those seeking refined Mexican flavors.


Flex Mussels

Website: Flex Mussels
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1431 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Good to Know: Great happy hour, famous for their donuts

Prince Edward Island, globally known for its seafood, particularly mussels, is the birthplace of the original Flex Mussels, now acclaimed as one of the best Upper East Side restaurants. Thanks to strong ties with mussel farmers on the island, Flex Mussels secures access to the plumpest mussels available.

The menu offers these delectable mussels in ten sauces, with the standout being the dijon mussels. Featuring a mouthwatering blend of dijon mustard, creme fraiche, white wine, and parsley, the sauce is so irresistible that you’ll find yourself savoring every last bit long after the mussels are gone.


A.O.C East

Website: A.O.C East
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1590 1st Ave., New York, NY 10028
Good to Know: French fare, date-night friendly

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 you happy.

Amidst the French-inspired menu featuring classics like ratatouille, French onion soup, and escargots, AOC East emerges as a top choice for a laid-back casual date night on the Upper East Side. Occasional live music adds a touch of charm, while the friendly staff ensures every visit is a delightful experience.


NR best restaurants Upper East Side

NR

Website: NR
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 339 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021
Good to Know: Great cocktails, cozy atmosphere

On a rainy day in NYC, there’s nothing a steaming bowl of ramen at NR can’t fix. The well-worn wooden chairs tell stories of countless patrons enjoying their meals, complemented by an inviting rustic feel from exposed ceiling joists and homely ceiling lights.

As one of the top Upper East Side restaurants, NR offers fresh, steaming plates that are as tantalizing in appearance as they are in smell. While it’s true that NR leans towards the pricier side for ramen in the UES, the experience is well worth it thanks to the diverse menu. What sets NR apart is its innovative and diverse cocktail selection, featuring both timeless classics and uniquely crafted drinks exclusive to this UES gem.


Uva

Website: Uva
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1486 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
Good to Know: Year-round garden, extensive wine list

Named after the Italian word for grapes, “Uva” is a charming restaurant with the ambiance of an old Tuscan villa, making it an ideal setting for a romantic date night. The year-round open back garden mirrors the cozy atmosphere of the interior. Yet, the true star is the food.

Uva’s fresh pasta, particularly the cathartic truffle gnocchi, is a culinary delight. With over 40 wines available by the glass, you won’t struggle finding a drink to complement your meal. Unfortunately there are no reservations for parties of less than six.


Up Thai

Website: Up Thai
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1411 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Good to Know: Seasonal menu, friendly staff

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.

The menu rotates seasonally in order to ensure optimal freshness and traditional Thai dishes get a modern facelift. The fried rice claypot is a must-order item! Made with sea scallops, shrimp, chicken, Chinese sausage, onions, mushrooms and scallions it’s one of the most satisfying dishes on the menu.


Street view of Cafe d'Alsace one of the best restaurants on the Upper East Side
Image Courtesy New York Magazine

Cafe d’Alsace

Website: Cafe d’Alsace
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1703 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10128
Good to Know: Popular brunch spot, great happy hour

Cafe d’Alsace, rooted in a region that has seen both German and French influences, seamlessly blends the two cultures in its cuisine under the skillful hands of third-generation chef Philippe Roussel. As one of the Upper East Side’s most sought-after restaurants, the ambiance consistently delights, with locals filling the space with lively chatter, making it an ideal spot for drinks with friends.

For brunch, the crepe souffle with a delectable passion fruit sauce is a must-try, solidifying Cafe d’Alsace’s position as one of the best brunch spots in the Upper East Side. During happy hour, indulge in $7 beers, $10 wines, and $12 cocktails, perfect for some afternoon fun. If you find yourself hungry, extend your visit for dinner and savor the European-inspired cuisine that adds to the restaurant’s allure.


Lamb Cumin Noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods

Xi’an Famous Food 

Website: Xi’an Famous Food
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 328 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075
Good to Know: Fair prices, spice level is customizable

Xi’an Famous Foods, named after the easternmost city in China, stands out as one of the best and most affordable Upper East Side restaurants. Their traditional noodle-centric meals, crafted from family recipes, embrace the motto, “if it’s not spicy, it’s not as good.” The house-made chili oil adds both the kick and the flavor, allowing you to customize the spiciness level.

Best-selling items like the B1 pork burger and B2 spicy cumin lamb burger, priced under $7, contribute to Xi’an Famous Foods’ reputation as one of the top budget-friendly restaurants in the Upper East Side. A personal favorite is the A2 Liang-Pi, a stir-fried noodle dish featuring scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro, cucumbers, and spongy cubes of house-made gluten—an absolute delight.


Boqueria 

Website: Boqueria
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1460 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
Good to Know: Date-night friendly

Boqueria, a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar, is a top choice for date nights on the Upper East Side. The warm and inviting ambiance complements the classy Barcelona-inspired food. The tasty tapas, crafted with fresh, seasonal ingredients, are irresistible, making it a challenge not to try them all.

Boqueria’s seafood paella, featuring rice, monkfish, squid, shrimp, clams, and mussels, is a standout. Don’t skip out on the Nutella churros either, ranking among the best desserts in New York City.

Cheese burger from JG Melon on the Upper East Side, Iconic restaurants NYC

JG Melon

Website: JG Melon
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Good to Know: Cash-only, world famous burgers, 1+ hour wait is not uncommon

Established in 1972, JG Melon stands as an iconic UES restaurant, revered in the New York City culinary scene. Renowned for its perfectly juicy and flavorful patties nestled between buttery buns, it offers an unparalleled burger experience.

The must-try fries and distinctive watermelon-themed decor add to the charm of this cash-only establishment. Frequented by prominent figures like former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who dubs them the best hamburgers in the world, JG Melon has also garnered praise from celebrities like Gigi Hadid and Bobby Flay.

With well-deserved fanfare, it rightfully claims its status as one of the most famous restaurants on the Upper East Side (and one of the best burgers in all of NYC!).


Best Upper East Side Restaurants (Post Summary)


  • JG Melon
  • Boqueria 
  • Xi’an Famous Food
  • Cafe d’Alsace
  • Uva
  • Up Thai
  • NR
  • AOC East
  • Sojourn
  • Maya
  • Mission Ceviche 
  • Flex Mussels 
  • THEP Thai Restaurant
  • Luke’s Lobster 
  • The Penrose 

Further Reading for the Upper East Side

Best Things to Do on the Upper East Side: 15+ Great Things to Do in the Upper East Side
Where to Get Drinks on the UES: 15 Epic Bars in the Upper East Side
Best Brunch UES: 15 Flavorful Brunch Spots in the Upper East Side
Where to Score a Deal on the UES: 12 Epic Happy Hour Spots on the Upper East Side
Best Bagels UES: 12 Tasty Upper East Side Bagels

More Great NYC Restaurants

Restaurants in Greenwich Village: 12 Charming Restaurants in Greenwich Village
Affordable Michelin Star Restaurants: 10 Amazingly (Affordable) Michelin Star Restaurants in NYC (Worth The Price!)
Iconic Restaurants in NYC: 10 Iconic New York City Restaurants Every Local Needs to Try
Restaurants Near Central Park: The 20 Best Restaurants Near Central Park
Best Weather Appropriate Restaurants: 15 Cozy Restaurants with Heated Outdoor Dining in New York City (For Even the Coldest of Days!)


Map of the Best Restaurants Upper East Side



And there you have it, a roundup of the best Upper East Side restaurants according to yours truly. I hope you enjoyed the post.

Cheers!