The New Upper West Side: 10 Spots to Try Now

From uptown expansions to brand-new destinations
September 30, 2015
by Elaheh Nozari

The Upper West Side's dining scene has been heating up over the last few years thanks to uptown expansions and trendy newcomers that are helping to liven up the roster of mostly casual neighborhood eateries. And in recent months, the blocks between Lincoln Center and Columbia have seen new and improved operations spring up that touch on all the trends defining New York City dining right now: craft beer, fried chicken, Neapolitan pizza and more. Here are 10 spots to try on the Upper West Side.

The Ribbon: The latest from the Blue Ribbon empire and its first foray northwest of 59th Street, The Ribbon represents the Bromberg brothers’ mission to create an upscale family dining destination in the neighborhood. Their unique brand of comfort food is very much intact and the expansive menu shows an eclectic mix of French, Italian and American influences. The fried chicken that many associate with Blue Ribbon makes an appearance every Sunday and Monday night. There’s a raw bar, three types of pâté, hearty prime ribs of pork and beef, and burgers in beef and veggie versions. The 200-seat space is dark and cozy with leather booths, a long bar and an open kitchen. 20 W. 72nd St.; 212-787-5656

The Mermaid Inn: The Mermaid Inn’s outpost on Columbus has long been the Upper West Side’s answer to daily $1 oyster happy hours, and its reopening in mid-September at a new space down the block is a testament to its reputation as a reliable spot for New England–style seafood. The menu hasn’t changed — you can still expect lobster rolls, beer-battered fish tacos and the complimentary chocolate pudding — but the dining room and bar are larger, which means more wall space for its thematic maritime decor. 570 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-799-7400

Parm: Major Food Group, the power team behind Sadelle’s, Carbone and Dirty French, brought their hospitality uptown with the opening of Parm on Columbus and 70th last December. This location of the casual red-sauce joint is bigger than the Mulberry Street original and features an expanded menu. Aside from the namesake hero sandwiches, the menu is full of pasta dishes like linguine vongole and penne scampi; chicken, fish and pork entrees; and housemade mozzarella. The roomy space has two dining rooms, a deli take-out counter and a separate bar. Don’t forget to order the ice cream cake, available in the classic strawberry, pistachio and chocolate flavor, or the rotating seasonal flavor (right now it’s piña colada with pineapple and coconut ice cream). 235 Columbus Ave.; 212-776-4921

Moore Food & Drink: Chef Harold Moore wasted no time getting back in the kitchen after Commerce abruptly closed this summer. Moore Food & Drink, which opened a few weeks ago in the Empire Hotel, is the first of three concepts he’s bringing to the city this year. Right across from Lincoln Center, the restaurant is a classic American bistro where dishes like deviled eggs, New England clam chowder and roasted chicken with foie gras bread stuffing are served in a 190-seat dining room. It’s not all heavy and traditional though — there’s a raw veggie bar and simply grilled fish and steak entrees served with a choice of sauce, whose options range from béarnaise to hot-sauce vinaigrette. There's also a prix fixe theater menu and weekend brunch. 44 W. 63rd St.; 212-956-1288

Risotteria: Gluten-free isn’t just a dietary request at Risotteria, it’s the specialty. The original Bleecker Street location of this casual Italian has been going strong since 2000 — well before gluten-free become a dietary fad — and the Amsterdam location, open since April, is a celiac’s emporium. There are more than 20 risotto dishes, made with vegetable or chicken broth, and a wide selection of pasta, panini and Neapolitan-style pizza, all of which are handmade and gluten-free. Luckily for those without a wheat sensitivity, every pizza and panini can be made with regular dough or bread. There’s an on-site bakery and an accompanying retail area with gluten-free sweets and prepared frozen foods. 375 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-362-8731

Poulette: Fried chicken isn’t the only poultry dish having a moment right now. No longer a grocery store heat-lamp exclusive, rotisserie chicken, or poulet rôti à la Française, is showing up on menus across the city. Poulette, a tiny rotisserie whose first location opened in Hell’s Kitchen in 2014, set up shop next to Luke’s Lobster last month. Though seating is available, the operation is geared toward takeout, complete with a curbside pick-up option. The specialty is a simple roasted chicken (raised with the healthy all-natural, antibiotic- and hormone-free requisites), available in quarter, half and whole sizes. The sides, like Brussels sprouts with tarragon, ratatouille and string beans with mushrooms, are a must-order. 426 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-875-0002

Box Kite Coffee: The hole-in-the wall 72nd street location of East Village coffee shop Box Kite Coffee is tiny enough to miss yet proves that minimalism is the key to good coffee. Inspired by craft-beer and wine tastings, owner Cora Lambert is selective about the coffee she serves and her roaster choices are constantly changing. The specialty is the 1+1, an espresso shot served with a macchiato, plus a glass of seltzer and a homemade graham cracker. 128 W. 72nd St.; 212-574-8203

Jacob’s Pickles: The small contingency of Upper West Side hipsters comes out of the woodwork for the craft beer and pickles at Jacob’s Pickles, a rustic Southern spot that’s become a go-to for brunch and dinner since opening a few years ago. The quintessential comfort-food menu features biscuit sandwiches, shrimp and bacon grits and buttermilk fried chicken with pancakes. If you like pickled foods, order the pickle flight to share. It includes eight varieties of pickles, from classic sour cucumbers to the more eccentric red candy beets and green beans. As for drinks, there are over 25 microbrews on tap and the craft cocktails, like a pickle-brine margarita, are served in mason jars. 509 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-470-5566

Dovetail: Chef John Fraser’s Dovetail is the epitome of fine, California-centric dining, and its revamp over the summer on the menu and design fronts makes it even more of a special-occasion destination. Fraser got rid of à la carte to focus on tasting and prix fixe menus that change monthly. He puts his critically acclaimed approach to plant-based dining front and center on the vegetable-only tasting menu, a seven-course medley that’s approachable and creative. 103 W. 77th St.; 212-362-3800

Han Dynasty: The East Village location of this Philly import has amassed a cult following since opening in 2013, and as of April, Upper West Siders can get a taste of its wildly hot Sichuan fare. This isn’t lazy Susan Americanized Chinese, nor is it for anyone with an aversion to spicy food. The common denominator among most dishes is chile pepper, whether it’s dry or as an oil. Must-order dishes, for both Han newbies and regulars, include the intensely spicy and slightly sweet dan dan noodles, dumplings in chile oil and dry pepper wok-fried chicken. The cheap, greasy in a good way and shareable menu is far from a secret, so come prepared to wait. 215 W. 85th St.; 212-858-9060

Coming Soon: A whole new crop of city favorites and promising newcomers are headed to the Upper West Side over the next few months. A spin-off of the original H&H Bagels is coming to Columbus and 85th in December, and Breads Bakery is slated to open across from Lincoln Center later this fall. The Mermaid Inn folk are opening Pizzeria Gesto, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, in the group’s former space in November, and The Plaza Food Hall’s Olma Caviar Bar will take over the space of an Amsterdam frozen yogurt shop in December.

upper west side