The New Upper East Side: 11 Hot Spots to Visit

By Zagat Staff  |  April 22, 2015

Once the land of stuffy white-tablecloth restaurants and nothing-special sports bars, the Upper East Side has experienced an influx of trendier places to dine and drink over the past few years. Even The Fat Radish, the ultimate in LES cool, has opened two restaurants uptown, including the latest hot spot, Pizza BeachXi'an Famous Foods has even recently expanded uptown. Here, we've rounded up some of the must-try spots in the ever-evolving neighborhood.

Pizza Beach: The fellas behind The East Pole, the chic veggie-forward hot spot on the UES, have opened Pizza Beach (either the greatest restaurant name we've heard this year or the worst) with the same ingredient-driven ethos. Brothers Tom and Anthony Martignetti have tapped chef Michael Sullivan to create wood-fired pies, homemade pastas, salads and other healthy share plates. Pizza options range from the purple kale and butternut squash variety to a coconut curry rock shrimp pie created by guest chef Joe Capozzi of East Pole. Pastas range from a bucatini puttanesca to mezzi rigatoni with short-rib ragout. 1426 Third Ave.; 646-666-0819

Seamstress: This stylish UES bar, another spot that's helping to transform the neighborhood's nightlife scene, opened earlier this year from Steve Laycock and Josh Mazza, the folks behind nearby cocktail den The Gilroy. The menu was conceived by chef Will Horowitz (Ducks Eatery) and the drinks by Pamela Wiznitzer (previously of Dead Rabbit). In alignment with the "sewing" theme teased out in the name, the American heritage menu is divided into three categories: Needlework, Gusset and Main Seams. (Cue the Portlandia parody.) Cocktail selections by Wiznitzer include signatures like the Wiz Fizz (Aviation gin, Cynar, lemon, cream, egg white, root beer), a “bartender’s choice” and a signature charity cocktail that will rotate monthly. You'll also find 50 classic cocktails on the back of the menu, approved by cocktail guru Dave Wondrich. 339 E. 75th St.; 212-288-8033

August: The longtime West Village staple moved uptown last year to new digs located just north of the Lexington Avenue shopping crush. Chef Josh Eden brought all of August's signatures with him, like the roast chicken, and also added new favorites like the fried green tomatoes and the burrata with pickled ramps. 791 Lexington Ave.; 212-935-1433

Meijin Ramen: This much-buzzed-about UES ramenya offers three different kinds of both chicken- and beef-based ramen broths as well as one vegetarian option. But beef broth is the specialty here, with varieties ranging from the house-named Mei-jin miso ramen (with beef, bean sprout, corn, arugula, bamboo, naruto, green onion, garlic chips, sesame and chile oil) to the Spicy Chili (made with ground beef, bean sprout, arugula, naruto, watercress, bamboo, green onion, sesame, garlic, chips, chile pepper and ra-jan chile oil). 1574 Second Ave.; 212-327-2800

Xi'an Famous Foods: Jason Wong's popular and rapidly expanding Chinese food chainlet that began in Flushing recently opened one of its largest locations on the Upper East Side. Bonus coolness: their website has a real-time traffic meter letting you know how busy it is at any given time inside this location. 328 E. 78th St.; 212-786-2068

Dough Loco: UES pioneer Corey Cova is making rich, brightly colored donuts at this trendy shop in flavors like raspberry Sriracha, maple miso and blood orange (plus Blue Bottle coffee to wash them down). 1261 Park Ave.;  212-876-1980

ABV: One of the more happening scenes in the area, this trendy wine bar attracts the after-work crowd with happy hour and keeps them hanging out until closing time with its fun atmosphere and inventive food menu, which includes dishes like foie gras mousse, Korean rice cakes and “super fries” loaded with caramelized onions and cheddar béchamel. 1504 Lexington Ave.; 212-722-8959

East Pole: The Fat Radish crew brings their locavore-chic sensibilities uptown with this slightly more sophisticated venture on the Upper East Side, instantly popular with the area’s hipsters and their Chanel jacket-wearing forebearers. The menu includes many of the same items as its sister restaurant, as well as some new additions, all made with seasonally changing ingredients. (The cocktail list is also a treat, if an expensive one, with drinks priced around $18.) 133 E. 65th St.; 212-249-2222

The Gilroy: This sexy cocktail bar specializes in Negronis — in fact, there’s an entire menu of different versions of the classic drink, including one made with mezcal and an aged, bottled version that’s meant to be shared between two people. Spigolo alum Joseph D’Angelo is behind the food menu, which includes mac 'n' cheese, chicken pot pie and assorted cheese, salumi and crudo plates. 1561 Second Ave.; 212-734-8800

The Penrose: You’ll feel like you’re in Williamsburg at this hipster-chic gastropub from the Wilfie & Nell folks, best known for its craft cocktails, Penrose Burger (made with a custom Pat LaFrieda blend) and popular weekend brunch. We’re pretty sure the font on their menu is the same font that Wes Anderson uses in his movies, so that should say something about the vibe. 1590 Second Ave.; 212-203-2751

Earl's Beer & Cheese: This small, unpretentious neighborhood spot put the Upper East Side dining scene on the map when it opened a few years ago, thanks to its rotating selection of craft beers and cheap but delicious eats like the New York cheddar grilled cheese, made with pork belly, kimchi and fried egg, which costs just $8. 1259 Park Ave.; 212-289-1581