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Our 10 Best Upper East Side Restaurants

When you think of hot neighborhoods for dining, the Upper East Side probably isn't the first to come to mind. In fact, it's probably toward the bottom of your mental list. But a crop of new eateries over the past couple of years has resulted in some new -- not to mention exciting -- culinary blood. Sure you'll still find spots catering to the ladies who lunch, but also now a wealth of affordable, interesting restaurants with delicious food. Behold a list of old favorites and bright newcomers: Our 10 Best Upper East Side Restaurants.

10. JG Melon: JG Melon is the quintessential neighborhood burger joint. It offers a lively (although quite preppy -- hey there, boarding-school buddies) bar scene, a kitschy old-time décor with knickknacks and paintings of watermelons on nearly every inch of wall, and, most importantly, consistently tasty hamburgers, garnished with red-onion slices and pickles. Order one plus a bloody Mary and settle in for a cozy night out. 1291 Third Avenue, 212-744-0585

9. Andaz: You'll find all the standards (vindaloo, korma, curries, etc.) plus several Southern faves (uttapam, dosa, idli) at this Indian restaurant, but you can always count on the quality and flavors being spot-on. Some of our favorite dishes include the kofta curry and the onion bhajia, not to mention the fluffy naan. Service is also great, and the lunchtime buffet is a steal. 1378 First Avenue, 212-288-0288

8. Candle 79: Finally, a vegetarian restaurant that offers a menu that's both flavorful and upscale! You'll find plenty of vibrant veggie fare here, like grilled kale salad with lentils and haricot verts and avocado stuffed with quinoa, cucumbers, and radishes. Sure, you'll still find faux meat, but trust us, dishes like porcini-crusted tofu with celeriac puree and chili-grilled seitan with mole sauce ain't your hippie grandmother's meat-free cuisine. 154 East 79th Street, 212-537-7179   7. Flex Mussels: No wimpy shriveled mussels at this seafood spot, only big plump Prince Edward Island ones, served in 23 different broths. The preparations range from a classic white wine and garlic treatment to one infused with Indian spices to a Portuguese-inspired bowl studded with linguica and clams. We're partial to the odd-sounding but yummy mushroom option and also the anise-scented Provençal one, but all are worth a gander. Make sure to order a cone or two of the crispy french fries, too. 174 East 82nd Street, 212-717-7772

6. Daniel: OK, maybe it's not fair to put Daniel on this list, because obviously it's really going to make any "Best Of" list, be it best French restaurants, best New York City restaurants, or best Upper East Side restaurants. Hell, it's supposedly the 11th-best restaurant in the world. But you know what, it deserves the fanfare. The service is absolutely impeccable and if you want to channel your inner 1 percent, it's where to go. But we're egalitarian here at Fork in the Road. If it's not a restaurant where you can eat on a regular basis, then it's not good enough to make it into the top five. So it'll get sixth place. 60 East 65th Street, 212-288-0033

5. Café Mingala: New York City boasts hardly any Burmese restaurants, which is a crying shame because the cuisine is downright delicious. In fact, Café Mingala is the only place we know of where we can find food from Myanmar, like the tasty and crunchy green tea leaf salad, spring ginger salad, and the garlicky Rangoon night-market noodles. The spicy curries are also delicious, and the price point utterly affordable. 1393 Second Avenue, 212-744-8008  

One of the many kinds of tacos at Toloache 82
One of the many kinds of tacos at Toloache 82
Lauren Shockey

4. Toloache 82: Yes, some fans might be silently protesting that Upper East Side institution Cascabel Taqueria isn't on this list. But really, Cascabel has started to go to shit, now that the owners have installed massive televisions in the dining room. The quality of food has suffered recently, too. But no worries, because newcomer Toloache 82 is bringing high-quality Mexican cuisine to the UES. Along with the many tacos (which even include Oaxacan grasshopper, featuring critters flown in from Mexico), you'll find haute Mex fare like short ribs in mole sauce, roasted garlic shrimp, and good guac. Oh yeah, and margaritas galore. 166 East 82nd Street, 212-861-4505

Old-fashioned chicken is often the best-fashioned chicken.
Old-fashioned chicken is often the best-fashioned chicken.
Robert Sietsema

3. Jones Wood Foundry: This gastropub newcomer gets its name because a hardware store/foundry was once located on its 76th Street premises. But now it's a convivial eatery serving such British-influenced plates as kedgeree, boiled eggs and soldiers, and a smoked mackerel pâté. Our top picks, though, go to the old-fashioned roast chicken with mashed potatoes and the hearty steak and kidney pies. Comfort food done right. 401 East 76th Street, 212-249-2700

Hospoda's rabbit in aspic
Hospoda's rabbit in aspic
Lauren Shockey

2. Hospoda: At this stylish spot located on the ground floor of the Bohemian National Hall, you'll find contemporary Czech fare that's artfully presented and downright tasty. Dishes change regularly, but you'd be wise to try the fork-tender poached-beef flatiron steak with cream sauce and dill oil, succulent marbled pork belly, smoked beef tongue with yellow pea puree, and a block of shredded rabbit in savory aspic. Wash it all down with Pilsner Urquell, poured in four distinct styles ranging from all foam to headless. 321 East 73rd Street, 212-861-1038  

Assorted sushi at Sushi of Gari
Assorted sushi at Sushi of Gari
Lauren Shockey

1. Sushi of Gari: New York City isn't short on sushi restaurants, but it's worth trekking to the Upper East Side to go to Sushi of Gari (yes, there are other locations, but this is, by far, the best of the bunch). Raw fish is the way to go; either get an assorted selection or put your trust in the sushi chefs' hands by indulging in omakase (don't worry, you can stop whenever you want). They are masters of their craft, and while it won't be cheap, it will be damn well worth it. It's sushi that actually tastes like it should. 402 East 78th Street, 212-517-5340

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV, or me @ldshockey.


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