Our 10 Best Upper East Side Restaurants, 2013 Edition


The Upper East Side has had some work done. A culinary facelift? It sure seems that way, judging by the neighborhood’s growing tally of inventive new food spots that have emerged over the last few years. At the same time, old favorites have continued to increase their followings. Sure, those with platinum cards may still get priority seating, but those without have plenty of options, too.

Here’s our updated list of the ten best restaurants on the Upper East Side, 2013:

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10. Moti Mahal Delux This Indian newcomer updates traditional Mughlai cuisine, while still bringing plenty of heat to many of the dishes. Grab an extra napkin and dig into the finger-staining tandoori chicken and lamb kebabs. The sprawling lunch buffet offers tastes of most of the menu (including a full vegetarian option) and is one of the neighborhood’s best deals at $11.95. 1149 First Avenue, 212-371-3535


9. JG Melon Posh preppies need to eat, too! At least, that’s what it feels like at this always packed local hangout. But the burgers are solid and the crowd is (usually) friendly to outsiders. If you can score an outdoor seat come summer, you’ll enjoy an afternoon of fantastically entertaining people watching (is that child on a leash?) 1291 Third Avenue, 212-744-0585


8. Candle Cafe Before juice bars were as prolific as coffee chains, Candle Cafe offered inventive vegan cuisine to the animal-free set. Now, the scene is equally divided between old-school granola yogis and meat-free mommies who lunch. The restaurant favors boldly spiced dishes that will erase any residual memories of bland boiled beans and steamed tofu. If carnivores are in toe, try the daily soup specials (the rich corn chowder will leave you wondering why anyone would ever use cream) and the ginger vegetable stir-fry. 1307 Third Avenue, 212-472-0970


7. Nancy Lee’s Pig Heaven No, it’s not Mission Chinese. But Nancy Lee’s Pig Heaven has had a cult following all its own for nearly three decades. The above-average Taiwanese spot is known for their sweet and spicy pork, so much so that the menu is crafted around whether or not a dish features it. Try the intensely sticky spareribs before moving on to the fragrant broad noodles and slick, homestyle eggplant. Sure, these are the dishes that you grew up ordering by number, but that’s just part of their charm. 1540 Second Avenue, 212-744-4887


6. Sarabeth’s Brunch is always capitalized at this dainty yet oversized longtime neighborhood favorite. Avoid the Sunday crowds and visit on a weekday for fresh, buttery scones and herb omelets. If it’s cold out, grab the cushioned window seat and spend the afternoon with a bowl of smokey cream of tomato soup. And while the country-style decor can leave you feeling a bit like Miss Muffet, the slightly tart and berry-topped lemon ricotta pancakes make the entire experience worthwhile. 1295 Madison Avenue, 212-410-7335


5. Serafina In a neighborhood brimming with Northern Italian restaurants, Serafina brings a fairly authentic feeling to the mix. Watch as young moms forgo their furs to share a margherita pizza with their kids and teens on first dates text through bites of the cream-laden paglia e fieno. Climb a flight of stairs and grab a seat at the room-framing banquette for an evening of glam regulars and consistently excellent food. 1022 Madison Avenue, 212-734-2676


4. Sfoglia Like a movie star in a sleepy town, Sfoglia gets a lot of recognition on the Upper East Side. And for good reason. With just ten tables and a truly “on the farm” aesthetic, the rustic Italian dishes seem to shine all the way to Midtown. Their chicken al mattone, crispy and moist, is worth however long it takes you to score a reservation. 1402 Lexington Avenue, 212-831-1402


3. Beyoglu It’s not difficult to understand why this Third Avenue restaurant is constantly packed with diners. The menu’s staple items (mezze plates, donor kebabs, whole grilled striped bass) are among the best Turkish offerings in the city. Low price tags and tons of outdoor seating also make for large crowds. 200 East 81st Street, 212-650-0850


2. Hospoda Order a Pilsner and prepare for an evening of thoughtful small plates at this Czech-influenced restaurant. The fried egg bread, crusty and warm over sliced ham, will evoke memories of soul-warming hostel breakfasts in Prague. Heartier diners should order the local duck breast, playfully flecked with huckleberries. This newish gastropub still feels like an undiscovered gem and is the ideal place to warm up on a chilly evening. 321 East 73rd Street, 212-861-1038


1. Park Avenue Winter How does a fine dining restaurant continue to stay relevant? By reinventing itself — and its menu — every season. Now holding its winter shape, the modern American restaurant’s whitewashed walls and pussy willow branches lend glittering effect to the space. They also serve to highlight menu standouts like the maple-glazed pork chop and black truffle-coated halibut. For a special occasion where price is of little concern, book the glass-walled table located inside the kitchen and watch the line cooks pretend not to notice you’re there. 100 East 63rd Street, 212-644-1900

For comparative purposes, see Our 10 Best Upper East Side Restaurants, 2011 Edition