I have stated that I am not a fan of mid or uptown NYC restaurants, but I am constantly asked for restaurants in these two districts, so decided to list ones I do like though don’t eat at frequently. It is a small list, but I truly believe there aren’t many worth eating at.
Upper West Side / Lincoln Center
- Bar Boulud & Boulud Sud – 1900 Broadway, 1212-595-0303 & 20 W 64th St., 1212-595-1313 – Both Daniel Boulud’s and on the casual side. Bar Boulud focuses on wine and charcuterie, Boulud Sud has a Mediterranean theme and food is really, really good. Some of my favorites at Boulud Sud; Appetizers – Lamb Flatbread, Sicilian Sardines, Crudo, Octopus. Mains – Any of the Pastas, Sea Bass or Lamb. And don’t forget the sides, all interesting and delicious. (barboulud.com and bouludsud.com).
- Bluebird – 10 Columbus Circle Third floor,(347) 682-2100 – Revered British restaurant group D&D crosses the pond for the first time ever with its popular London restaurant Bluebird. Now perched on the third floor in Time Warner Center, Bluebird is open all day with a cafe up front that turns into a wine bar at night and a colorful dining room further in that overlooks Central Park. Food is what one would expect from a British import — Cornish chicken pie, beef Wellington, and fish and chips — as well as a posh afternoon tea.
- Gazala’s – 447 Amsterdam Ave, (212) 787-1800 – Popular Druze restaurant Gazala’s has made its return to the Upper West Side, serving chef-owner Gazala Halabi’s thin, springy pitas. There’s already a small location in Hell’s Kitchen, but this bigger new outpost offers a longer menu, as well as booze. Beyond Halabi’s spreads and kebabs, expect shrimp hummus, shawarma, and cauliflower tahini salad in the 100-seat space. Israeli wines and cocktails with arak, an anise liquor, dominate the drink menu.
- Leonti – 103 West 77th St. – opened in the old Dovetail space, chef Adam Leonti (worked for Vetri in Philly) is an elegant restaurant, with well-spaced tables, Art Deco decor and full service bar. Leonti has a special love of grains, which he mills himself to make bread, pasta, and pastries. His boldly creative Italian cuisine is worth every penny!
- Levain Bakery – 167 W. 74th Street & 351 Amsterdam Avenue -Two friends’ mission to bake the greatest chocolate chip cookie known to New York City led to well, the greatest chocolate chip cookie in New York City — served steaming hot, melty, and gooey in the middle and studded with walnuts for extra bite. Eating this half-pounder in one sitting isn’t difficult, but bring a friend so you can share other cookie flavors.
- Nice Matin – 201 E. 79th Street, (212) 873-6423 -Very close to the American Museum of Natural History, this cozy French bistro is excellent for an easy and reliably good dinner. Choose from hors d’oeuvres like escargot and tomato toast and hearty, elegant entrees like steak frites and chicken paillard. The best deal is the set menu, which includes an appetizer, meat, and dessert for $42.
- Nougatine – 1 Central Park West, 212-299-3900 – Has always felt like something of a secret. It’s part of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s flagship restaurant, Jean-George. The food comes from the same kitchen. The service staff is just as warm and attentive as it is in the more formal dining room. Yet it never feels like the junior-varsity version of the “real” restaurant on the other side of the dividing wall. Instead, it’s the less-fussy, more-energetic barroom and café, where the experience is less expensive but never suffers as a result. The evenings are lovely (especially if you get a seat near the windows overlooking Central Park), but the best time to go is lunch, when a $38 prix fixe menu offers favorites like tuna tartare, fried calamari, and, for dessert, chocolate molten cake from the chef who many say invented the recipe.
- Sushi Inoue Lincoln Center – in the old Picholine space, sushi master Shinichi Inoue, is overseeing the operations at a grand two-floor offshoot of his Michelin-starred Harlem restaurant (Sushi Inoue).
- The Fat Monk – 949 Columbus Avenue -Though the menu at this gastropub may seem all over the place (think Mediterranean with hints of Asian and New American), it’s full of Inventive dishes like lobster gyros, crab tater tots, and crispy duck wings pair extremely well with an extensive beer and wine list, plus cocktails made from house-infused spirits.
- White Gold Butchers – 375 Amsterdam Avenue, 212.362.8731 – Chef April Bloomfield’s butcher shop/restaurant, with an all-female crew, breaks down whole animals (raised locally) into steaks and chops. Open all day, so enjoy egg, cheese, and meat on a roll at breakfast, savory pasties stuffed with red wine-braised beef for lunch, and beef and peppers for dinner.
- Aldo Sohm Wine Bar – Classic wine bar to enjoy an excellent glass of red or white, with prices to match the quality. Great small plates to go with your vino – try the chicken salt-seasoned cauliflower and the merguez sausage in pita.
- Aureole – 135 West 42nd St., 212.319.1660 – A calm, soothing restaurant in an area of Times Square chaos. This is Charlie Palmer’s upscale restaurant with a great bar, serving new American food. Expensive if you eat in the dining room, but you can order a la carte at the bar (and lunch is a bargain). Great food and friendly service.
- DB Bistro Moderne – 55 West 44th St., 212.391.2400 – Daniel Boulud’s french bistro is my first choice, hands down, for this area. Famous for their DB Burger, stuffed with truffle-and-foie gras-laced short ribs, accompanied by silver stirrup cup of pommes frites, is really worth every penny. This bistro is a relaxing, friendly environment where they and they are very conscious of your curtain time if you let them know you have theater tickets.
- Gabriel Kruether – 41 West 42nd St., 212-257-5826 – Chef Gabriel Kreuther, from The Modern, opened this place across from Bryant Park. He took his superb pastry and bread chef, Marc Aumont, with him and the result is a dinner to remember from first bite of bread through his luscious desserts. As usual, love the bar where you can drink and order from the special a la carte menu (dining room has a prix fix and expensive – but really worth the money).
- Gotham West Market – A fifteen minute walk from the Theater District, but it’s worth making the trek. Gotham West Market is without question one of the city’s best food halls. Two stands from Ivan Orkin stand out: Slurp Shop, a stellar ramen shop famous for its incendiary red chile ramen, and Corner Slice, which sells unbelievable delicious square slices. The tomato pie might be unequaled in Manhattan.
- Tacub – A stand-out Mexican restaurant in chef Julian Medina’s small group of places. The tacos are excellent, sweet corn tortillas with fillings like octopus and chorizo (smoky surf & turf) or whole Oaxacan grasshoppers (essentially a non-vegetarian popcorn). The menu’s best bet is the branzino, steamed in a banana leaf and brushed with tart green and heady red salsa. It feeds two for $27 and comes with tortillas for taco making.
- The Lambs Club – 132 West 44th St., 212-997-5262 – A clubby feel with art deco decor, it is one of the better restaurants in this district. Serving New American, it has a great fireplace, excellent service, and good food. Of course, fairly expensive.
- Xi’an Famous Foods – Local father-and-son casual chain serving Western Chinese food. Great use of lamb, cumin, and Sichuan peppercorns. Without question, the dish to get is the liang pi, refreshingly cold wheat noodles tossed with black vinegar, soy, garlic, and chili oil. Skip the underseasoned lamb burgers and go for the spicy hand-ripped noodles with lamb or beef. Great for a quick, cheap bite right before curtain call.