I don’t live on the Upper West Side for the food or nightlife –– anyone who knows the neighborhood is pretty aware that it’s not New York City’s capital for either. But even so, I do have a few local spots that I frequent and recommend, and I’m happy to share them in case you ever find yourself lost uptown or wandering through my hood. If you’re so inclined to visit my pocket of Manhattan, try any of these six local spots on the Upper West Side.
Fred’s, 476 Amsterdam Ave at 83rd St
A neighborhood staple since 1997, Fred’s remains an establishment of choice for locals due to its reliable eats and attentive bartenders. Named after former Upper West Sider “Fred,” a beautiful black Labrador Retriever who’s since moved on to doggie heaven, the tavern features adorable NYC pooches on every square inch of wall in its bar area and two dining rooms. The cellar-like charm makes this bar and restaurant my go-to place during cold-weather months (great selection of wines by the glass), and the crowd is always diverse and entertaining. What to eat: The pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries and the mac-n-cheese.
French Roast, 2340 Broadway at 85th St
Much more than an Upper West Parisian bistro, French Roast is terrific at any hour for a bite to eat, a cocktail, or a bit of both. Besides their regular lineup, they offer plates of the day plus specials. The salmon and steaks always come perfectly cooked, and brunch food is solid as well. I’m not going to talk about the amazing desserts since they’re not part of my current meal plan. 🙂 The truth is I’d rather save my calories for red wine, and French Roast offers an award-winning list with great selections by the bottle and glass. What I order: The hanger steak (usually a special one or two nights per week) and a glass of California pinot noir.
Mermaid Inn, 570 Amsterdam, between 87th and 88th
Mermaid is a reliable choice for brunch or dinner, but the inn’s happy hour from 5 until 7 p.m. is one of the Upper West’s best-kept secrets. (Although I’m not sure how much of a secret it is anymore.) With delectable dollar oysters –– yes, that $1 each –– plus other apps like shrimp and avocado sliders and amazingly fresh fish tacos I constantly crave, you won’t go hungry as you guzzle a $5 beer, sip $7 glass of wine or a imbibe on a $8 cocktail. Can I get another round, please? Oh, and make my fish tacos a double!
City Diner, 2441 Broadway at 90th St
Crazy, I know. It’s a diner. But every NYC neighborhood needs a reliable Greek coffee shop/diner, and this one is open 24/7. I’ve lived nearby for eight years, and I can expect to see the same staff today as I did in 2009. The faces never change and neither does the menu, and I love that about City Diner. The eggs benedict is a mainstay for brunch (tell them light on the hollandaise), and on Fridays, the Chicken Avgolemono Soup calls my name. A bowl of it is Greek soul food.
St. James Gate, 441 Amsterdam Ave at 81st St
Every New Yorker needs a neighborhood Irish pub, and this one is mine. Owners Kevin, Siobhan, and Paul are some of the finest bartenders in the city and sure know how to make a gal feel welcome. (Usually with a hug and a shot of something!) I especially like the Gate during warm months because the doors stay open, the light filters in through huge people-watching windows on Amsterdam, and I can grab a table outside with Bogey if I time it right. What I order: the fried calamari (favorite calamari in town), the spinach salad, and a big pour of cab sauv or pinot noir, or if I’m feeling crazy, a vodka tonic. Mike sticks with bourbon and a burger, usually.
Cibo e Vino, 2418 Broadway at 89th St
Cibo is a hop, skip, and jump from my digs, so it’s super convenient when I don’t want to travel downtown to some of my fave Italian spots. The pastas are delightful. Try tagliatelle alla Bolognese, or for a main course go for the Milanese-style breaded organic chicken breast with avocado and arugula salad. The trattoria offers outdoor seating in spring, summer, and fall, and Cibo’s modest bar is fantastic for grabbing a glass of vino and an appetizer or a salad at lunchtime.
Maybe I’ll see you in the neighborhood? Do you have any favorite local spots on the Upper West Side? Let us know in the comments.