What do West Side Story, the American Museum of Natural History, and this guide have in common? They all take place in one of the most magical places in all of NYC: the Upper West Side. Many locals and visitors leave this area saying “West is best,” and who can blame them? The Upper West Side is a gorgeous, cultural hub where iconic places like the Juilliard School of Music, Lincoln Center, and Columbia University reside.
The Upper West Side boasts beautiful brownstones, celebrity sightings, and (most importantly) fantastic food. It might not have the same electrifying nightlife as the city, but it’s the place you want to go home to at the end of the evening. We’ve compiled this guide to the best Upper West Side restaurants so you never go hungry in one of New York’s most outstanding neighborhoods. It’s time to book your trip, head uptown, and dig in!
While RedFarm might not be the most authentic dim sum experience in NYC (after all, this is the Upper West Side, not Chinatown), it definitely offers creativity and delivers delicious dumplings. Some of our favorites are the Pac-Man shrimp dumplings complete with black sesame-seed eyes. So cute and so tasty! If you’re wanting to order a crowd-pleaser, go for the udon noodles with grilled short ribs. We’re not sure how they marinate the meat or what the secret sauce is, but wow! Would we go back simply for more noodles? 100% YES.
$$$ Dim Sum, Cantonese, Asian Fusion
13. The Mermaid Inn
The Mermaid Inn is one of the Upper West Side restaurants worth raving about. It’s a great dining experience because both the food and the servers are wonderful (we’re convinced that NYC’s kindest people work here). All of the entrees here are divine, but the true showstoppers are the lobster knuckles “escargot style”. This appetizer features lobster knuckles that have been placed in an escargot plate, topped with a Pernod-based butter sauce, and then broiled to perfection. They’re served simply with a thick slice of grilled country bread for dipping. Trust us when we say you won’t want to share this app. It’s that good! If you make it to The Mermaid Inn during happy hour, be sure to get your hands on their East Coast oysters. $1.25 oysters? Yes, please!
The Mermaid Inn
$$ Seafood, Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches
12. Koko Wings
Korean fried chicken fans are in for a real treat with this Upper West Side restaurant. Koko Wings first opened up shop on the Upper West Side but has since become so well known and beloved that it now has a second location in the East Village. With so many things to choose from on the menu, it can be a little overwhelming. But, if there’s one thing you simply have to order, it’s the chicken combo plate in the soy garlic flavor. The fried chicken shell makes the most satisfying crackling sound as you dive into the moist, cooked-to-perfection poultry. Before you know it, you will be ordering another plate to take home with you because the craving for this fried chicken is simply too strong.
$$ Korean, Chicken Wings, Beer Bar
One of the newest, and best Upper West Side restaurants is an elevated Indian restaurant called Baazi. This place is not to be missed. The food alone is fantastic, but Baazi’s interior design takes it to a whole new level—the second you walk into their space you feel like you’ve been transported to the Middle East with their beautiful blue walls and intricate ceiling designs. The Murgh Methi Malai is a great entree to order—the fenugreek sauce gives it a delicious touch of sweetness and maple flavor. However, if you order nothing but naan bread, you’ll leave very happy. Their garlic naan is some of the best we’ve ever had.
10. Zurruto: Ramen & Gyoza Bar
Zurruto is a must-visit if you’re searching for Upper West Side restaurants that will cater to your ramen cravings. There isn’t anything trendy or necessarily unique about Zurruto but the prices are great, the location is excellent, the staff is next-level attentive and kind, and the food is 10/10 amazing. The Zurruto miso ramen is a Female Foodie favorite. The pork in this dish is so well-seasoned and the miso adds a perfect pop of flavor. Slurp your way through this savory noodle soup and thank us later!
9. Rosa Mexicano
If you’re looking at Upper West Side restaurants for Taco Tuesday, allow us to introduce you to Rosa Mexicano. Though there are a few locations in the city, the Upper West Side spot is located across from Lincoln Center and is a great place for pre-theater dining. Order the tableside guac for a fun experience and make sure to get the crispy shrimp tempura tacos. We will warn you that they’re a bit spicy, but if you can handle the heat, you’ll be dreaming about these tacos for days to come! The roasted chicken suizas enchiladas are also incredible. To be honest, you really can’t go wrong with any of your choices here!
8. Maison Pickle
Maison Pickle, the sister restaurant to Jacob’s Pickles, is all about the elegance and enchantment of traditional Upper West Side dining. The restaurant is very chic and serves up higher-end American diner food. They are best known for their roast beef sandwiches, and it would be a shame to not order one—specifically the deluxe sandwich. The tender sirloin beef nestled between fresh french bread and topped with melted gruyere fondue, horseradish aioli, and fried onions will have you booking your next trip back to NYC before you even get the check.
$$ Cocktail Bars, Comfort Food, Sandwiches
7. Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty is one of our favorite Upper West Side restaurants because it’s a great place to go with a group for family-style eating. Although the menu might give you Cheesecake Factory vibes with all its options, every offering is incredible. Think of the large menu as a reason to come back for more (yes, we’re confident you will definitely be back). Some of our all-time favorites include the scallion pancakes, dan dan noodle, dumplings in chili oil, and the garlic sauce stir fry. If you become a Han Dynasty superfan (and who could blame you?), go to one of their tastings on the first Monday of each month for a 15-course meal for just $50.
6. Mama’s Too
You can’t call yourself an NYC pizza connoisseur if you haven’t been to Mama’s Too. Clear up on 106th and Broadway, the trek is a must-do for one of the best slices on the Upper West Side. The square crust is definitely memorable because it’s thick and crunchy and has a focaccia-like vibe to it. It’s simply fantastic. There will usually be a line, and it’s highly possible that they will be out of the slice your taste buds are demanding, but just know that you can order whatever they have available with an assurance that it’ll be amazing and worth the wait. We absolutely love the classic pepperoni and the Vodka Square. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, the Angry Nonna (complete with hot honey) and the Poached Pear are also to die for.
$$ Pizza, Italian
5. Chama Mama
If you’re in the mood for some incredible Georgian cuisine, or if you are a bread lover, make a reservation for Chama Mama ASAP. Chama Mama will easily lure you in with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the doors. They have their own custom Toné, a large clay oven for baking their delicious breads, so one could say they mean buns-ness (sorry, we had to). If you order nothing else, be sure to order the Adjaruli Khachapuri—think melting hot lava cheese surrounded in a crispy bread boat, topped with a glistening sunny-side-up egg. When they ask you if you would like it mixed with butter, nod, smile, and let your taste buds enjoy the life-changing experience. The Khinkali Georgian dumplings are cooked to perfection and are a great option as well. Needless to say, you can’t go wrong with anything at Chama Mama, making it one of our favorite Upper West Side restaurants.
4. Barney Greengrass
If you’re after an authentic New York deli experience, head to Barney Greengrass. This family-run establishment has been serving NY locals and visitors alike since 1908, and they clearly know their stuff because they’ve been rated the #1 best deli in NYC for ten years in a row. There’s a payphone on the wall, the mural seems a bit outdated, and the servers are not in the mood for small talk or walking you through the menu—all aspects of a great New York deli. We highly recommend the Nova Scotia salmon scramble with a bagel. It’s hearty, salty, and absolutely scrumptious. Pair it with an order of cheese blintz and you’re set to have the best breakfast of your life.
$$ Specialty Food, Delis, Bagels
3. Jacob’s Pickles
Jacob’s Pickles is a rare Upper West Side restaurant experience, actually a rare New York dining experience, where each mouthwatering bite puts you in a sweet, Southern-cooking coma. New York offers trendy, bougie, and incredible fine-dining, but there’s not much home cookin’ comfort food to be had ‘round here. Though you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, the patty melt, the meatloaf, and the buffalo mac & cheese will always have a special place in our hearts. At the end of the day, Jacob’s Pickles says it best: “It’s food that makes you smile.”
$$ Comfort Food, Southern, American (Traditional)
2. Absolute Bagels
The Upper West Side is great for many reasons, one of those being that it has the best bagels in all of New York City. This cash-only food stop is nothing glamorous, but there’s a reason why you will always find a line out the door made up of hungry locals, Columbia students, and those wanting to see if the rumors are true. The egg bagel is our number one choice on the menu, followed by the everything bagel. You can’t go wrong with your schmear, but we are big fans of the scallion, chives and garlic, or strawberry cream cheeses. Truly, even their plain cream cheese is to die for. Absolute Bagels should be at the top of your list when you’re on the hunt for the best Upper West Side restaurants.
$ Bakeries, Bagels
1. Cafe Fiorello
Cafe Fiorello, established in 1974, is the very best Upper West Side restaurant. They have an incredible vegetable and seafood antipasto bar as well as extremely thin-crust pizzas—a famous signature staple. Also, open late most nights, Cafe Fiorello is the perfect place for pre- or post-theatre dining. Enough people love Cafe Fiorello that there are now plaques by all the booths for the diehard fans that have been coming two to three times a week for years! Whenever they come to eat, they dine at their booth (we’ve never been more jealous). Every offering here is guaranteed to be outstanding, but if there is one must-order dish, it’s the chicken parmigiana alla vodka. Smothered in housemade burrata mozzarella and Cafe Fiorello’s signature vodka sauce, one bite will send you directly to heaven. One could easily share it, but trust us, you won’t want to.
$$$ Italian, Pizza, American (Traditional)