Why are there no good restaurants on the Upper West Side?” has long been one of those New York mysteries. (See also: Brooklyn Heights.) It’s not as though there aren’t sophisticated eaters up there, eager for something more than Barney Greengrass and Dovetail—the latter, by the way, shuttered its doors last spring, along with another food-world darling, White Gold Butchers. And you can only go to Shake Shack so many times before you’re back on the 1 train to the West Village. Well, brace yourselves, curious eaters of the city: So many cool new spots have opened on the Upper West this fall, even downtowners will want to refill their MetroCards.
First, We Fuel Up
For those of us with, shall we say, standing appointments on West 86th Street, it’s good to know that the coffee game—always a harbinger of coming cool—is strong. Downtown and national favorites have opened or are on the verge of opening, including the superstylish Blue Bottle, the friendly Jack’s Stir Brew with its bonus vegan pastries, and the always-packed Aussie favorite Bluestone Lane. (Don’t think it will be any easier to get a brunch table at the gorgeously designed Amsterdam Avenue location than it is in the Village: It’s already drawing ire on UWS bulletin boards for its overflowing sidewalk seating.) Matcha lovers are thrilled that Chalait, arguably the city’s best, is also opening on Amsterdam and 82nd. House-made almond milk and perfect avocado toast for all! Oh, and that miso-butter toast, too…
Next, We Chow Down
Continuing in the hipster-casual vein, bone-broth leader Brodo has opened just in time for cold-flu season, and Tacombi taqueria and Israeli rock star Miznon are right behind it. Gazala Place, an Israeli Druze restaurant that tops critics’ ethnic eats lists, recently debuted a bigger second location on Amsterdam for fans of the chef’s za’atar-cheese pie! And David Chang’s newly opened Bang Bar is the biggest news to hit Time Warner Center since Whole Foods. The supercasual concept takes wraps to the next level, tucking spit-roasted meats like lardo-laced mortadella into crispy griddled Chinese bing bread. Mind. Exploded. Better yet, he’ll open an outpost of Momofuku Noodle Bar next door later this month. Oh, and while you’re up there, you should probably grab a transcendent slice from Pete Wells’s new favorite pizza shop, Mama’s Too!
Then, We Dig In
Those who want to sit down for a while have some exciting new options, too. Bluebird London, also in Time Warner, has brightened up the A Voce space with modern British cuisine. It’s especially cheery at lunch, when the colors of the space really pop, or for a casual afternoon tea service in the front café—a more relaxed alternative to the scrum at Bouchon Bakery. (And if it sounds familiar, yes, we recently named it one of our restaurants of the month.) The team behind the Greek Flatiron favorite Kyma have opened the big, bright, slightly more laid-back Eléa on 85th Street. (Think: more meat, less scene.) And those who lament the closing of the elegant Dovetail will be happy with Leonti, featuring chef Adam Leonti’s simple but refined Mediterranean food. Dishes like fennel pasta with Marcona almonds and grapefruit will have even Dovetail’s vegetarian regulars coming back. The rest of us, meanwhile, will be there for the veal chop bagna cauda with truffles.
So will the Upper West Side turn into a dining destination worthy of its residents—some of whom are notable food writers at The New York Times and Bon Appétit, not to mention the Obamas’ former chef—or is it more about following the lead of demographic bellwethers like Sweetgreen, Apple, and SoulCycle? Our guess is that with downtown rents so unfathomably high, this former culinary Bermuda Triangle will become even more of a new foodie destination.