Our Favorite NYC Restaurants by Neighborhood: The Upper West Side

Manhattan’s Upper West Side was, for a long time, a dining desert.  

Sure, there are blocks and blocks of beautiful brownstones; leafy, relatively tranquil streets; hordes of Columbia University students; and plenty of museums in what some people still call “Seinfeldland.” But when the stomach started to rumble? You’d have to hop on the subway and head downtown.  

Three multi story buildings in New York City, with ivy covering the middle structure
The Upper West Side is now a foodie’s paradise. Photo credit: Juan Ordonez

Fortunately, this isn’t the case anymore. The Upper West Side now has enough great eateries that one need not leave the neighborhood to satiate the palate.  

Here are the 12 best restaurants on the Upper West Side. 

Arco Cafe 

Mention “Sardinia” to any Italian and then be prepared to watch them swoon.  

What do Italians know about Sardinia that everyone else doesn’t? For starters, the cuisine of this Italian island in the Tyrrhenian Sea is excellent and, for an island, surprisingly meaty. It’s also a Blue Zone, a place on the planet where the inhabitants are usually healthy and live a long life.  

And so it’s shocking there are not more Sardinian restaurants outside of Italy. 

Fortunately, there’s one on the Upper West Side. First timers to Arco Cafe should try the malloreddus, a unique pasta shape made only in Sardinia, that’s paired with a luscious ragu. You’ll swoon after one bite.  

Sardinian style gnocchi-like pasta in a red sauce
Cafe Arco is home to the best malloreddus in NYC. Photo credit: Ewan Munro

Bánh Vietnamese Shop House 

Bánh began life as a pop-up in 2020, and it’s safe to assume that the people who lined up nightly to eat at this Vietnamese spot breathed a collective sigh of relief when it went from pop-up to permanent the following year.  

The Vietnamese dining scene in New York has long been mediocre at best. In the last few years that’s changed. And Bánh has greatly contributed to the elevation of this Southeast Asian cuisine in the Big Apple.  

The restaurant serves super flavorful pho. And the banh chung chien, a deep-fried rice cake filled with pork, is not only excellent—but it’s very rare to see this menu item outside of Vietnam. The only con is that Bánh just serves beer—no wine.  

Overhead shot of beef pho garnished with chives in a white bowl
Bánh serves the best pho on the Upper West Side. Photo credit: Markus Winkler

Barney Greengrass 

One of the most iconic Upper West Side restaurants, Barney Greengrass was a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain. And after a visit, it’s easy to see why.  

Specializing in smoked fish, the Jewish deli also serves chopped chicken liver, egg dishes, and sandwiches. They even have a tongue omelet.  

Cream cheese and lox bagel on a plate beside a pickle and a lemon slice
Barney Greengrass serves straightforward and delicious deli fare. Photo credit: Edsel Little

Boulud Sud 

Super chef Daniel Boulud’s edible love letter to the Mediterranean, Boulud Sud is an elegant-but-not-stuffy spot that goes beyond the usual Med places (Italy, Greece, Spain) with dishes from Lebanon, Israel, Morocco. The lemon-saffron spaghetti, studded with Sardinian bottarga, is excellent. So is the pine-nut dotted lamb flatbread.  

Modern presentation of a dish with mousse sandwiched between two thin wafer layers
Boulud Sud’s elevated Mediterranean cuisine is well worth a trip to the Upper West Side. Photo credit: Kent Wang

Chama Mama 

In New York, restaurants serving the cuisine of the Republic of Georgia have long been stuck deep into Brooklyn. Not anymore.   

The great Chama Mama first fired up its tone (that’s a Georgian bread oven) in Chelsea and now this new-ish outpost on the Upper West Side is equally dazzling diners. The baked cheese breads, called khachapuri, are a must. So are the lamb-and-broth-stuffed dumplings, also known as khinkali 

Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken 

Charles Gabriel has been pan-frying chicken in either Harlem or the Upper West Side since the ‘80s. This spot on W. 72nd Street seems here to stay. Which is good news—since Charles’ chicken is now iconic, and people travel from all the boroughs to sink their teeth into this tender-but-crispy fowl.  

Fried chicken and collard greens served in a styrofoam box
Charles’ fried chicken is among the best in the city. Photo credit: Paul Lowry


“From Somewhere in the Mediterranean” is the slogan of Dagon. That “somewhere” is the Levantine, in general, and is Israel, in particular.   

Named for the Philistine god of agriculture, this handsome eatery has a menu loaded with southern Mediterranean flavor, from creamy labneh to sabich (eggplant) flatbread to harissa-laced barbecue chicken to crispy roasted lamb.   

Jacob’s Pickles 

Despite the name, you  can get more than just pickles here. This Southern-accented  eatery kicks up the feel-good fare a notch with heart attack deliciousness.  

Fried chicken and pancakes? Yes, please. Lowcountry sweet and smoky meatloaf? Uh-huh! Gravy smothered chicken? That’s right. They even venture up north to serve Canadian drinking snack poutine.  

And yes, you can order pickles here—there are several varieties from which to choose.  

Mama’s Too 

If you walk by this slice joint on Broadway near West 106th Street and 1) there’s no line and 2) they’re not sold out of pizza yet, then 3) you’ve won the pizza lottery. Mama’s Too is a sensation and everyone wants a piece of it.  

There are square and triangular-shaped slices here. Both are excellent, but first timers should get the square pepperoni and the square cacio e pepe slice—and then you too will  be initiated into the cult of Mama’s Too. 

Miznon North 

No one ever said you’ll go crazy for cauliflower. Then again, they probably had not eaten at Miznon 

With locations in Tel Aviv, Paris, and Singapore, Miznon opened a counter in the Chelsea Market and it caused a stir with its whole head of roasted cauliflower. At this Upper West Side location, Miznon is a full-service affair.  

Besides the obligatory cauliflower, Miznon also serves other incredible vegetable creations plus exquisite seared lamb and a thick steak sitting upon charred tomatoes.  

Red Farm 

This dim sum spot is the love child of Joe “the dumpling king” Ng and the late Ed Schoenfeld, a Chinese food expert. Everything on the menu will make you want it again and again, especially the pastrami egg rolls, the shrimp-stuffed jalapeño peppers, the barbecued pork belly. 

Oh yeah, and anything in the form of a dumpling. The xiao long bao, that culinary miracle of a dumpling that magically holds soup broth inside of it, is particularly well done here.  

Four Chinese dumplings in a wooden circular serving basket
Red Farm’s excellent pork and crab xiao long bao. Photo credit: Wally Gobetz

Thai Market 

Perhaps the best Thai option when it comes to Upper West Side restaurants, Thai Market takes its name and runs with it, as the interior is bedecked to look like you’re in a (somewhat over-the-top) actual street food market in Bangkok.  

The menu specializes in—wait for it—Thai street food, and diners will surely be satisfied by sticking to the part of  the menu that focuses on small bites. The shrimp-and-coconut-stuffed crepe, fried garlic shrimp, and the daikon cake are standouts. And, if you squint while chewing, maybe you can convince yourself you’re actually in Bangkok.  

Asian shrimp dish with green vegetables
Delicious amber shrimp from Thai Market. Photo credit: Young Sok Yun 윤영석