Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Michael Laiskonis' Upper East Side
Editor's note: You've already seen our New York editors' neighborhood guides, in which the SE staff—Ed, Carey, Erin, and more—chat about their favorite places to eat in their own neighborhoods. But we're branching out to other food personalities. We've heard from Frank Bruni on the Upper West Side and Eric Ripert on Midtown West; now here's former Le Bernadin pastry chef and new creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education: Michael Laiskonis.
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When Michael Laiskonis moved to New York eight years ago to take his place as Le Bernadin's pastry chef, he thought his Upper East Side digs would be temporary. He's been in the same place ever since, but he recently announced that he'll be leaving Eric Ripert's side to take a position created just for him: creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), where he'll teach and work on his first book. The past two months allowed him some time off to indulge at some of his favorite neighborhood spots, and from the looks of it, he'll be staying put for a while.
Coffee: The opening of an UES outpost of Williamsburg coffee roaster Oslo was a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I stop in for a perfect afternoon Americano.
Bagel: I don't do fancy bagels, and neither does Bagel Bob's. A still-warm poppy seed here is a thing of beauty.
Breakfast: My idea of the perfect breakfast is simply coffee and a decent pain au chocolate or croissant. Finding the latter close by always eluded me, until the recent arrival of Moulin a Café last year.
Pastry: Years after its closure, I still mourn the neighborhood's loss of the original Payard Patisserie, though I do find some small consolation in the macarons at Ladurée—rose, grapefruit, or caramel-fleur de sel—despite the lines and expense.
Burger: I walk into Cafe D'Alsace thinking about the bone marrow, but I'm always won over by the burger, which is best enjoyed with a Hitachino XH.
Bread: I've been known to go all the way to Brooklyn for a good loaf of bread, but I'm thankful for the pain au levain at Orwasher's, nearly hidden on a quiet block of 78th street.
Late-night eats: Sushi Seki more than satisfies the occasional craving for quality sushi after midnight.
Bar: A relaxed, "grown up" place to either begin or end an evening out on the town is Lexington Bar and Books.
Date night: Cafe Boulud has always been our favorite escape; we like to relinquish control and eat whatever Chef Gavin Kaysen wants to cook.
Can't miss neighborhood spot: I would easily place Spigolo among the best Italian restaurants in the city. I tend to order from the daily special board, but I always start with their take on frisée salad with soft cooked egg.