Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Gael Greene's Upper West Side
It's not often you'll find Gael Greene at home on the Upper West Side. As the longest working restaurant critic in New York, the Insatiable Critic is still out and about town almost every night of the week tasting and critiquing food chefs put in front of her. While some of her meals easily cost more than what she once paid for in rent—her first apartment was a two-bedroom penthouse on 86th Street that she paid $225 a month for, she said—it's the excitement of finding the next best restaurant that fuels Greene's passion to crisscross the city for dinner and document it to her readers and Twitter following. Greene took some time out between meals to tell us about her favorite Upper West Side spots.
Pizza: We used to go to Celeste all the time for the pizza. We'd order the marinara, spicy sausage, or whatever was the special of the day if it wasn't too bizarre. They also have an extraordinary cheese plate. Sometimes I have that as my main course and hope I survive the place.
Burger: The burger from Fairway Café. One out of two times it is fabulous. I order it rare with double coleslaw. I also like Mitch London's pies very much.
Bakery: Zabar's is kind of a walk for me. But I buy the babka, cinnamon and chocolate. They have the best rye bread in the city. It's the way rye bread used to be. Orwasher's is kind of anemic compared to this one. By the way, they're my advertiser.
Sandwich: The merguez at Epicerie Boulud has lamb, harissa, and preserved tomatoes with tzatziki sauce. They also have an extraordinary cheese department. One day I just needed cheese desperately, and I bought a chunk of Humble Pie (a cow's milk cheese) from Saxelby. It was sort of heaven. Every once in a while I realize I don't get enough good cheese. I try not to eat sweets and fats when I'm not working because I figure I get my fair share.
Frozen yogurt: I love Pinkberry. I've only had it twice even though it's close, though I loved it both times. The consistency was perfect. It's tangy and simply tastes like yogurt. I expected the berries to be fake but in fact they were fresh.
Brunch: I don't eat brunch, but if I did, I'd go to Barney Greengrass. The couple of times I have done brunch, I've ordered sable with onions and scrambled eggs. But I don't eat brunch because it makes me want to go back to bed.
Soup: Ed's Chowder House for the chowder. My preferred chowder is the Manhattan crab chowder with bacon and potato. It's partly from not wanting to eat cream. During the summer they have a corn chowder, and I never fail to have that—even if it has cream.
Italian: Amatriciana Bucatini at Fiorello. I like big, fat noodles really al dente. Theirs is almost always good. And the Caesar salad. I like it chopped, and they bring me white whole anchovies.
Mediterranean: At Boulud Sud I have the Mediterranean mezze. Two falafel, some red lentil hummus, baba ganoush, and they bring all these incredible Mediterranean breads. Sometimes we might share the octopus a la plancha that has sherry vinegar. If it's after a movie, my main dish is the harira soup, filled with lentil vermicelli and chickpeas. They serve that during Ramadan in Marrakesh in the square. So imagine getting this in New York City from a French chef. It's amazing.
Neighborhood spot: I love the chopped salad with feta, romaine, crouton and basil at the Atlantic Grill. In the summer, they have a fresh grated polenta with a corn side dish. It's a killer side dish which one should share, but sometimes I'm reluctant to.
Delivery: Only in times of desperation I would order the egg foo young from Dinastia China. I would not suggest you order anything else from there. Half of the time the egg foo young is edible. It reminds me of my mother. She loved egg foo young.
Business lunch: I usually order and try to share at Salumeria Rosi. I get the seasonal salad, no extra salt. Cesare sends out a lovely spritzer; I love Aperol and Campari. When someone is inviting me, I usually go to Jean Georges because it's beautiful. The food is almost always amazing. It can make you feel like you're floating in the air. People gasp.
Diner: My favorite is Brooklyn Diner. I always order the Chinese chicken salad, which is not Chinese at all. It has those crispy noodles and canned Mandarins.
Bagels: Fairway is the only place to get mini bagels. They're chewy and not all fat, blown-up, gentile bagels. So far I've only seen them at Fairway.
Before the theater: I usually go to Lincoln, I would maybe have the eggplant parm and an escarole salad. I like to eat little before the theater. The pastas are amazing, though. I'll maybe have an espresso if I'm going to see something serious.
Bar: I'm not much of a drinker. Lately, I've tasted cocktails because that's what's popular now. If you said where should we meet for a drink, I probably would go to the Picholine bar.
Coffee: I get mine from Fairway. An Italian blend, espresso ground. I do it in a German coffee maker that they don't make it anymore. When I add water and let it perk up, it tastes a little like a lungo in Rome. I usually have two and a half mugs for breakfast.
Chocolate: Every once in a while I go into Jacques Torres and get a dark chocolate bark. He sent a basket over Easter. It was a big surprise. I think it's good for you, or at least I convinced myself that.