The Met is one of New York's must-visit destinations, as good a reason as any for a tourist to put the Upper East side on their visiting list. Two years ago we released our first guide to food nearby for breakfast, quick bites, or full sit-down meals. Here's our updated version that adds all the great new things we've eaten since then. Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments.
Untitled: Yes, that's the name of the restaurant, not a copy-editing error. New York restaurant king Danny Meyer's newest venture is a cafe in the Whitney called Untitled; in the morning, it's essentially casual but beautifully prepared breakfast food (under the stewardship of Executive Chef Chris Bradley, formerly of Gramercy Tavern). If you're planning for some time in Central Park, you can also pick up a picnic bag.
Maison Kayser: Master baker Eric Kayser has outlets of his French bakery and cafe all over the world; this is his first in New York. The bread is incredible, the slightly sour baguettes some of the best in the city, and there's some good breakfast to be had here as well—just stick to that bread for best results.
Bocado Café: A good neighbrohood spot for breakfast, lunch, or a quick cup of coffee. We like the halloumi and roast pork sandwich.
Cascabel Taqueria: Some of the better Mexican on the Upper East Side with some solid tacos and sandwiches. Margaritas are a bit of a thing at this sit-down spot, and they're worth ordering, too.
Mama Gyro: Good source for cheap, tasty gyros if you're in the area. The pork souvlaki is our favorite.
Papaya King: A quintessential New York hot dog, reliable, fast, and cheap. If you're going to get a New York hot dog, get it here, not at some random street cart—it's a big step up.
Pastrami Queen: While it won't quite compare to the deli greats downtown, Pastrami Queen does some very good homemade pastrami of its own.
Shake Shack: Our favorite burger mini-chain's Upper East Side outpost.
Wrap-N-Run Grill: Reasonably cheap, Ed Levine-approved burgers.
Mimi's Pizza: The sort of pizzeria that inspires nostalgia, even for first-time visitors; it's not a destination slice, but at $4 for a big portion, it's a simple and satisfying lunch.
Luke's Lobster: Reasonably priced lobster rolls (and crab rolls, and shrimp rolls) from Maine-born Luke Holden. Very fresh lobster with just a hint of mayo.
Le Pain Quotidien: It's a little sterile and a little pricey for what it is, but this café chain serves reliably decent tartines (open-faced sandwiches), pastries, and salads. Not a destination, but a fair refuge from the tired and hungry who want something one step up from Starbucks.
Beyoglu: A Turkush restaurant great for vegetarians; their vegetable and yogurt-based meze outclass the grilled meats.
Toloache 82: Dressed up Mexican with good margaritas.
The Mark Restaurant by Jean Georges: The "Jean Georges" name is synonymous with fine dining in New York, and while this may not be his most adventurous or exciting restaurant, it's a fine establishment nonetheless.
Cafe Boulud: Like the Mark, a non-flagship restaurant from a celebrated chef; unlike the Mark, it's an established restaurant in its own right, with its own long history in New York. A huge number of New York's most acclaimed chefs (Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde and The Dutch, David Chang of the Momofuku restaurants, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi of Torrisi Italian Specialties...) have moved through its kitchen; these days, it's Gavin Kaysen, whose work has already been recognized with a Food + Wine "Best New Chef" award and a James Beard "Rising Star Chef." If you're not in a jacket-and-slacks mood, try Bar Pleiades next door—sliders (and madeleines afterward) would be a fine choice.
Agora: A tiny restaurant that serves great fresh Turkish cooking. Another good place for omnivorous groups of friends; there are plenty of vegetarian options.
Via Quadronno: Recommended by Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma, this restaurant and paninoteca on East 73rd Street just off Madison Avenue oozes Italy, from its shiny espresso machine to its many varieties of sandwiches, open-faced and closed.
Flex Mussels: Seafood fans only; the menu is divided into "mussels" and "not mussels," if that gives you a sense of what you'll be eating. Don't skip chef Zac Young's desserts, like fresh doughnuts and deep-fried whoopie pies.
Candle 79: A highly acclaimed, upscale vegan restaurant, for the meat-averse in your group. The food is prepared with organic ingredients and the bar here serves organic wine, beer and cocktails, perfect for the environmentally conscious.
Sweets, Snacks, and Desserts
Bar Pleiades: We mentioned this offshoot of Bar Boulud earlier, but we've got to give dessert another shout-out—Daniel Boulud's madeleines, legendary at his flagship Daniel, are served here, and they alone make Pleiades worth a visit.
Yura on Madison: Yura Mohr is a supremely talented baker; her bundt cakes and angel food cakes and cookies we love, but her pies are truly unparalleled. The blueberry and pumpkin pie are standouts.
Two Little Red Hens: Up there with Yura as one of our favorite all-around bakeries in the city.
William Greenberg Desserts: A venerable Jewish bakery and a great stop for classics like babka, black-and-white cookies, rugelach, and more.
Lady M: The baked goods here are somewhat precious but undeniably delicious, from a cloud-light cheesecake to a strawberry mille-feuille to their famous crepe cake—more than 20 layered crepes stacked and bound with custard.
La Maison du Chocolat: Every manner of chocolate beautifully done, from decadent hot chocolate to truffles to eclairs and cakes.
Cafe Sabarsky: A cute little spot that serves quite a collection of classic Austrian savory dishes and delectable desserts. The fruit tart here is one of our favorite menu options.
Butterfield Market: A good market for Payard pastries and plenty of other sweet treats, like chocolate crackle and goodies from Tate's Bake Shop.
Francois Payard Patisserie: Speaking of Payard, the French pastry master is back on the Upper East Side with a full line-up of sweets.