Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Bill Telepan's Upper West Side

Neighborhood Guides

Locals' guides to New York neighborhoods.

[Excerpt photograph: Alan Batt]

Bill Telepan spent the '90s cooking in some of the most respected restaurants in New York: Le Cirque, Le Bernardin, Gotham Bar & Grill. Since then, he's published a cookbook and opened his own Greenmarket-inspired rave-reviewed restaurant, Telepan, and there's buzz that he might be opening another. On top of that, he somehow finds the time to improve the food in city school cafeterias as Executive Chef of Wellness in the Schools. So when does Bill hang out with his family? It helps that his wife loves the Telepan burger. And he and his daughter share similar taste in fast food, which they sample together all over the Upper West Side.

Bill's Picks

Pizza (slice): My daughter Leah loves Pizza Pete's. I like La Traviata for cheese or pepperoni; I think it's the best slice of pizza on the Upper West Side. We don't have a Joe's here, so this is the next best thing. I also love the bacon, spinach, and tomato slice at Freddie & Pepper's. The spinach makes the cheese silky, and they bomb it with bacon—it's so good.

Pizza pie: Dean's is an offshoot of Patsy's, so it's a good place to go. They have a square Grandma pie that's really good, and their pepperoni is good. Celeste is a sit-down Italian restaurant with great pastas, chicken, wine by the glass, and a wood-burning pizza oven. I know the owners, so sometimes if I want a white pie with prosciutto and artichokes, they'll make it for me. Their pies are thin crust, and the wood oven gives it char. I can get a pizza and a chicken dish there and be full for days.


Cheeseburger [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Burger: My daughter and I like going to the Island for burgers. They stopped selling chips, which is a little disappointing, but we like going there because their burgers are decent and they have great shakes. I go medium rare, with bacon, caramelized onions, and cheddar.

Coffee: I generally brew at home, but I go to Joe the Art of Coffee a few times a month, since they make a great latte. I always add an extra shot. It's a long line, but it's worth it.

Bagel: We get Absolute Bagels at [Telepan] for brunch (the mini ones, with our smoked salmon plate), and I think it's the best in the city. I get scallion cream cheese on an everything or sesame bagel. If I'm there, I don't toast, I get it warm out of the oven.


Barney Greengrass exterior [Photograph: Ed Levine]

Breakfast: We generally go to Barney Greengrass on a Sunday. If we go and eat there, I get bagels, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs or egg salad. If we take home, I get the pastrami and egg sandwich. It's a toasted everything bagel, buttered, plus pastrami and egg, which is already a nap inducer.

Chinese delivery: I've been living on the Upper West Side for 21 years, and Cottage has been consistent all that time. The dumplings, fried rice, the sesame chicken, and the broccoli or string beans in garlic sauce are all great. They make the most amazing scallion pancakes—even delivered, they're crispy. I call them and hang up the phone, and the door rings. It takes three minutes—how is that possible? It arrives super hot and delicious.

Sushi: Haru is our go-to sushi place. We've been ordering from there since they first opened. I like the fluke, wild striped bass if they have it, and soft shell crabs if they're around. They make a good spicy Hamachi yellow scallion roll. My wife gets a lot of edamame because she likes salt.

Dive bar: Emerald is this little bar right near the restaurant. If a cook's leaving, we'll generally go there for beers and burgers. The bartender will take his break and come to us for a margarita, so we know him. It's the classic Irish bar, and they have good enough gin that you can have a martini or a gin and tonic.

Nicer wine, beer, or cocktail bar: Beverly and I like the bar at Cafe Luxembourg. It's a perennial up here; we've been going for years. We don't usually like to sit at a bar and eat, but that's the one place we will. It's a cool zinc bar, and they make a good martini, or you can get a good bottle of wine. Otherwise, I like Barcibo. It's bigger than your regular Upper West Side wine bar (which are usually tiny), and they make a good negroni for a wine bar. They have good snacks too, like salami and panini.

Ice cream/gelato: There's not really an ice cream place up there, so we go to the Ben & Jerry's on Broadway. Otherwise it's all frozen yogurt places up here. At least Ben & Jerry's, they have good stuff. Lately, I like the peanut butter cup. My daughter likes Screme for gelato; I get a chocolate hazelnut if I go with her.


Hummus Place [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Falafel: I like the hummus at Hummus Place, so I'll get their falafel, which is pretty good. Sido makes a good falafel sandwich, on a pita with a little tomato, tahini, and extra hot sauce.


Super Tacos [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Tacos: There's this taco truck on 96th between Broadway and West End, on the corner of Broadway. They have all kinds of meat. I get carnitas or a pork taco. You stand there and eat, you rail down a taco and they're delicious. They're open pretty late, and on the weekends.

Date night: I love all of Daniel Boulud's restaurants up here. I like going to Boulud Sud for snacks, and they have a great bar selection. I've eaten so many things there, and they're all oh-my-god good. My wife loves profiteroles, and Cafe Luxembourg makes great profiteroles, so sometimes we'll sit at the bar and get those.

Levain Bakery

Chocolate chip cookie [Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Getting cookies from Levain is the one Upper West Side thing you have to do. When my wife and I go to someone's house and don't feel like baking, we bring these and they're never a letdown. The chocolate chip or chocolate peanut butter cookie is the shit. They're these huge cookies, and if you get it when they're warm, you could eat them in three seconds. I can generally put down one and a half of them in a sitting pretty easily. That's like nine ounces of cookies.