10 Hidden (and Not-So-Hidden) Gems on the Upper East Side
The Upper East Side may be one of New York’s most famous neighborhoods—its wide streets, exquisite townhouses, luxe hotels, designer shops and world-class museums are a familiar backdrop even to people who don’t live here. (Thanks, Gossip Girl.) Hidden among the picturesque facades, though, are long-standing small businesses, cozy cafes and cultural institutions worthy of a journey north of 59th Street.
There’s a reason this intimate spot has been going strong for almost 15 years: good wine, good food and good people. It’s a snug restaurant where the wine flows—you’ll find bottles from all over, with a special fondness for Italy—and neighborhood regulars meet for Meatball Mondays, a special menu that includes cinnamon gelato “dessert balls.” The Tuscan-inspired backyard garden was practically made for date night, while the bar area feels authentically New York, full of locals and their aperitivos. What’s not to love?
1486 Second Ave.; uvanyc.com
The Jeffrey Craft Beer & Bites
The name says it all for this gastropub tucked next to the Queensboro Bridge. Despite its odd location, it’s packed nightly with beer snobs and post-work revelers. But this is not your average Bud Light kind of place: It’s more akin to a wine bar where discovery is top priority. The Jeffrey’s extensive beer list, which includes everything from sour ales to imperial stouts, can change multiple times throughout the day—there’s a special focus on small-batch beers and breweries with cult followings. Be sure to order the truffle popcorn to accompany your pints.
311 E. 60th St.; thejeffreynyc.com
If bookstores are supposedly a thing of the past, you wouldn’t know it stepping into this dreamy shop on Museum Mile, housed in a landmark High Renaissance–style mansion now occupied by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Spend an afternoon under the elaborately painted, celestial-inspired ceiling flipping through coffee-table books or cozying up on the couch to read the latest by French authors. The shop stocks both English and French books, including an extensive children’s section, and glass cases full of rare books by such novelists as Victor Hugo. The space also hosts regular readings and literary discussions. Even if you come in to window-shop, it’s tough to leave without a text (or three).
972 Fifth Ave.; albertine.com
Quite possibly the epitome of a New York bar, this cocktail lounge in the Carlyle Hotel serves some of the city’s best Manhattans (not to mention old-school vibes). Despite being inside a hotel, the crowd is mostly local, and a nightly jazz trio creates killer ambience for date night, a catch-up with friends or a weekday drink with colleagues. You’ll not only be charmed by the classic cocktails—the martinis are pretty killer too—but also the 24-carat gold-leaf ceiling and whimsical murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the Madeline children’s books.
35 E. 76th St.; rosewoodhotels.com
Hutch & Waldo
Got a hankering for a flat white and avo toast? Look no further than this Instagram-worthy, Aussie-owned cafe just off Second Avenue. There’s something about its light-filled space and poppy blue color scheme that feels ultra-inviting. A garage door opens the cafe to the sidewalk, where you can post up with a vegan smoothie on a sunny day—the sidewalk seating is also pup- and stroller-friendly. (The logo, after all, is a French bulldog.) Be sure to stop by for the happy hour deals from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. (yep, there’s beer and wine in addition to caffeine).
247 E. 81st St.; hutchandwaldo.cafe
Dempsey & Carroll
If, like us, you’re a firm supporter of the handwritten note, you’ll appreciate this historic paper goods shop, which has been in business since 1878. Inside, you’ll find everything from desk supplies to contemporary stationery sets. Wedding invitations? They’ve got you covered there, too. Plus, you can customize your own bespoke stationery, designing an engraving plate with your monogram and choosing your paper style and colors.
1049 Lexington Ave.; dempseyandcarroll.com
Set in an early 20th-century mansion on Fifth Avenue, this charming museum features a stunning collection of Austrian and German art from the 1900s—think Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and plenty of Bauhaus alums. The decadent rooms feel just as impressive as the art on display, and unlike many of the other museums down the street, the tourist level is low (aka you can actually enjoy the paintings and sculpture without a horde of audio tours cruising by). The newest exhibition “Austrian Masterpieces” just kicked off, featuring a robust selection of Klimt’s work, including the famed golden painting “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” Before leaving, swing by the museum’s enchanting Viennese-style restaurant, Cafe Sabarsky, for a slice of sachertorte.
1048 Fifth Ave.; neuegalerie.org
La Goulue Restaurant
If Paris and New York had a baby, it’d look something like this French spot on the UES. Serving up classics like onion soup, coq au vin and steak frites alongside a well-curated, French-heavy wine list, La Goulue knows how to please its audience of neighborhood regulars—it’s long been a stomping ground for socialites, business dinners and even food critics. One look at the inviting space, which looks like it fell out of a movie set for the Left Bank, and you’ll be finding excuses to come back again and again.
29 E. 61st St.; lagoulouerestaurant.com
Sushi of Gari
If any of your friends think the UES is restaurant Siberia, point them in the direction of this hallowed sushi den on an unnasuming block. (There are now outposts in Midtown and Tribeca, but trust us, the original is worth a visit.) An a la carte menu is available, but for the true experience, take a seat at the bar for the omakase, which includes the chef’s original sauces.
402 E. 78th St.; sushiofgari.com
Two Little Red Hens
If you love red velvet cake—or just cake in general—look no further than this unpretentious bakery. The tiny storefront is stocked with various creations, from the decadent Brooklyn Blackout to the classic carrot cake, but its best-loved item is probably the fluffy red velvet cake topped with a rich cream cheese icing. Cake not your thing? There’s also an assortment of savory scones, cinnamon rolls, pies and cheesecakes.
1652 Second Ave.; twolittleredhens.com