NYC: 10 Places To Eat And Drink Very Well On The Upper East Side. Not A Typo!

Uptown Grub (clockwise from top left): Cascabel taqueria, the omakase at Sushi of Gari, the back garden at Jones Wood Foundry, JG Melon's cheeseburger.

There are several go-to conversation starters that come to mind when talking about New York City's Upper East Side. There sits some of the most expensive real estate in the country, as well as a handful of the nation's most elite private schools. There's Museum Mile and big-league auction houses. But you would be hard pressed, however, to find someone quick to engage in dialogue in praise of the dining options. Well, there are two words: underwhelming and overpriced. And while we are hesitant to argue the latter, the fact of the matter is that the UES hosts an eclectic mix of cuisines, while an influx of quality openings have finally made the area worth a visit. You just need to know where to look. Or which website to read. Here is a list of 10 places to check out in the East 70s-80s. An upcoming guide will cover the 60s.

  1. Hospoda

There's so much that's interestingly charming (charmingly interesting?) about Hospoda, the Central European restaurant that opened in late 2011 and shares a building with the Czech Consulate General. There's the plain yet stylish wooden tables and floors and the dimly lit, deceptively large — yet still somehow intimate — interior. There's a selection of four brews on tap that on second glance is actually just one beer, poured four different ways (and yes, they all taste drastically different). The food is all rich and flavorful; a true culinary journey through the heart of Europe, with an emphasis on both cooked fish and red meats. The restaurant just hired former Seäsonal chef de cuisine and rising star René Bastian Stein, who is crafting dishes either infused with beer, prepared with barley and hops or inspired by the flavor profile of a certain beer. 321 East 73rd Street, 212-861-1038,

  • JG Melon
  • The question of which burger reigns supreme in NYC might always be hotly contested, but at the very least, the inclusion of this longtime neighborhood staple in the debate should be a given. Serving a home-style patty (think about how a burger comes off your grill. Except better. Much better.) topped with crispy bacon and irresistible cottage fries, the preppy favorite stays open until the wee hours for all late-night cravings. A front bar is always packed and dishes out damn good Bloody Marys. Be warned: The restaurant is cash-only. 1291 Third Avenue, 212-744-0585

  • Sasabune
  • No longer the only establishment to hold the distinction of a 29/30 food rating in Zagat (it has since been joined by Le Bernardin), the omakase-only joint is still wowing palates with its sushi, some of which comes in from as far as Spain and Greece. A visit to the diminutive spot may begin with more questions than answers: Why is there a sign on the front door proclaiming, "No California Rolls. No Spicy Tuna Rolls. Trust me"? Why are there only five rickety wooden tables with a rather, well, ugly carpet underneath? All this is forgotten, however, with the arrival of the chef's first plate. Priced at roughly $100, the omakase consists of around 15 pieces of fish. A more reasonably priced offshoot, Sasabune Express, recently opened on East 59th Street. 401 East 73rd Street, 212-249-8583,

  • JBird
  • It's no secret that it's almost impossible to find an exceptional, decently priced cocktail on the UES. We're willing to print that the inclusion of the "almost" above is due mainly to JBird's arrival. Designed by Death & Co's Jason Littrell, the drinks range from boozy to fruity, delightfully simple to pleasantly complex. The Honey-Nut Old Fashioned – courtesy of The Varnish in Los Angeles – is a personal favorite and features roasted peanut-infused bourbon and honey syrup. The food menu consists primarily of small plates that leave something to be desired, but the Korean fried chicken more than atones for these glitches. 339 East 75th Street, 212-288-8033,

  • Yefsi
  • The food at newcomer Yefsi is just as sophisticated – and significantly more affordable – as that at the city's most heralded Greek spots. The art deco interior strikes a nice balance, while the menu consists largely of mezedes (appetizers). There are worthwhile classics like saganaki and gigantes – giant lima beans baked in fresh tomato sauce and fresh dill – as well as more unconventional items. Be sure to brush up on your language skills before heading there, as ordering in Greek has been known to result in free shots of ouzo. OPA! 1481 York Avenue, 212-535-0293,

  • Sushi of Gari
  • While my initial goal was to avoid including multiple restaurants of a type of cuisine, a midday fleeting thought of buttery toro topped with tofu sauce was singlehandedly enough for me to forget about such intricacies. The original Gari location – there are now four throughout the city – still serves up one of New York's top omakases, complete with its signature toppings. Yes, there is not much to admire about the décor and sushi purists may turn their noses up at the thought of jalapeños, truffle oil and tomato in their sushi, but again we ask: HAVE YOU TRIED THEIR TORO WITH TOFU SAUCE? Apart from the omakase – which really is a must – go for the spicy shrimp tempura cut roll. 402 East 78th Street, 212-517-5340,

  • Flex Mussels
  • A bright and modern two-room venue is home to some of the city's finest moules, imported directly from Prince Edward Island. Diners choose from 23 differently flavored pot broths – ranging from French to Italian to Mexican to Indian – and a nightly selection of oysters is equally as impressive. Non-seafood starters and sides, including salads and truffle fries, also hold their own at Flex (which has another location in the West Village). Full disclosure: I have spent a good portion of the workday smelling the faint aroma of Thai curry coconut broth that still lingers on my hands from dinner there last night. I plan on returning tonight. 174 East 82nd Street, 212-717-7772

  • Jones Wood Foundry
  • Jones Wood Foundry remains one of the city's best kept secrets – a three-tiered space that dishes out wonderfully battered fish and chips and proper meat pies alongside frothy pints of Fuller's Ale. Of course the UES has its own gastropub. Sit in the pretty back garden for brunch or dinner or at the front bar for a Premier League game and you're sure to want to keep this hidden gem all to yourself. 401 East 76th Street, 212-249-2700,

  • Cascabel
  • It's rare to find one establishment that not only doles out quality grub and top-flight drinks at a reasonable cost, but is also suitable to kick back and casually watch a ballgame with friends. Mexican taqueria Cascabel manages to hit all of these categories, filled nightly with 20-somethings scrolling through an impressive list of draft and bottled beers and sipping on mason jar cocktails while finishing off savory tacos. While said tacos are worthwhile indeed, take my advice and try out the pollo asado with a side of elote. You're welcome. 1538 Second Avenue, 212-717-8226,

  • Candle 79
  • "Seitan is totally trending right now!" is the consensus radiating from UES housewives who pack into this organic vegan oasis daily for lunch. Well, maybe not, but no one quite does seitan – or tempeh, for that matter – like Candle 79. It's become wildly clichéd to praise vegan restaurants for their ability to "serve food that even non-vegans can enjoy," but hey, they serve food that even non-vegans can enjoy! 154 East 79th Street, 212-537-7179,

    More New York City restaurant news on Food Republic: