While the Upper West Side still has to battle this long-standing reputation for less-than-travel-worthy eateries, we’ve always had a few stellar stand-outs that have made the cut in some of the top NYC foodie publications. But, those of us that live and work in the area know that there are plenty of hidden gems to be enjoyed.
While it may be tempting to keep these secrets close to the chest, the fact of the matter is that it’s expensive to run a restaurant in this city and in order to make sure our favorites survive, we need to support them by sharing our knowledge with everyone who loves a good meal! You certainly don’t want your favorite to go the way of Harriet’s Kitchen. RIP.
A quick note on criteria.
When researching this article, I chose to exclude any restaurant that had more than 500 reviews on any one page at first glance. I also didn’t include any restaurant that’s not a place where you can actually sit down to eat. Also, anything that’s received a Michelin star or Bib Gourmand did not qualify.
Fairway Market’s Café & Steakhouse
2121 Broadway (between 74th and 75th Streets)
This legendary supermarket itself is certainly not underrated. Many New Yorkers know and love the quality products they can find at any of the city’s Fairway locations. But, while people who frequently shop at the original UWS Fairway know that the organics can be found on the second floor, many people may have never treated themselves to the café that sits just above the busy registers.
This restaurant serves up American classics 7 days a week, starting with breakfast and ending with dinner. Whenever you’re able to get here, you will have a great meal, but most of my favorites are served with the breakfast menu, which is available until 3pm! I strongly suggest you treat yourself to the Silver Dollar Pancakes, or The Upper West Sider if you’re more into savory food. Then you can get your food shopping done without being hungry. This should help you save money!
Related: Fairway Market is For Sale
842 Amsterdam Avenue (between 101st and 102nd Streets)
There is nothing fancy about this Upper West Side restaurant, just clean simple décor to match the food that comes out of the kitchen. This is a family-run business that brings their comfort food to the table from Guerrero, Mexico. The specific region represented has a lot of street food available, so be sure to pick some of your favorites from the Antojitos Mexicanos section, like the chalupas and huaraches.
While I prefer to order from the Platillos Tipicos Mexicanos section, my mother is a longtime lover of their cheese enchiladas, while my father enjoys their burritos. The best part about the whole experience is the amount of money you’ll spend when the check arrives. The portions are usually large enough to provide lunch for the next day, so no need to over-order. Unless you just can’t make up your mind!
Hi-Life Bar & Grill
477 Amsterdam Ave (corner of 83rd Street)
While there may be a bit of a neon renaissance happening with the popularity of the ever-important Instagram wall, our city is much less neon lit than it once was. Watching movies from any decade prior to the aughts would lead you to believe that every corner in New York is decorated with such signage. But one of the last remaining venues to buck the trend of LED is the late-night favorite Hi-Life Bar & Grill.
Like many UWSers, my first experience here was one that included many drinks that drowned out the very tasty nachos our group had ordered. Perhaps that’s why the 28-year-old venue has fewer reviews than most others its age. And while I definitely love to come here for a good (and strong) cocktail, this post is all about the food – which is some of the more surprising bar food you’ll find at this price point. I’d usually steer you away from a place with so many cuisines on offer, but the team here has figured out how to serve quality versions of everything from sushi, to shrimp & chips, to the classic burger (no Impossible Burgers here). Whatever you want, pick your poison and ask for a pairing – and if you go early enough they’ve got plenty of daily deals to keep your wallet happy.
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2481 Broadway (between 92nd and 93rd Streets)
We’re lucky on the UWS to have a couple of really great Greek places that fly under the radar. I included Symposium in my write-up on the most Historic NYC Restaurants, but because of its history, they’ve acquired plenty of notice since they first opened in the late 60s. Instead, I’d like to turn your attention to another unique family-owned establishment that sits right on Broadway, but without much fanfare.
If you look at Telio’s website, you’ll see that they have a “sister restaurant” listed, but what you may not realize unless you’ve been is that they’re right next door to each other and have an opening within so that you can walk through to the other with ease. And while you’re there, you’ll notice both Italian and Greek options available, but I prefer the Greek here. This is another no-frills restaurant with the right prices for the amount of food you get, and while the atmosphere may not transform you to the Mediterranean, it will provide for great people watching and lots of good eats.
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2664 Broadway (between 101st and 102nd Streets)
While my personal favorite UWS diner will always be Utopia, because it’s the one that’s closest to my childhood home, and I have lots of memories there, the food at Broadway Restaurant (100% a diner), is definitely better. I couldn’t possibly leave a diner off the list of UWS underrateds, and Broadway Restaurant has everything you want when you’re looking for a good greasy spoon. But unlike many other NYC diners, this is not a late-night kind of a place. This is where you come when you need to soak up the toxins from the night before. Their breakfast is great, but the burgers do a pretty good job, too! And you might want to save some room for pie. Enjoy the neighborhood characters as you try to wrap your head around whatever it was that happened last night.
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There are lots of honorable mentions that could go up on this list, but I’m suddenly too hungry to remember them all!