12 Unique Restaurants on the Upper East Side: Hidden Speakeasies to Authentic Schnitzels

by Jen
Unique Restaurants on the Upper East Side
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Are you eager to discover the Upper East Side’s most unique restaurants? I’ll guide you from sips of South African wines in a cozy wine bar to authentic Georgian feasts that feel like a trip to Tbilisi. Join me as we uncover the coolest restaurants on the Upper East Side, New York.

Let me tell you about some restaurants on the Upper East Side that completely blew my mind. Picture this: a restaurant where you’re transported to a cozy Persian living room, another where wine flows as freely as stories in a South African vineyard, and a place that feels like a step back in time to a German beer hall. And that’s just scratching the surface of the best things to do.

I’m excited to share 12 of the most unique places to eat on the Upper East Side. I’ll tell you about secret spots you wouldn’t expect to find to the absolute best food scenes that have you planning your next visit before you even leave. I’m talking about hidden gems and themed spots that are all about fun. Trust me, you’re in for some surprises. Ready to dive into the details?

The top restaurants to visit on the Upper East Side right now

Cool places to eat on the UES

Ready to discover what the Upper East Side has on its menu? From hidden Japanese speakeasies to cozy Persian living rooms, we’re set to explore the neighborhood’s most extraordinary eateries. Join me as we uncover the quirkiest places to eat on the Upper East Side.

Craving warm Babaganoush in an intimate setting? Or perhaps you’d prefer crispy duck in a Thai haven? The Upper East Side has all of that and more. Let’s dive right into the best eateries on the UES.

1. Persepolis

Let’s kick off our list with one of the coolest restaurants on the Upper East Side: Persepolis. It’s this cozy Persian place where even with a bunch of people around, you can still enjoy a quiet chat. Seriously, finding a beautiful spot like this in New York City is pretty awesome.

I visited a few weeks back with a group of friends, and we went all out. We kicked things off with Babaganoush. It was warm, had walnuts in it, and was kind of a game-changer. They served it with this delicious, warm bread right out of the oven. Then, we split the chicken stew and salmon kabobs for our mains. Both were super flavorful, and the rice was the perfect sidekick to both dishes.

I’d recommend heading here for lunch. They’ve got a lunch special for 25 bucks where you can pick an appetizer and an entrée, including their amazing rice. And if it’s nice out, grab a seat outside. Watching the city buzz by while you’re eating some of the best food on the Upper East Side is pretty great.

Persepolis is one of the unique restaurants on the Upper East Side.
Persepolis on the Upper East Side offers a cozy Persian dining experience.

2. NR

Ever stumbled upon a hidden gem in NYC that you just can’t wait to tell your friends about? That’s NR for you. Picture a Japanese speakeasy vibe that takes you back in time, situated right on the Upper East Side.

Let me paint the scene from my visit. The place has this classic, old-school feel. But let’s talk about why we’re really here—the food and the drinks. We tried their Kyoto ramen, which was just incredible. The egg sandwich and chicken karaage were fantastic, too.

Whilst the food is delicious, their drinks are the true stars. They have a long list of unique cocktails and the bartenders regularly create new concoptions. I tried one with tequila and yogurt, turning it into something like a lassi. Sounds wild, right? Trust me, it works!

If you’re planning to check out NR, and I mean, you should, make a reservation. As one of the best places to eat on the Upper East Side, it tends to fill up fast with locals and visitors alike. Don’t miss this spot!

NR offers a Japanese speakeasy vibe on the Upper East Side, a hidden gem worth sharing with friends.
NR offers a Japanese speakeasy vibe on the Upper East Side, a hidden gem worth sharing with friends. | Image Source: http://nr-nyc.com/

3. Pil Pil

I found a slice of Spain right here on the Upper East Side, and it’s called Pil Pil. If you’re all about diving into authentic Spanish tapas, this place is a treasure. Everything I tried was bursting with creativity and freshness.

You’ve got to try the bacon-wrapped dates and the lamb tostada. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Plus, their homemade sangria feels like a mini vacation in a glass. Absolutely a must!

Sure, there might be a bit of a wait to get seated, but it moves fast. The inside is decked out with beautiful art, which makes the wait part of the experience. If the weather’s nice, snagging a seat outside is the way to go.

Having been to Spain a few times myself, Pil Pil nails the vibe. It truly makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a bustling spot in Andalucia. It’s easily one of the coolest restaurants on the Upper East Side, and I can’t recommend it more.

Discover authentic Spanish tapas at Pil Pil, where creativity and freshness abound in every dish.
Discover authentic Spanish tapas at Pil Pil, where creativity and freshness abound in every dish.

4. Heidi’s House

Heidi’s House is like that snug, hidden spot you always hope to find in the city. Even though it’s on the smaller side, it packs a huge punch with its vibe and flavors. It’s very intimate inside, and it feels like you’re dining among friends. Yet, it’s always alive with energy.

The menu might be compact, but wow, does it deliver. Everything’s fresh and cooked in-house. Do yourself a favor: go for the mac and cheese. It’s comfort food taken to a whole new level. For dessert, the date pudding is a must. It’s the perfect sweet note to end on.

Since they don’t take reservations, my advice is to get there a bit early, especially if you’re eyeing a weekend visit. It’s one of those unique Upper East Side restaurants where you instantly know you’ll be back.

Heidi's House in the city offers cozy intimacy and vibrant energy, making it feel like dining among friends.
Heidi’s House in the city offers cozy intimacy and vibrant energy, making it feel like dining among friends.

5. Toloache

You know that one spot you can’t stop raving about? For me, it’s Toloache. Hands down, it might just be the best Mexican restaurant in NYC. Every bite, from the fresh guac to the perfect fish tacos, is a flavor explosion. Plus, their grapefruit margaritas are to die for!

Inside, it’s shadowy yet cozy. I’d say it’s the ideal setting for a laid-back date night. Plus, for tequila lovers, this place is a gold mine. The variety is impressive, offering something for everyone.

Located on E 82nd, Toloache sits right at the heart of the Upper East Side. Its location is perfect for kicking off an evening in one of New York City’s coolest neighborhoods.

If you’re thinking of heading there, a tip from me: try those grapefruit margaritas! Since Toloache is a hit with locals and visitors alike, arriving a bit early might save you some wait time. After all, it’s one of those fun restaurants on the Upper East Side where you’ll want to soak in every moment.

Toloache offers the best Mexican cuisine, with flavor-packed dishes and amazing grapefruit margaritas.
Toloache offers the best Mexican cuisine, with flavor-packed dishes and amazing grapefruit margaritas.

6. Jones Wood Foundry

If you’re looking for a cozy British pub in New York City, you’re in luck. Jones Wood Foundry, situated on E 76th, is easily one of the coolest places to eat on the Upper East Side. Walking in, you’re immediately wrapped in a vibe that screams England, with its snug interior and welcoming charm.

This place is a masterclass in pub grub. The Scotch egg? Fantastic. Bangers and mash? Exactly what you hope for. And the banoffee pie is the best I’ve ever had, no contest. What I love most about Jones Wood Foundry is their drink selection. You’ll find an extensive range of beers, ciders, and even meads, which are a rare find in the city.

If you’re a brunch enthusiast, their weekend offerings, including a full English breakfast, are a must-try. These brunches are popular, though, so I’d recommend booking a table in advance. They’ve got different seating zones too, from a classic bar area to an inside patio and even outdoor curbside. Perfect for any mood or group size. Check it out!

Jones Wood Foundry is one of the unique restaurants on the Upper East Side.
Jones Wood Foundry excels in pub grub, plus a wide drink selection of beers, ciders, and meads.

7. Kaia Wine Bar

Kaia Wine Bar is an absolute gem. This South African wine bar on the Upper East Side is where you’ll find not just amazing wine but cocktails that’ll have you coming back for more. The menu offers delicious South African fare that you won’t find just anywhere in NYC.

Let’s dive into the must-tries. The duck drumettes will change the way you think about poultry. Then there’s this sandwich, oozing with cheesy goodness, perfectly paired with white bean soup. It’s comfort food with a twist. But you can’t leave without trying their famous pretzel bread, complete with a spice and oil dip that’s out of this world.

Located on 3rd Ave, Kaia Wine Bar is just a stone’s throw away from some of the Upper East Side’s best attractions. Why not take a stroll to the nearby museum mile after your meal? It’s the perfect way to walk off those delicious calories and soak in some culture at the same time.

Kaia Wine Bar offers amazing wine, cocktails, and South African fare.
Kaia Wine Bar offers amazing wine, cocktails, and South African fare.

8. Agora

Let me tell you about Agora, a little slice of Turkey right here on the Upper East Side. This place might be on the smaller side, but it’s bursting with charm and flavors that’ll transport you straight to Turkey. It’s like stepping into a Turkish home, with beautiful paintings that add to the whole experience.

When I swung by, I had to try the Adana Kebab. It was authentic, flavorful, and just what I was craving. The meze that came with it was amazing. And for dessert, the baklava with Turkish tea was a dream.

Even though Agora is cozy, its heart and flavors are huge. It’s one of those fun places to eat on the Upper East Side that makes you feel like you’ve discovered a hidden gem. My advice? Go there hungry and ready to explore their menu.

Experience Agora, a Turkish gem with cozy ambiance and beautiful paintings evoking Turkey.
Experience Agora, a Turkish gem with cozy ambiance and beautiful paintings evoking Turkey.

9. Oda House

If you’re looking for unusual restaurants on the UES, let me introduce you to Oda House, a spot that’s all about authentic Georgian cuisine. When I say authentic, I mean it. The staff are Georgian, and the vibes are straight out of Tbilisi.

I was there not too long ago, and let me tell you, it was a feast. The khachapuri (imagine cheese-stuffed bread that’s out of this world), chanakhi (a hearty stew that warms you right up), and the honey cake (sweet, sticky, and just perfect) were my favorites. If you’ve never tried Georgian food before, this is the place to start.

The space itself is stunning. It’s big but designed in a way that feels cozy, not empty. You can come with a big group and still feel like you’re in an intimate dining spot.

For a truly unique meal, this is one of the best restaurants on the Upper East Side. And hey, if you’re looking for things to do after dinner, the neighborhood is full of cool spots to explore. Whether it’s an evening stroll or a visit to a nearby bar, there’s plenty to keep the night going.

Discover Oda House, offering authentic Georgian cuisine with Georgian staff and Tbilisi vibes.
Discover Oda House, offering authentic Georgian cuisine with Georgian staff and Tbilisi vibes.

10. Up Thai

Just when I thought I knew all the best restaurants in New York City, Up Thai came out of nowhere and blew my mind. It’s seriously the top Thai restaurant in Manhattan. The food is authentic and even rivals dishes I’ve tried in Thailand!

They’re all about making sure you enjoy your meal, adjusting spices just the way you like. The menu is a delightful surprise with less common dishes and seasonal specials that keep things exciting. Last time I was there, the crispy duck in southern style curry was out of this world. Plus, the mango salad was fresh, so flavorful.

Up Thai is a place I always recommend to friends wondering where to eat on the UES. The vibe is just right for catching up with friends or even a casual date night. Plus, it’s conveniently located right next to the 72nd Street subway station, adding to the charm of Manhattan’s unique restaurants.

At Oda House, enjoy personalized spices, unique dishes, and seasonal specials.
At Oda House, enjoy personalized spices, unique dishes, and seasonal specials.

11. Heidelberg Restaurant

Heidelberg Restaurant is where you go when you’re craving an authentic German experience right on the Upper East Side. From the moment you see the place, with its spot-on exterior, to stepping inside and being greeted by staff in traditional outfits, it’s like you’ve teleported to Germany.

Not a beer fan? No problem. I tried their hot wine and hot apple cider on a chilly day, and it was exactly what I needed. Warm, tasty, and a nice twist if you’re looking to switch things up from the usual beer options. The staff knows their stuff, so don’t hesitate to go with their recommendations.

We kicked things off with a wheel of camembert. It was an amazing choice for a starter. Then, we tried the sausage platter and jagerschnitzel, both of which were just delicious. But the real showstopper? The Black Haus schnapps paired with cherry chocolate cake at the end. Just wow. You’ve gotta try it!

Heidelberg Restaurant is one of the most unique restaurants on the Upper East Side that you just have to visit. If you’re in the mood for a hearty meal or just a cozy drink, it’s got you covered.

Visit Heidelberg Restaurant, where traditional outfits and exteriors transport you to Germany.
Visit Heidelberg Restaurant, where traditional outfits and exteriors transport you to Germany.

12. Bohemian Spirit

Ending our list with a bang, let me introduce you to Bohemian Spirit. It was my first dive into Czech cuisine, and what an introduction it was! Located just off of E 73rd Street, this place is a spacious retreat that serves up specialty Czech beers straight from the tap and dishes that’ll make your mouth water.

The restaurant is spotless, with cool decor that gives you a mini tour of the Czech Republic without having to leave your seat. The food is incredible, too. The goulash and svíčková were nothing short of spectacular, packed with authentic flavors that transport you straight to Prague.

Bohemian Spirit is definitely one of the best places to eat on the Upper East Side for anyone looking to try something different. Definitely one to check out!

Bohemian Spirit is one of the unique restaurants on the Upper East Side.
Bohemian Spirit serves up Czech beers and mouthwatering dishes off E 73rd Street.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the quirkiest restaurants on the Upper East Side

Are you searching for more information about where to eat on the Upper East Side? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked about the Upper East Side’s most unique restaurants.

What is the nicest part of the Upper East Side?

The nicest part of the Upper East Side? That’s a tough one because it’s filled with so many gems, but Museum Mile tops the list for me. It’s not just about the museums, though they’re incredible. The streets are lined with gorgeous trees, historic buildings, and there’s this undeniable air of sophistication, making it one of the top places to live and visit in New York.

What area is considered the Upper East Side?

When you talk about the Upper East Side, you’re looking at the area from 59th Street up to 96th Street, bounded by Fifth Avenue on the west and the East River on the east. This part of Manhattan is known for its affluence, beautiful old mansions, and, of course, the world-renowned museums along Fifth Avenue, making it a gem in Manhattan.

Night scene in NYC's Upper East Side with bustling restaurants and shops.
Night scene in NYC’s Upper East Side with bustling restaurants and shops.

Is the Upper East Side good for food?

Absolutely, the UES is great for food! Whether you’re craving authentic Italian, cutting-edge Japanese, or classic New York bagels, the Upper East Side delivers with flair.

Why is the Upper East Side famous?

The Upper East Side is famous for a few reasons: its luxurious residential buildings, high-end shopping along Madison Avenue, cultural institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and its role in popular culture, featuring in movies and TV shows.

The top restaurants on the Upper East Side for all types of travelers
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