In my first dispatch since returning from my stint on The Times’s Live team, I shared a laundry list of exciting developments in the restaurant world, including that Regina’s Grocery & Deli, a beloved Lower East Side staple, had opened a third location on the Upper East Side. (Over Instagram messages, the owner, Roman Grandinetti, told me he chose the area over so many others because it felt like “a real neighborhood.”)
While the Upper East Side isn’t exactly hurting for restaurants, it rarely receives the breathless coverage the neighborhood enjoyed in the opulent era of, say, “Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” or the early years of Daniel. As a new and diverse generation of boundary-pushing chefs flocked to Lower Manhattan — and subsequently Brooklyn — our collective attention went with them. (As proof, restaurants below 59th Street utterly dominated the Manhattan portion of Pete Wells’s list of the city’s 100 best restaurants last year.)
If you’ve given up on the Upper East Side, I’m stepping in to say, don’t. There’s plenty to be excited about uptown.
Al Badawi brings its mezze to Manhattan
Manhattan is now lucky enough to have the second location of al Badawi, the phenomenal Brooklyn restaurant from the team behind the Palestinian restaurant chain Ayat, and the owners chose the Upper East Side. Open since November, al Badawi part deux offers delivery, but the warmth and hospitality of the staff doesn’t come with your meal, so I highly encourage you to dine in. The pistachio flatbread is still one of my favorite dishes of all time, a perfect appetizer (along with their vast array of mezze) before you dig into a plate of succulent lamb chops over a bed of rice.
A neighborhood classic returns
“Well, Nikita, that restaurant isn’t unique to the Upper East Side.” Then consider Hoexter’s, the second coming of a ’70s era butcher shop turned restaurant that earned two stars from The Times’s restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton in 1978. Were Ms. Sheraton still with us today, she would find the new Hoexter’s, which opened in November, much changed: For one thing, a three-course meal at the restaurant now costs much more than “about $12 to $18 a person for food.” (Cries in inflation.)
You can keep costs down by not spending $95 on the potato chips with caviar — fun fact: caviar has never been cheaper — nor would I let myself be distracted (again) by the restaurant’s famous bechamel-drenched garlic bread. Next time, I’ll go right for the mortadella plate with the dreamiest restaurant-level deli meat. And I’d use my Aries powers to convince the whole table to order a round of the luscious double smash burgers with melty curtains of American cheese.
From albondigas to cajeta ice cream
Finally, I know the year is still in diapers, but the best meal I’ve had so far was at Soledad, a three-week-old restaurant from the Mexican-born chef Julian Medina. Earlier that day, I’d ranted to the entire of the New York Times Food team about how hard it’s been to find new restaurants that execute on every part of the meal: appetizers, entrees, desserts. Then I walked into this place.
I can give you a complete dining road map. Start with the albondigas (Ibérico pork meatballs in a tomato-almond sauce based on a recipe from Mr. Medina’s mother) and the lobster birria tacos, which make the rare case for putting lobster in unexpected places.
For your mains: the crispy-but-tender chicken Milanese covered in an earthy combination of grasshopper and amaranth flours, or the carnitas estilo Michoacan (ask for tortillas because it’s served with lettuce, larb-style). And the damn-near-buttery carne asada, one of the most impressively prepared steaks I’ve eaten in quite some time, is a nonnegotiable.
As for dessert, I would get them all, but normal people can stick to the borrachito de piña, a scrumptious, rum-soaked pineapple upside-down cake, and the churro sundae with salted cajeta ice cream and caramelized baby bananas. Then prepare to think about that meal every waking minute in the days after.
#Upper #East #Side #Restaurant #Lovers