The Upper West Side: OK, It’s Not All Bad

big nick inside

Even though I’m thinking of moving all my restaurant reviews to Yelp, I figure I at least owe you this post. And by “you” I mean both my readers (are you still here?) and my neighborhood.

Ready? Let’s do this.

While I still think the Upper West Side has its problems, and it cannot even pretend to be a restaurant hot-spot, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had some good meals here. Over the past few months, I’ve found a few places worth staying close to home for.

Nice-Matin_V2_460x285

Nice-Matin

You know what I love about the above picture (which I shamelessly borrowed from this blog)? It shows the exact table we ate it. It’s the one on the left with the dude in the white shirt. In fact, he kind of looks like me. So you have my official permission to imagine that he is me, and that you’re watching me eat dinner. Exciting, isn’t it?

I was only reminded of this restaurant recently, when a friend posted a review on Yelp. My wife and I actually ate here months earlier, in the middle of grueling apartment search.

Although I’m going by my rapidly deteriorating memory, I have nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings for this French bistro. It wasn’t stuffy (as some French places can be) and the food and drinks were well prepared and priced. The fish (snapper for me and salmon for my wife) was fresh and delicious, and dining al fresco on busy Amsterdam street is one of those quintessential NYC experiences.

If you have to eat on the UWS, eat here.

shake shack 3

Shake Shack

Honestly, so much has been written about this updated-but-still-old-school burger joint, I’m probably not going to be saying anything new.

However, I feel I must get a few points across:

  • The burgers are fantastic. Probably some of the best I’ve ever had, and certainly the best of any quickly prepared burger since last time I was on the west coast (In-N-Out animal style, I’m looking at you). As opposed to other burgers, these actually taste like beef…and glorious beef at that.
  • The chocolate milkshake was similarly revelatory. Maybe they faked me out, but there was a deep chocolate flavor there. It was also thick without being pure ice cream. Perfect.
  • The fries suck. Sorry, but they do.

Because I don’t want to end on a negative note, I’ll say that this place is a spitting distance to one of my favorite places – the Museum of Natural History – which has enough of a park to allow slow savoring of the SS deliciousness. I recommend you grab a bench and enjoy.

big nicks

Big Nick’s

This place is classic.

There’s no other word for it. Its menu is a million pages long, it’s open 24 hours (or 23 with one hour of clean up) and it serves every kind of pizza, burger, salad and sandwich imaginable. And it’s right up the street from our apartment!

I’ve had a bistro burger, which was probably one of the more upscale burger they have, and what else can I say – they nailed it! The pizza by the slice is similarly great: a thin, huge wedge of NYC goodness. It gets a little crisp when they warm up it up, and it practically begs to be folded, NYC style.

The only chink in Big Nick’s armor (that I’ve witnessed anyway) would be their take-out/delivery pizza. I don’t know if it’s a different person making it or what, but it’s nowhere near as good as their pizza by the slice.

Other than that, this place is the ultimate utility player. Go late night for added crazy.

sarabeths_west_lg

Sarabeth’s West

We heard this was the best brunch on the UWS, and having not consulted any other place for brunch, I’d have to agree.

As was expected, there was a line when we arrived. But it actually went quickly, partially because we were staring at some sort of Latin Arts parade that hadn’t yet got started.

The restaurant itself was an anomaly: it just doesn’t look like a NYC restaurant. With its pleasant, but decidedly not busy or trendy interior, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were dining anywhere on the east coast: urban, suburban or otherwise.

I was in a sweet mood (as opposed to savory) and got the cinnamon-apple French toast. I can’t put my finger on one particular thing, but this plate was amazing. Each piece was the perfect size, the perfect flavor and with the right amount of fruit, butter and syrup accompaniment.

Actually, now that I think about, I don’t remember anything my wife or her friend got. For all I know, their food could have been terrible. But anyplace that wows me with French toast gets the benefit of the doubt.

Oh wait, I remember one more thing: our waitress had the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard. And that’s how I’m going to end the post. Kind of anti-climactic, ain’t it?

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6 responses to “The Upper West Side: OK, It’s Not All Bad

  1. Your blog is so cool!
    I put you on my “interesting blogs”
    My favourite is the “food on film” section.
    NICE TO MEET YOU!

  2. My friend’s friend’s restaurant sopunds pretty good. If you try it let us know if it’s worth the trip for non-UWSers.

    http://www.recipenyc.com/

  3. @baconista That’s so funny. I just read a great review of Recipe in Time Out NY, and it just vaulted to the top of my list.

    I’ll be sure to let you know once I’ve tried it.

    @la piba Thanks for stopping by! I really need to get to the next Food on Film installment. Any suggestions?

  4. So now we have to track you down on Yelp?

    Oh, and as for Food on Film: how about Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life”? If you’ve seen the film, you know the scene I’m referring to…

    Good to see you back! Of course, I seem to be saying that roughly every four to six weeks here. :)

  5. Can you believe I’ve never seen the Meaning of Life? It’s been on my Netflix queue forever, but now I may have to bump it up.

    And sorry for the rollercoaster ride of updating. I just can’t keep it together with all the other stuff I got going on. But I’ll keep trying! :)

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