June 3, 2012

(Dining Out} Favorite restaurants on the UWS

Liver, Eggplant rolls, Quattro pizza, and Halibut at Celeste

We've finally moved! It's been awhile since our last post due to all of the apartment hunting, packing, storing, moving, and unpacking but we're finally done! But before leaving my beloved UWS (home for the past 7 years), we ventured to all of our favorite neighborhood spots for one last meal.

Though Per Se, Dovetail, and Telepan were all elegant, fantastic meals, when it comes to "last meals", we delved into comfort foods (and consequently, much more affordable restaurants).  Our first dinner spot was Celeste, a perennial favorite. This cozy little cash-only Italian is the place I would take out-of-town guests staying with us, fatigued from their flights but eager to dine out in NYC, for one of their first meals.  The menu doesn't change a whole lot, but the prices are good and the food has always been satisfying. 

My favorite dessert at Celeste: Limoncello Tartufo
Our dishes of choice at Celeste? As seen from the photos above, we love the:
  • Involtini Di Melanzane ($8.50): Eggplant rolls stuffed with prosciutto and pecorino cheese baked with tomato sauce
  • Fegatini Di Pollo ($7): Sauteed chicken livers deglazed with balsamic vinegar on toasted bread
  • Quattro Stagioni ($12): Prosciutto, mushrooms, tomato, artichokes, and mozzarella pizza
  • Ippoglosso Al Limone ($15): Halibut sauteed with lemon and capers sauteed spinach & roasted potatoes
  • Tartufo al Limoncello ($6): Lemon gelato surrounding a creamy, limoncello center  
And yes, we took home all of the leftovers to enjoy while continuing to pack!
Celeste on Urbanspoon

Shack Burger and Shack-cago Dog with Fries

No UWS neighborhood restaurant compilation would be complete without our favorite burger joint Shake Shack. We've eaten almost everything on the menu and really, you can't go wrong with a Shack Burger with everything, Shack-cago Dog, Shroom Burger, or all out with the Shack Stack. My favorite tip though has to be:
  • Go to the C-line (it's for beverages and dessert orders only, so it's quicker and shorter than the regular line) and ask for Yesterday's Pint. For $4, you can take home (or indulge at the restaurant) a pint of the previous day's Frozen Custard flavor. Since a small cup of today's flavor will run you $3.50, the pint is such a great deal!
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon
Kale salad, Mushroom Panini, Dumplings, Egg-and-dairy-free Chocolate Chip Cookie

When I want a reprieve from greasy, meaty foods, I head to Peacefood Cafe, a nearby vegan spot. It's less expensive than Cafe Blossom (another tasty vegan place) and the food's pretty good (i.e. carnivore Jeff's willing to dine with me here).  What were our picks?
  • Kale Salad ($13.50): kale leaves, diced seasoned tofu, tempeh bacon, pumpkin seeds and raisins tossed with dressing
  • Pan-seared French horn mushroom Panini ($11.95): with sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, artichoke aioli, mint & basil pesto
  • Pan-seared Shanghai-style dumplings ($7.95):  homemade dumplings filled with chinese chives,
    shitake & wood ear mushrooms, marinated tofu and vegetarian protein, served with a ginger balsamic
    dipping sauce. Granted, these weren't the best dumplings we've ever had and the wrapper was a tad too thick for our taste, but for a vegan variation, the filling was very hearty and filled with umami
  • Chickpea fries ($7.95): Though we were too full for these fries, I've had them before and definitely recommend them. With a hint of indian spices, they're served with a house dipping sauce.
  • Chocolate Chip cookie ($1.35 ea): All desserts are baked in their kitchen without dairy, egg, or refined sugar. Though they have a gluten-free version, we went with the cookies made with spelt flour. It's the perfect sweet ending to our refreshing meal.
Peacefood Café on Urbanspoon
Peruvian-Chinese food. Before I moved to NYC, I never knew this cuisine existed. It makes sense though considering there is a Chinese population in Latin America. And it makes for a delicious combination. And when it comes to good value and satisfying meals, Flor de Mayo is the casual spot we've taken our visiting families.

  • Dish of choice: Peruvian roast chicken or Pollo a la Brasa ($11.75) with Cilantro rice substituted as the side. It's juicy and full of flavor. This dish is more than enough for 2-3 people to share - which makes it a great deal at under $12.
Flor de Mayo on Urbanspoon
Brunch and Barney Greengrass

One of the benefits of moving is that you finally make time to check out the nearby places you've always meant to try but never did. Though I had been to historic Barney Greengrass before, Jeff strangely had not.  If you know my husband's traditional tastes - Russ & Daughters being one of his favorite spots - you know that he enjoys classic, old-school dishes. What did we enjoy for a very savory brunch at Barney Greengrass?
  • Combination of Sturgeon and Nova Scotia Salmon Scrambled with Eggs & Onions ($19.75) with a Bialy (a cross between a bagel and an English muffin)
  • Sturgeon on Rye ($19.25) with capers (though you will be charged for any extras on the fish)
  • Herring Salad and Whitefish Salad to go - both were stellar. Jeff even thought that the whitefish salad was on par with his favorite version from Russ & Daughters
Barney Greengrass on Urbanspoon

Kefi salad, Sheep's milk dumplings, Meatballs
From its prior tiny 79th street location through to its move to Columbus Ave, Greek restaurant Kefi has been a part of our UWS experience ever since I first moved to the neighborhood from Toronto 7 years ago. Though the menu has changed (both the moussaka and the original sweetbread recipe has sadly been removed from the new menu), there are still a few favorites left that we keep ordering over and over again;
  • Kefi Salad ($6.75): Shredded Lettuce & Fennel, Tomato, Cucumber, Olives, Peppers, Onions, Feta. Despite replicating a similar tasty salad at home, I will still order this bright, crisp, refreshing salad whenever we return.
  • Sheep Milk Ravioli ($9.95): with Brown Butter and Sage
  • Meatballs ($6.95): with Roasted Garlic, Olives, and Tomato
  • Grilled Octopus with White Bean Salad ($9.95): We both prefer the meatiness of grilled octopus over fried calamari any day
  • For pasta dishes, we've previously also enjoyed the Flat Pasta with Pulled Braised Rabbit and Graviera Cheese ($12.95) as well as the Shrimp Orzo ($14.95) with  Spinach, Tomato, Feta
  • Our friends always seem to opt for the Chicken Souvlaki ($12.50) with Tzatziki and Pita Bread which comes with a small Kefi salad and house-made chips.

Kefi on Urbanspoon

The last place we should mention is Jeff's neighborhood bar - George Keeley's. With great craft beers always on tap, friendly staff, free popcorn, and a darn-good Frikadelle burger (that I love having with an added runny egg on top), I think this spot is the one Jeff will miss the most!
George Keeley's on Urbanspoon

We love the Upper West Side and with friends still living in the area, will likely return to visit our old favorite neighborhood spots. We're eager to check out what downtown Manhattan has to offer, so please leave us any recommendations in the comments below!

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