Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NYC Travel Guide: Upper East Side

 I am excited to launch what I hope will be the first of many Manhattan guides covering different pockets of the city.    As I have now lived and worked in the Upper East for a little over a year, I feel it's the only place I can confidently guide you through at this point, so that's where we'll start.  There's a reason Truman Capote, CZ Guest, Holly Golightly, and the Rockafellers all chose to call the Upper East Side home-  it's beautiful, relatively quiet, and home to the Museum Mile as well as Central Park.  I for one love living in the UES, even if all the cool people love to reside downtown. While it once was known to be rather snobby, I find it delightfully welcoming, neighborhood-y, and inclusive.  Read on for a list of my must-see places:

What to Do:

The Upper East Side is home to some of the most well-known museums in New York City as well as Central Park, so it's worth spending a few days exploring (if time allows!)

1.) The Met - 1000 5th Avenue

Free to the public (with a recommended donation, of course), the Met cannot be missed.  It's the largest art museum in the United States and features 17 different departments- everything from the antiquities to Asian art to Roman to Islamic.  If the interior isn't incredible enough, the architecture of the structure itself is inspiring.  I love strolling by on the weekends and seeing all the tourists and locals congregated on the massive steps.  

{the Met}

2.) The Frick Collection - 1 East 70th Street

A charming museum housed inside one of the only remaining Gilded Age Mansions. The Frick Collection showcases Old Master paintings and European decorative arts, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Goya. The courtyard outside the museum is lovely and tranquil, as well:

3.) The Guggenheim - 1071 5th Avenue

A must-see, even if only to view the quirky building design by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Take the elevator to the top and view the exhibits as you spiral downwards on the walkway.  I personally love viewing the Kandinsky pieces, which are part of the permanent collection.

My favorite thing about living in the Upper East Side is it's proximity to Central Park.  The city can feel overwhelming at times, and it's nice to spend a week night or weekend day exploring the park and being amongst nature.  There are always a million things going on in the park, and there's something for everyone.  I love to rent a Citibike and ride around the park with friends, bring a blanket and book out to Sheep's Meadow to lay out and read, or visit the zoo/boat pond/Shakespeare garden.  You could spend an entire day exploring just Central Park if you wanted to!

Where to Stay:

1.)  The Carlyle - 35 East 76th Street

One of the best known hotels in all of Manhattan, the Carlyle has a rich and colorful history.  You may recall in one of my previous posts that Dorothy Draper is responsible for some of the hotel's immaculate interior design.  It became known as "The New York White House" during John F Kennedy's presidency because he owned an apartment on the 34th floor for the last 10 years of his life.  Marilyn Monroe was snuck in through a private entrance on 77th Street to see the President from time to time.   Nowadays, Woody Allen and his jazz band play weekly at the Carlyle restaurant and it also houses one of my favorite bars, Bemelmans (more info below!).  I've stayed here with my family before and can personally attest to the charm as well as the world-class service.  

2.)  The Surrey - 20 East 76th Street

I've never stayed here, but Travel + Leisure named The Surrey the #1 Manhattan Hotel, and I've heard it's fab.  I HAVE gotten drinks in the downstairs bar, and it's always bustling with people.

3.)  The Mark - 25 East 77th Street

Designed by Jacques Grange,  the Mark is a stylish staple in the Upper East. Jacques Grange worked with Parisian design gallerist Pierre Passebon to commission interesting objects, art, and furniture for The Mark decor.   I also love all the amenities and experiences the hotel offers. 

{The Mark Hotel}

Where to Eat:

1.) Flora Bar - 945 Madison Avenue

I first discovered this food heaven earlier this year, and I can't sing it's praises enough.  The atmosphere is absolutely beautiful- it's located in the basement of the Met Breuer (the old Whitney Museum) and is the third restaurant from chef Ignacio Mattos.  His other two are estela and cafe altro parasido.  The tuna tartare (served with hazelnuts and garnished with basil) is to die for and the purple endive salad is dreamy.  I swear- DO. NOT. GO. TO. THIS. RESTAURANT. WITHOUT. ORDERING. THE. ENDIVE. SALAD.  I know it's odd to be so adamant about a salad, but underneath the top layer of lettuce there are pecans and Bayley Hazen Blue cheese that is divine.

{from my instagram- tuna tartare and a dirty martini at Flora}

2.) Toloache 82 - 166 E 82nd Street

As a Texas resident for 5 years, I'll always crave good Mexican food.  Sadly, most of New York's "Mexican" restaurants are a sad cry from authentic Tex Mex.  Next door to Flex Mussels is Toloache, and I think it's one of the best Mexican spots NYC has to offer. I love their guacamole trio, fish tacos, and their extensive drink menu (with delicious margaritas):

{Toloache Drinks}

4.) Orsay - 1057 Lexington Avenue

Orsay oozes Upper East Side charm and is a great French brasserie. I find it to be the best dirty martini and tuna tartare in the city.  If you visit Orsay, DO NOT LEAVE without trying the tuna tartare. It's life-changing!

{Enjoying an Orsay martini last fall- and Palm Beach Chic}

5.) The Penrose - 1590 2nd Avenue

The Penrose is my go-to brunch spot.  I highly recommend the avocado toast and the bloody mary.  The vibe is very young and preppy.

{my Penrose brunch go to: avocado toast + bloody mary}

6.) JG Melon - 1291 3rd Avenue 

I don't eat meat, but I've been told over and over that this is the "best burger in the entire city."  Cash only!

7.) Sushi of Gari - 402 East 78th Avenue

Delicious sushi in an intimate atmosphere.  Be sure to book your reservation ahead of time!

Where to Drink:

1.) Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel - 25 East 76th Street

This bar inside the Carlyle Hotel is the epitome of the Upper East Side- it oozes of old money, the piano plays in the background, the room is lit by candelight, and the vodka martinis are lethal.  Named after Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the children's book Madeline, beautiful murals paint the wall and the ceiling is covered in 24 karat goldleaf.  Bemelmans painted the murals after achieving considerable success for the Madeline books, and in exchange the Caryle allowed him and his family to stay for free for a year and a half.

2.) Uva Wine Bar - 1486 2nd Avenue

There are so many reasons I love Uva.  First of all, it's right around the corner from my apartment, so it makes for an easy stumble home.  Second, the environment is cozy while still feeling lively, and they have a large front and back patio perfect for wine-sipping in the warmer months.  Lastly, they serve their full menu til 2 am (one of the benefits of living in the city that never sleeps) and I highly recommend their gnocchi. 

3.) Brandy's Piano Bar- 235 E 84th Street

The perfect place for a boozy sing-along night with your girlfriends.   Also, a great people-watching spot as there is always an interesting crowd. 

{a view of Park Avenue in spring via instagram}

Note:  As the UES is defined as above 59th Street and below 96th, I didn't include beloved Bergdorf Goodman + BG Restaurant, Bloomingdales, The Polo Bar, or MOMA as I would consider all of these "midtown" spots.  Nonetheless, DO NOT MISS THEM!

Any favorite Upper East Side spots I missed?  Let me know!  I plan to refine and add to this guide as time goes on. 



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