After nearly a century of planning and what felt like an eternity of scaffolding, New York City’s Second Avenue Subway finally opened its doors on New Year’s Day in 2017. The new track extends the Q train up to 96th street along Second Avenue, making it easier than ever to visit the previously hard-to-reach Upper East Side.
Now that we’ve had a few months to explore, we advise you to pick up a Metro card and check out our favorite restaurants and a few attractions along the new route.
LEXINGTON AVENUE-63RD STREET STATION
An oldie but goodie, Serendipity 3 is a dining institution featured in countless Hollywood flicks over the years (One Fine Day, Serendipity). The comfort food is spot on, so it’s understandable that crowds are still willing to brave two-hour lines for the signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.
For one of the most decadent ice cream treats around, try the $1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae, which features 23-karat, edible gold leaf (but order it 48 hours in advance).
Ladies who lunch consider Bloomingdale’s to be one of New York City’s premier destinations for a trendy shopping experience. Whether you’re looking to find contemporary or timeless items, the department store carries everything from home goods to cosmetics.
72ND STREET STATION
For a taste of sophistication, stop by this charming Parisian-style brasserie featuring art nouveau décor, ornate antiques, lacy curtains and mahogany paneling. Nibble on French standards (the cheese soufflé is a must) and order from an immense wine list showcasing more than 200 varietals.
This no-frills, cash-only burger joint serves some of the best patties in the city. Even with its meh furnishings, this sandwich mecca still attracts a crowd of Upper East Side VIPs. Faithful fans pack into the tiny spot for happy hour and squeeze into crowded tables to sample the simply delectable cheeseburgers and BLTs.
This local hot spot delivers downtown vibes in a neighborhood that was in desperate need of a trendy hangout. Choose from a seasonally inspired menu of small plates and creative (as well as classic) cocktails. Deep banquettes, exposed filament chandeliers and small sewing machines scattered throughout make it a good place for date night or drinks with friends.
86TH STREET STATION
This retro-inspired hipster haunt is making the Upper East Side feel cool again. Get your camera ready for Instagram-worthy avocado toast that you can pose among old-fashioned portraits, vintage suitcases and typewriters. Cocktails are divine but if whiskey is your thing, we recommend ordering a glass, since this gastropub boasts one of the most impressive collections in the city.
If you’re looking for old-school Italian, look no further. Reservations are a must if you want to snag a table among Elio’s regulars, who include A-listers like Mick Jagger, Tom Hanks, Woody Allen and Gwyneth Paltrow, who had her 40th birthday celebration here. The food is delicious but the people-watching is what keeps the crowds coming.
Erminia is the perfect romantic date-night destination. The cozy, candlelit space turns out savory Italian favorites, but the staff will make you almost anything you want (if it has the ingredients).
Carl Schurz Park
Stretching for five acres along the East River, Carl Schurz Park provides a lovely setting to gaze at the water as well as some of the city’s impressive bridges. Spend a leisurely afternoon also taking in the greenery, flower gardens and boats passing by.
The park has also been the site of the mayor’s official residence, Gracie Mansion, since 1942. Public tours of the historic house are available on Tuesdays, and reservations are required.
For a taste of authentic German food and culture, a few establishments on the same block have withstood the test of time. Heidelberg Restaurant boasts a beer garden atmosphere and serves fare like schnitzel, pretzels and the best bratwurst this side of Berlin.
Schaller & Weber, a butcher shop in operation for 80 years, offers an eclectic menu of sausages and pre-made sandwiches from its to-go window two doors down.
If you’ve managed to save any room, head to Glaser’s Bake Shop, a family-run bakery that’s been around for more than a century. Enjoy sugary treats in a nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent of a simpler time.
Two Little Red Hens
We would be remiss not to mention this tiny bakery that has withstood the construction of the subway for all these years. Expect a line for the sweets, but it usually moves pretty quickly. Be sure to try the seasonal cupcakes and any of the spectacular pies.
96TH STREET STATION
For Prohibition-style cocktails, solid brunch and bar food, this spot has a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere. There is also an outdoor garden in the back where you can bask in nice weather. This Upper East Side watering hole offers both lunchtime and late-night happy hours, plus live music late into Thursday evening.
Check out this delightful pizzeria serving piping-hot, authentic Neapolitan-style pies and amazing panuozzo. Created in Campagna’s Salerno province, panuozzo are Italian sandwiches made by wrapping raw pizza dough around a variety of ingredients and baking them in a wood-burning oven.
Save room for the Nutella pizza or the Sicilian cannoli, which are both to die for.
This New Orleans-inspired restaurant is the best spot uptown to get fried chicken or Cajun favorites like gumbo and jambalaya risotto. Our top meal here is brunch, which includes live jazz. If you’re feeling brave, try the alligator-pork sausage sliders with jalapeño pineapple marmalade.
Disclaimer: Don’t plan on leaving here with less than a couple cocktails under your belt, which will be pretty tight by the end of your meal.
92nd Street Y
The 92nd Street Y is a world-famous institution and community center. In addition to adult and children’s music, art and dance classes, there are numerous performances, film screenings, literary readings along with a series of talks. Recent celebrity speakers have included Caitlyn Jenner, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alan Alda.