Explore the Upper East Side’s Class and Coziness

The East Side contains iconic buildings reminiscent of old New York. (Courtesy of Instagram)

The East Side contains iconic buildings reminiscent of old New York. (Courtesy of Instagram)

It’s one of the few Manhattan neighborhoods that the average American has reliably heard of and even knows a few things about. As college students, our generation most notably knows the famously-affluent area stretching from 59th to 96th between Fifth Ave. and the Hudson River courtesy of Blake Lively, Penn Badgley and others. That is, of course, through “Gossip Girl.” 

New York City’s wealthiest neighborhood does what its western counterpart also does so well in fewer blocks: it contains pockets of buzz and crowded streets while still having quaint, stroll-friendly blocks that can be perfectly accompanied by background noise in your headphones. 

The Upper East Side is a different flavor of uptown Manhattan than the neighborhood that was the feature of this inaugural column, however. The Upper East Side is uniquely polished in an established, urban way that is quintessentially New York, and is a quick Metro North to Harlem before a transfer to the 4, 5 or 6, or a 4 train from Fordham Road down, both to 86th Street, in the heart of the Upper East. 

Mostly undeveloped until the middle of the 19th century, the Upper East Side was mostly farmland until the building of the Park Avenue Tunnel in 1910.

Wanting to escape the noise and congestion of the project, wealthy families moved north from what is now Midtown East to the Upper East Side just as America entered the Gilded Age with prominent residents Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie arriving at the turn of the 20th century. 

The top tourist attraction in the neighborhood is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A hallowed hall that can take hours out the day of visitors even mildly interested in art, the 2.2 million square foot mecca is pay-what-you-wish for Fordham students at the ticket booths inside. 

Their website invites you to “bring some culture to your inbox” by signing up for their newsletter, which is a valid comment given the western side of Fifth Ave. from 80th to 84th holds art from 5,000 years ago up until 2023, with household names Van Gogh, Degas, Pollock and Monet on display in spades. 

From the sunny Egyptian wing of the museum that overlooks Central Park, to the American permanent collection that rivals (frankly, bests) the Smithsonian, the Met never fails to inspire me to take a painting class, that I never take, whenever I go back. 

Art can be found up and down Fifth Avenue, with the Guggenheim on 88th housing modern art, with the very design of the museum serving as a mini-exhibit, to Henry Clay Frick’s Collection of European art in his former home on 70th. 

Madison Avenue, mainly between 66th and 80th is a top destination for upscale shopping and classy coffee shops, including the iconic Ralph’s on 72nd. 

While certainly not the first thing one would think of when planning a trip to the Upper East Side, the dining options do not disappoint. What’s perhaps most appealing about them is that most restaurants are small yet rarely too crowded, and while the art and shopping scene encompassing Fifth and Madison may be too swanky for some, the restaurants populating Second and Third Avenues are surprisingly unassuming. 

San Matteo on 90th and 2nd is a cozy spot for a Neapolitan pie in a quaint, yet casual environment. The Regina Margherita pizza is a favorite of mine. 

Plug Uglies is a top-tier sports bar on 78th and 1st and a favorite of Mike Greenberg and Jon Rothstein, two sports reporters famous for their knowledge of sports, New York and food. The wings “Kerry’s Way” with a mix of hot sauce and honey BBQ make me want to commute down there right now. 

The Upper East Side is full of so many diverse pockets. 

From the wide streets of Park Avenue lined with penthouses to the bustling commutes that pulsate the 70’s and second and third, Manhattan’s arguably most iconic neighborhood is much more than meets the eye in all the best ways.