City Pulse

By Jamie Allison Sanders

Think the Upper East Side is all ladies who lunch and Park Avenue townhouses? Guess again. This neighborhood is home to some of the most delectable restaurants, prettiest stores and gorgeous beauty venues in the city. This three-part series explores everything you thought you knew…and lets you in on some of the greatest secrets.

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You Booze, You Lose…?
The whole of the Upper East Side sees more hole-in-the-wall pubs than you would have thought possible in the entire city. But two of the very best are, very conveniently, located right next to one another! Becky’s and Baker Street (both located on 1st Avenue) each play very loud music and are deceptively bigger than one might imagine at first glance. They serve up great pub fare at very reasonable prices, in addition to having some of the finest beers on tap – some of which we’re betting you’ve never heard of! Definitely worth checking out.

Can’t decide which watering hole should get your hard-earned dollars? Your best bet is to walk up 2nd Avenue in the 80s and 90s. There must be at least three bars on every block! Standouts are Blondie’s (1770 2nd Avenue), which native Ohioans will especially love for the OSU and Browns games; The Big Easy (1768 2nd Avenue), whose 11pm drink specials just can’t be beat; Pat O’Brien’s (1701 2nd Avenue), which has some of the finest beer pong in the city; Marty O’Brien’s (1696 2nd Avenue), which, while right across the street from Pat’s, bears no relation and serves up great burgers; and Brother Jimmy’s (1485 2nd Avenue), whose wings are deelish. Take that, Hooters!

A good wine bar is hard to come by in this city. But Uva (1486 2nd Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets) is just that. The ambience in this miniature spot is sultry and romantic, while the wine list is super-long – making for great first-date conversation! Split a cheese plate and your date will be hooked. (We speak from experience.)

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Art, Schmart
From Picasso to Renoir, Monet to Warhol, Kandinsky to Degas … and some you haven’t heard of in between, the Upper East Side is home to some of the finest museums in the world. Walk along Museum Mile and you’ll come upon the Guggenheim, the Whitney, The Frick Collection, and, of course, the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art. And don’t forget about Cooper Hewitt and the Jewish Museum! Each has fantastic special exhibits – we’re huge fans of the rotating Costume Institute at the Met – and are definitely great places to go when you think you’ve seen and done it all.

And Some Random Stuff Thrown In For Good Measure
Just when you thought there was nothing left to see, we’re here to prove you wrong!

Part coffeehouse, part bar, DT-UT (1626 2nd Avenue) is the perfect spot on an otherwise boring Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday…) evening. But you’d better get there early to snag one of the comfortable armchairs – they tend to fill up quite quickly!

Sunday brunch can be overrated – until you’ve tried Alice’s Tea Cup (156 East 64th Street), that is. The East Side version of the popular West Side teahouse features waitresses who wear butterfly wings, delicious salads and scones, and a massively long list of teas to choose from. Luckily the wait staff is quite knowledgeable and can help you pick a great one! If you’re just not into the brunch thing, you can grab a cup of tea to go. We recommend – what else – Alice’s tea.

It’s never too late to get into the yoga craze. So why not try out Jivamukti (853 Lexington Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets). Tons of class offerings, from beginner to expert, guarantee that you’ll find your inner yogi.

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Everyone in the city swears by a different cupcake place. Be it Billy’s Bakery or Magnolia, Buttercup Bake Shop or Cupcake Café, each person swears his favorite is the absolute best. But in our case, it’s actually true. Crumbs (1371 3rd Avenue at 78th Street) smells amazing the second you walk in the door – and there are seriously so many mouth-watering options to choose from, you’ll be at a standstill in front of the case for an embarrassingly long amount of minutes before making up your mind. Our favorites include the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cupcake, the Hostess Cupcake and the Devil Dog Cupcake ($3.50 each). Or just the simple Classic Chocolate Buttercream Cupcake ($2.95) will suffice in a pinch.

Does anyone actually cook in this city? God knows we don’t. But Really Cool Foods (1059 3rd Avenue at 63rd Street) is here to change that … well, sort of. Tons of organic and fresh-prepared meals come packaged and ready for you to “cook” – in other words, heat up – and just, well, look cool while doing it.

Need a Sharpie? A teapot? Some hangers? Shampoo? Who knew these items could be found in one place? But if you head to one of Rainbow’s two 2nd Avenue locations, you’ll find all this and more. And the best part? Prices are reasonable. On a recent trip, we bought a two-tiered clothing rack for $25, a set of towels for $12, an entire 350-thread-count queen-sized sheet set for $30, Christmas ornaments for $1 each and even spent time ogling the $200 dressers. Now that’s what we call bargain shopping.

Caroline’s is fine, but if you’re looking for a different comedy club to frequent, Dangerfield’s Comedy Club (1118 1st Avenue at 61st Street) is it. Co-founded by legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield, it’s been around since 1969. Chances are you won’t have heard of all the comics advertised on the front door, but who cares? A laugh’s a laugh. And if you need even more convincing, there’s no food and drink minimum – which is practically unheard of in the comedy club world.

Originally published January 2008
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