When I started apartment-hunting this fall, I thought I would end up in Brooklyn. It seemed like a good value proposition, and I wanted to live in a laid-back neighborhood with creative young people and a feeling of community. It turns out the cheap Brooklyn I remember from my early 20s no longer exists. The more surprising discovery, however, is that the Upper East Side is actually more affordable than Greenpoint. That’s how I ended up in my lovely one-bedroom apartment on 89th Street between 1st and 2nd.
I’m not the first aspiring Brooklynite to make this choice. There’s a bastion of young, fun people on the Upper East Side who have also discovered that (1) the economics make sense and (2) the UES is not at all the stuffy, boring neighborhood people think it is. Sure, there’s probably a higher concentration of sterile buildings, overdressed dogs, and overmedicated (and underdressed) housewives here than in other parts of the city, not to mention wealth, but that’s part of what makes the neighborhood interesting. It is also legitimately a really fantastic place to live.
Here’s what my day looks like on the Upper East Side.
My first activity is to double-fist a coffee and Kombucha. In an ideal world, I do this while walking to the gym. Starbucks is omnipresent and perfectly delightful, but I like to go to The Brown Cup (2nd Ave between 88th St & 89th St) for a damn good iced latte. One of my more exciting discoveries is that Kombucha is like water on the UES. I can even get it at the C-Town on my block.
On an ideal day, I do get 30 minutes of cardio in, though I’m not sure the elliptical really counts as cardio. There are two New York Sports Clubs conveniently located within blocks of my apartment. When I really feel like torturing myself, I go to Bikram Yoga or SoulCycle, both on 83nd and 2nd Ave.
Food is important. In particular, I can’t live without bagels (it is literally listed as an interest on my resume, which is admittedly kind of lame). No East Side bagel shop has been able to hold a candle to Absolut Bagels, but Tal Bagels (86th St between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave) passes muster, and Sable’s (2nd Ave between 77th St & 78th St) apparently has the best smoked salmon in NYC.
While the Upper East Side doesn’t have the best restaurants in the city, it does have some great ones. For dinner, I like Café D’Alsace (French, 2nd Ave between 88th St & 89th St), Beyoglu (Mediterranean, 3rd Ave between 80th St and 81st St), JG Melon (burgers, 3rd Ave between 74th & 75th), Pinocchio (Italian, 1st Ave between 90th St & 91st St), Cascabel (Tex-Mex, 2nd Ave between 80th St & 81st St), and Shake Shack (86th St between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave).
Liquor stores, bars, and pharmacies per capita are disturbingly high on the UES, as are psychologists. There are a plethora of sports bars, most of them undistinguishable from one another at this point. I’ve been told that I need to find one that does buybacks like Swigs, which I have yet to visit. There are a few good bars/places to drink like Trinity (84th St between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave). It’s more of a restaurant than a bar, but Liberatador (89th St & 2nd Ave) has a cucumber Caparinha dubbed 89 Street that is delicious. The beer selection on the UES is generally piss-poor, which surprises me greatly. There are very few craft beers to be found. A new beer store/bar called City Swiggers (86th St between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave) remedies that problem.
For dessert, Two Little Red Hens has the best cupcakes in NYC hands-down, possibly the world.
When I’m not drinking or eating, which is rare, I appreciate the proximity to Central Park, the East River, and the best museums in the world.
Lastly, I think the new Fairway on 86th between 2nd and 3rd Ave should be reason enough to relocate to or stay on the UES.
After two months, I have grown to love the Upper East Side. It is a real neighborhood (I actually know my neighbors!), and the lifestyle is comfortable and convenient. We’re all New Yorkers leading incredibly busy lives. In Brooklyn, I would have to walk half a mile to do most of the things I would want or need to do. On the UES, everything is within a three-block radius of my apartment. I’m also pretty sure it’s possible to get a manicure at any time of day. These little things make life a whole lot easier.