One of few Manhattan neighborhoods that’s managed to preserve its “locals only” vibe, the Upper West Side maintains an air of mystery for many. Live (eat, shop, and unwind) like the locals do with the help of our off-the-beaten-path guide to New York City’s Upper West Side.
Looking to get away from the crowds of Columbia students and swarms of stroller-pushers? Escape to Septuagesimo Uno, a 35-year-old vest park situated between West End and Amsterdam Avenues on 71st Street (“Septuagesimo Uno” is Latin for 71). Occupying a small plot between two Upper West Side buildings, this converted alleyway provides an earthy oasis to in-the-know New Yorkers.
While longtime Upper West Siders know Tom’s Restaurant as a neighborhood diner in business since the 1940s, many will recognize it simply as “the Seinfeld diner.” However, serving as the site of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer’s favorite meeting place isn’t this family-owned eatery’s only claim to fame. For generations, New York noshers have chosen Tom’s for all-day breakfast foods, sandwiches, homemade soups, and more.
Nicholas Roerich's Guests from Overseas | Public Domain / WikiCommons
A three-story townhouse dating back to 1898 serves as the site of the neighborhood’s most unique museum, dedicated solely to one artist. Over 200 paintings are on display at the Nicholas Roerich Museum—all by the institution’s namesake Russian-born painter, poet, and philosopher. As creatively diverse as Roerich himself, the museum also offers poetry readings and classical music performances.
Downtown cool (and German cold ones) finds an uptown address at West End Hall. Reclaimed furniture, a backyard garden, and an international selection of 50 beers and ciders round out the offerings at this urban beer hall. Tip: while the hall’s gourmet grub spans a number of world cuisines, you won’t want to miss the classic giant (and we mean giant) pretzel with spicy mustard and ale cheddar sauce.
For old-school service and contemporary products, look no further than Harry’s Shoes, where modern brands are provided with classic customer care. Since 1931, Upper West Siders have chosen Harry’s when outfitting their feet. Step inside the store to have your feet individually measured by a retro metal machine and receive individualized care from a personal attendant.
For years, Jewish cuisine has reigned supreme on the Upper West Side, but could an Italian renaissance (or another one) be on its way? The crowds of meat-loving locals at Salumeria Rosi suggest this may be the case. At this salumi counter-cum-sit-down restaurant, diners savor homemade pasta, gourmet paninis, and wines, meats, and cheeses from across Italy con gusto.
Satisfy all of your old-school entertainment needs at Westsider Records. Offering CDs, DVDs, and classic paperbacks, this retro business is one of New York City’s top destinations for traditionalists. As its name suggests, Westsider Records’ true claim to fame is its selection of over 30,000 LPs, covering genres from classical to spoken word to soundtracks.
Say “bye-bye” to blockbusters: after discovering the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, you’ll happily move on from mainstream movie theaters. Tucked away in Lincoln Center, this alternative entertainment house showcases the best in independent cinema, screening series, and more. Best of all? Tickets for two and an order of popcorn (a specialty flavor, of course) won’t break the bank here.