The Best Ethnic Restaurants in New York City’s Upper East Side

Spring rolls
Spring rolls | © jonathanvalencia5 / Pixabay
Julia Goicochea

There’s nothing like surveying Central Park or meandering down Museum Mile to work up an appetite. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far from New York City’s most famous attractions to experience its under-the-radar eats. From curious Cambodian bites to unforgettable South African flavors, here are the best ethnic restaurants on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

1. Angkor Cambodian Bistro

Restaurant, Asian

Even in New York City, Cambodian cuisine can be hard to come by, which makes Angkor Cambodian Bistro an even more delicious find. At this Thrillist pick, adventurous eaters will have their choice of curry-smothered fish stuffed with prawns and scallops, fiery deep-fried duck with pineapple and tamarind sauce, and sweet sticky rice and corn coconut milk pudding.

2. Heidelberg

Diner, Restaurant, German

One of the United States’ oldest German restaurants, Heidelberg is the local’s pick for the best wurst in town. Modern-day diners can’t get enough of the Heidelberg’s “old world German cuisine,” which includes creamy cheese spätzle, sausages, and dumplings in beef stock. A throwback to Yorkville’s days as a predominately German neighborhood, this Upper East Side eatery will make you feel like you are traveling across the world and back in time.

3. Drunken Munkey

Diner, Restaurant, Indian, Fusion

The Drunken Munkey, East 92nd Street
Courtesy of Drunken Munkey

Described as “Anglo-Indian cuisine,” the centuries-old fusion fare at Drunken Munkey only tastes modern. Colonial-influenced Indian cooking is what’s on the menu at this Upper East Side spot, where London curried chicken dosa, five-spice lamb chops with apple-butter chutney, and beef meatballs with whole spices and boiled eggs are savored by an eclectic group of diners.

4. Cascabel Taqueria

Restaurant, Mexican

Offering exciting specials, including taco flights, bottomless brunches, and all-you-can-eat tacos, on different days of the week, Cascabel Taqueria is always a good choice. Influenced by the markets of Mexico, this down-to-earth taqueria tops fresh tuna belly, beer-braised tongue, and hand-pulled Amish chicken tacos with house-made salsas and hot sauces.

5. Sushi Seki

Restaurant, Sushi, Japanese

© Sushi Seki
© Sushi Seki

Japanese cuisine finds a stateside home at Sushi Seki. One of many sushi spots on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Sushi Seki stands out for its unpretentious atmosphere, non-traditional sushi and sashimi, and late-night hours. Splurge on the sushi joint’s inspired omakase, and you’ll be rewarded with salmon and seared tomato sushi, spicy scallop rolls, fresh Hokkaido oysters, and more.

6. Beyoglu

Restaurant, Bar, Cafe, Turkish, Mediterranean

Move over, Metropolitan Museum of Art: Turkish hot spot Beyoglu may be the true masterpiece of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Situated just a stone’s throw from the international art institution, Beyoglu’s Mediterranean menu items, including fan-favorite hummus, chilled eggplant salad, and mixed meat platters, attract tourists and locals alike.

7. Pio Pio 3

Restaurant, Peruvian, French

Come hungry to Pio Pio 3, the Upper East Side outpost of New York City’s popular Peruvian chicken chain. Here, whole chickens—prepared in the traditional rotisserie style and served with fan-favorite “green sauce”—come with generous portions of sausage and French fries, rice and black beans, fried plantains, and more (a lot more).

8. Kaia Wine Bar

Restaurant, Bar, South African

Wines, which hail from across South Africa, may be the focus at Kaia Wine Bar, but the spot’s South African eats threaten to steal the show. Earning Kaia its Michelin recommendations three years in a row are authentic ethnic plates, such as wild boar sliders, mussels steamed in beer and spices, and the fan-favorite “bunnychow,” which you’ll want to taste before you judge.

9. Xi’an Famous Foods

Restaurant, Chinese

Xi’an Famous Foods
© Jason Lam / Flickr

Count on an alum of New York food mecca Queens’ Golden Shopping Mall to bring authentic Chinese flavors to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. At Xi’an Famous Foods, Flushing’s favorite cumin lamb “burgers” and hand-ripped noodles with stewed oxtail or spicy oil are enjoyed by a drastically different (but just as enamored) audience.

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