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The Top 5 Historic Upper East Side Restaurants (That Are Still Standing)

  Last modified on June 9th, 2024

Ryan Watts is the owner of Tasty Tours NYC, which offers food tours in four NYC neighborhoods (UES included). 

You might not realize it, but the Upper East Side boasts some of New York City’s most historic restaurants. From century-old diners and German beer halls to classic steakhouses, there are numerous timeless dining options to explore. Today, we want to highlight a few of the neighborhood’s most enduring establishments that have stood the test of time and should be at the top of your bucket list of great restaurants to try in the area.

Lexington Candy Shop (Est. 1925)

Lexington Candy Shop

Photo by Andrew Dupont via Flickr

One of the oldest continuously operating restaurants on the Upper East Side is the ever-popular Lexington Candy Shop. This family-owned establishment will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, having been passed down through three generations. Nestled on the corner of 83rd and Lexington Avenue, Lexington Candy Shop is like a time capsule, with an interior reminiscent of the 1970s, featuring green leather booths and striped wallpaper that you might see at your grandmother’s house. They serve classic American food including burgers, pancakes and sandwiches, but the reason people are lining up each day is to try their handmade Coca-Cola and Chocolate Egg Creams, two nostalgic classic beverages that are becoming harder to find these days.

1226 Lexington Avenue | www.lexingtoncandyshop.com

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Heidelberg Restaurant (Est. 1936)

Heidelberg Upper East Side

Heidelberg Restaurant is the cornerstone of German culinary heritage in the heart of the Upper East Side. Since 1936, this cozy spot transports you to the charming beer halls and taverns of Bavaria, offering a true taste of authentic German food and hospitality. Heidelberg is also recognized as one of the oldest family-run German restaurants in the United States, and it remains one of the few surviving establishments from the era when Yorkville thrived as a vibrant German neighborhood. Here’s a local tip: visit the restaurant at the start of October for an authentic Oktoberfest experience.

1648 Second Avenue | www.heidelberg-nyc.com

We are giving away a $100 gift card to Hoexter’s! Details here.

Isle of Capri (est. 1955)

isle of capri

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One of the oldest Italian spots on the Upper East Side is Isle of Capri. Located on the corner of 61st and 3rd Avenue, this popular eatery serves authentic Neapolitan cuisine and offers a warm and welcoming ambiance. The family-owned restaurant has been a beloved institution since it opened its doors in 1955, offering cherished recipes and culinary traditions. The menu is a celebration of regional specialties from both Northern and Southern Italy, including fan favorites like their Pollo alla Parmigiana and Cappellini con Pomodoro e Basilico.

1028 Third Avenue | www.isleofcapriny.com

View Our Upper East Side History Archives

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Donohue’s Steak House (Est. 1950)

Donohue's Steak House

Photo by Jazz Guy via Flickr

Attention carnivores, this one’s for you. In a city famed for its steakhouses, Donohue’s Steak House is a must-visit for all meat eaters. This classic NYC pub-style steakhouse has been serving prime cuts of beef for over 70 years. They keep their menu simple with prime steaks as the star, complemented by traditional steakhouse options like seafood, burgers, and sandwiches. As you step inside, you’re transported back in time; the dimly lit interior, wood paneling, and plush leather booths create a nostalgic atmosphere.

845 Lexington Avenue | @donohues64

Honorable Mention: Orwashers Bakery (Est. 1916)

Orwashers Upper East Side

Orwashers Bakery may not be a traditional restaurant, but this age-old spot is too good not to mention. Founded by Abraham Orwasher in 1916, this popular bakery has been serving the local community traditional breads and pastries for over a century. My personal favorite is their babka loaf and their traditional raspberry rugelach.

308 East 78th Street | www.orwashers.com

If you’re a local foodie and/or history enthusiast, you should consider coming along on one of Ryan’s upcoming New York City food tours. Tasty Tours NYC offers four different food tours around the city including on the Upper East Side, so if you’re looking for the best-hidden food spots in the neighborhood and are interested in learning about the history of the UES, feel free to book a tour with them. Tours are run daily and start at $79 per person.


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