I first heard of Uva when an ex-boyfriend of mine recently moved into an apartment around the corner from the intimate Upper East Side establishment.  So when I declined his offer to grab a drink there after work one day (no, it wasn’t like that), I always kept it in the back of my mind and it seemed like the perfect place to grab dinner and wine on Friday night with my friend Lindsay, who happened to know the bartender.

The place was packed, dimly lit and full of energy.  We sat at the bar where she ordered a vodka and soda (standard, she said), and I ordered the red wine sangria (really tasty!).  Upon viewing the menu, I decided to go for the Strozzapreti Integrali (whole wheat penne with tomatoes and melted mozzarella) and Lindsay opted for a variation of Pasta Bolognese.  Both were delicious and worth the price tag (I usually can’t justify spending $17 on pasta).  

Uva would probably make a great date spot for grabbing wine or dinner.  I think it’s definitely worth of a return trip.  If you’re ever in the neighborhood, you should definitely check it out.   

I suggested to a guy I went on a date with on Monday night that we go to Shalel, on the Upper West Side (70th and Columbus).  Considering that he is new to the city, I knew it probably wasn’t somewhere he’d been before.  In fact, I hardly hear anyone mention it.  I was afraid it would be too girly or romantic (for a second date, at least) but he thought it was amazing.  I did good, I guess.  

The dim lighting, candles, and cavernous-like booths makes this the perfect date spot.  Although the menu was a bit hard to read and required us holding a candle up to the menu to chose drinks.   I can’t remember the ingredients of what was in the drinks that we had, but each and every one was tasty – although my second choice was a bit too tart.  

The staff was incredibly friendly and didn’t rush us in the least, which was nice because we stayed for over three hours.  Drink prices were moderate ($12).  This was my second time to Shalel and I’ll definitely be back for a third in the near future.  

(photo via yelp – not my photo, taking a photo on a date would’ve been awkward!)

I caught up with a friend on Sunday for brunch and when he suggested Bourbon Street on Restaurant Row I was happy to oblige his request.  I’m on a kick to try new restaurants so this was a welcomed suggestion.   

I looked up the menu and decided ahead of time on a salad.  Immediately upon viewing the brunch menu when we sat down though, I changed my order to a spicy pasta dish with chicken.  Something that is NOT advertised on their menu is the unlimited bloody marys and mimosas that come with your meal when you order from the brunch menu.  So for $20, you get a meal and unlimited mimosas or bloody marys.  THAT is a great deal.  

I had two mimosas (hey, they came with the meal) and my dish was incredibly spicy but immensely tasty, while the portion size was generous but not gross.  I didn’t feel like I was going to be sick afterward.  

We sat on the second level overlooking the entire downstairs of the restaurants, as well as the large flat screen TVs that were hung on the walls (as per the subpar picture that I took, as you can see above).  My only complaint was the service which was a bit slow, but I think it was because our waiter was the only person taking care of upstairs and doing a hundred things at once.  

I will definitely be back to Bourbon Street at some point.  It is easily one of the most wallet friendly brunches on Restaurant Row, especially with the $20 brunch special.  

Thursday night was supposed to be spent with Mallory and Amy downtown at Village Tart, but when Mallory was wildly behind the packing up of her apartment, Amy and I redirected ourselves to Landmarc in the Time Warner Center.  After nearly 6 years in the city and almost 2 years living on the UWS, I’d yet to have a meal here, so I was excited.

Amy had been craving a burger, so that’s exactly what ordered and when I saw a chicken sandwich on the menu, my mouth watered.  We both added cheese and also ordered a half bottle of a sweet Merlot.  The bread that was served prior to the meal was fresh and palatable.  Our main courses arrived and were so tender that they were dripping.  The side salads were also delicious and luckily the fries that were served with our sandwiches weren’t plentiful.  I don’t think I would’ve had room for them if there was more than a handful.

The food was excellent and very moderately priced as far as dinner in New York goes (our meals were $15 each), especially in the Time Warner Center.  This is the perfect after-work spot, located at 10 Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center at 59th Street.  

(photo via)

On Saturday night, since Amanda needed a reason to leave the house, a few of us on the Upper West Side rallied together after a considerably lazy Saturday and made our way to Fred’s Restaurant (83rd and Amsterdam) for dinner.    Now this literally IS a place I’ve walked by a hundred times and after having contemplated going in about 100 times, I always keep going.  I was excited to try it after having read that they have amazing macaroni and cheese.  

We had a fifteen minute wait and had drinks at the bar in the meantime.  I was served sangria is a TUMBLER (only $8!).  "That’s going to end well,“ remarked Amanda.  The bar area has the atmosphere akin to a college bar.  The wait was quick and we were seated in the main room – which is covered in pictures of dogs (hence the establishments name!).  We were served fresh(-ish) bread and ordered after a quick-look at the menu.  One Yelp reviewer was right – the food did a long time to come, but after being in one-too-many restaurants where my food came out in ten minutes (meaning it was prepared and not fresh by any means), I’ve become okay with waiting for my food.  Fresh food is better than quick food.

The macaroni and cheese was delicious!  Supposedly the turkey burgers were fantastic as well.  I definitely want to go back to Fred’s at some point to try the salads, and possibly the turkey burger.  

So on Friday night, we (Amy, Mallory, and myself) had one of our dinners that we have every so often but this time we decided to take our dining out onto dry land and not cook for ourselves.  In an effort still to be cheap save money, Amy and I immediately thought of Bianca.  Bianca is a charming little hole in the wall in the East Village that you’ve probably walked by a thousand times.  The inside (see above) is cozy and dimly lit.  It’s located on Bleecker and Bowery, doesn’t take reservations, or credit cards.  It’s totally worth the wait, the trip downtown, to the ATM though.  The food is to die for.  Homemade pasta, raviolis, etc.  

The five of us split an appetizer, a bottle of wine (red), each had entrees, and desserts, and our total bill was $115 (I think).  So it’s pretty cheap considering the quality of the food (the portions are smaller than your average portions in America, but we’ll consider that a positive attribute!).

(photo via)

Like I said yesterday, I’ve lived on the Upper West Side for almost two years.  Well, it took nearly two years but it happened last Sunday.  I finally got to try Isabella’s, on Columbus and 77th, when my family came in to celebrate my birthday (a bit early) with me.  There was a twenty five minute wait but it was well worth it.

I had the Grilled Skewered Chicken, which was Greek salad with a few skewers of chicken, fries, and Tzatziki dipping sauce.  It was great.  The strawberry butter that is served with the muffins is also to die for.  I also had a bite of the Caramelized Banana Stuffed French Toast, which was quite tasty.  

All entrees for brunch come with a choice of beverage (alcoholic ones included!).  Everyone at the table enjoyed their meals and prices were insanely reasonable for the quality of food that you’re getting, the service was good too.  If you’re on the Upper West Side and looking for brunch, you have to try Isabella’s.  

(picture via)