Best Bar Food: Popular Restaurants NYC: Upper East Side Bars
You'll find the best bar food at Earl's Beer and Cheese, tiny and newish on the Upper East Side. As popular restaurants in NYC go, this isn't the sort of place you'd know about unless someone told you about it. Located on an unlively, unlovely stretch of Park Avenue–it's across from where the Metro-North tracks break that boulevard in two–and with no signage or awning with which to lure passersby from the cross street of 97th, Earl's Beer and Cheese would be a classic "best bar food" New York City locals-only sort of place… except that the well-curated beer selection here (it changes all the time) and the skillfully, thoughtfully-prepared cheese-based menu (really the best bar food) cry out for, well… for beer and cheese lovers to go a bit out of their way.
We stopped by this slender, slightly kitschy, hopping-even-at-5:00, out of all the Upper East Side bars, to sample what turned out to be some of the best bar food in NYC, and came away converts. The must-get here is the Calabro Mozzarella Grilled Cheese, the creamy, salty, gooey mound of melted lactose balanced brilliantly with vinegary pickles, crunchy potato chips (yes, in the sandwich), and sweetish miso mayo, all served on a toasted English muffin. This is a very nice snack and unique to other bars on the Upper East Side.
Less cheesy (and, frankly, less transcendent for it), was the Earl's Beer and Cheese Asian Rice Gnocchi, which was sauteed and chewy rather boiled and pillowy, set in a spicy beef ragu, unbelievably garlicky, sprinkled with scallions, topped with potato sticks. Not a light dish, but certainly not a bad one either.
And word has definitely gotten around about Earl's Beer and Cheese: even early evening on a Tuesday the place was pretty packed (granted, it doesn't take much of a crowd to make this place feel like a party, but still…) with giddy interns from nearby Mount Sinai downing beers and slathering a tasty-looking Beer Cheese spread onto piles of toast. Definitely worth stopping in if you're in the neighborhood… even if that means traveling to the neighborhood in order to be there.
Earl's Beer and Cheese details
Earl's Beer and Cheese is located on the east side of Park Avenue between 97th and 98th Streets, and is open on weekdays from 4:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight, and on weekends from 1:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. For more information including a sample Earl's Beer and Cheese menu, please see their website, here.