Out and About with Eli Zabar, the Man Who Feeds the Upper East Side
by Eli Zabar
Who better way to show us around the Upper East Side than restaurateur and grocer Eli Zabar, a neighborhood icon?
NEW YORK – I emigrated from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side about 40 years ago. I love the West Side, but the tranquility and gentility of the UES is irresistible. I'm in Central Park everyday, running and walking my dogs. I follow the seasons, watching the trees bud out, bloom, shower us with cherry blossoms, and then suddenly the view to the West Side disappears because all the trees are leafed out. I know that view will be back in the autumn as the leaves turn and fall down. It's all in a season. And here’s what’s in a typical perfect Sunday.
Coffee, usually lightly roasted Colombian and the New York Times are for breakfast at home. If we go out, it's usually closer to lunchtime and we go to one of my two restaurants — E.A.T. for lox and eggs or Eli's Table for huevos rancheros. At both places my wife, Devon, orders oatmeal.
We like to stop in to E.A.T. Gifts next door to EAT and see what’s new. It's an endless source of whimsy and amusement, brimming with amazing toys, games, tchotchkes, and housewares.
On Saturdays there are always a lot of runners at Urban Athletics, where I buy my sneakers by the dozen. I like to stick my head in and say hi to Jerry. My wife loves Blue Tree, a gift and jewelry boutique very well curated by Phoebe Cates. Peter Elliot is a must. It's where we bought our son's white bar mitzvah suits.
Our favorite walk is up Fifth Avenue to 96th Street, into Central Park, across the transverse, and then around the playing fields. I love to watch the softball games in summer and the kids' soccer teams in the fall.
When we have errands to run, we stop into Feldman Housewares for household essentials or items that a houseguest may have left at home (most recently, a travel converter for a European friend).
Kitchen Arts and Letters is an incredible food-and-drink bookstore where we can spend hours reading about things we will probably never cook. My wife loves Tender Buttons, a tiny, magical shop devoted to buttons. Just buttons — the kind you need and the kind that are works of art.
While she shops — she's better at it then I am — I may head back to Eli's Table to review that night's menu and new dishes with the chef. He walks the market daily to pick the freshest ingredients for our dishes. And, of course, someone needs to taste them.
If Devon and I are in the mood for a dinner out, we'll usually stop by Eli's Table for a glass of wine and an appetizer and then maybe have dinner at Table d'Hote, a classic UES hole-in-the-wall that's run by a former chef from Gramercy Tavern. If we're in the mood for Japanese, we'll go to Kappo Masa because Masa is so nice. It's another island of tranquility in this crazy world.