Smoked sturgeon and shish kebab are among the oldest dishes served between West 59th and 110th Streets.. From arson attacks and kitchen disasters, to movie stars and lucky lottery numbers, Upper West Side restaurants embody unique stories of an Upper West Side past and present. The Upper West Side attracts intellectuals and creatives with its famous Lincoln Center and its Columbia University affiliates near West 110th Street. As the neighborhood became increasingly desirable for wealthy young people, an aggressive battle for development ensued.
The neighborhood was historically home to Jewish, Irish, and Caribbean immigrants, as well as African Americans who lived in the old San Juan Hill neighborhood that was demolished to create Lincoln Center. Pandemic-related hardships and the ever-increasing cost of rent in the area have unfortunately led to the disappearance of some long-standing local neighborhood restaurants, such as La Caridad 78. Some flavors of an older Upper West Side remain, however, in the form of a few persistent resisters. Here are seven of the Upper West Side’s oldest restaurants with dining options.
1. Barney Greengrass (founded 1908)
Between W 86th and W 87th streets on Amsterdam Avenue, the legacy of “The Sturgeon King” remains intact. Barney Greengrass originally opened his appetizing store in Harlem in 1908 and moved it to Amsterdam Avenue in 1929. In 1938 Barney Greengrass expanded to include a restaurant. Now Barney Greengrass’ grandson Gary Greengrass oversees the restaurant, continuing the 110-year-old family management. The restaurant and grocery store specialize in smoked sturgeon and other smoked fish.
In 1939, Barney Greengrass received an order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who wanted sturgeon shipped to him in Georgia. According to Gary Greengrass, the nickname “The Sturgeon King” comes from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speechwriter, Sam Rosenman. The establishment also appears as an Upper West Side classic in 30 Rock, Revolutionary Roadand Extremely loud and incredibly close.
Barney Greengrass has survived his fair share of setbacks, including a temporary closure due to a health breach, pandemic closures and a recent arson attack. According to Zagat, Barney Greengrass’ solid reputation for selling take-out items and shipping his sturgeons has helped him stay afloat during the pandemic.