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Favorite Upper West Side Restaurants, Part Deux

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I haven't cooked too much this week, with the exception of me and Dan's homebrewing adventure last weekend (post to come, but I'm struggling to capture with words the many trips back and forth to Bed Bath and Beyond before we landed on the right strainer/funnel situation) and some simple weeknight meals, which I'll probably write-up later in the week. And when we're not cooking, we're eating out! So I figured it was time for another installment of Upper West Side restaurants recommendations. For part one, click here.

Cafe Tallulah (71 and Columbus) This place is right on our block and hasn't been open long. The food is pretty yummy and they just redid their menu so the prices have become more reasonable. But mostly, we like this bistro for the moules-frites, one dollar oyster happy hour and the fantastic cocktails. Especially since whenever we sit not at the bar, we find ourselves unable to unoverhear the self-centered jerks on dates around us. For some reason, this spot seems to attract middle aged men in sport coats bragging to their poor dates about brunches of weekends past, probably because it's one of the few "downtowny" spots on the UWS. But, if you get there earlier in the night (again, OYSTER HAPPY HOUR!!) and sit at the bar with a favorite person, it's quite nice. Split their burger, the frisee salad, some oysters and order off their specialty cocktail menu for a really nice, hits-the-spot kind of meal.

FUN FACT: I've spotted Tony Danza here on more than one occasion and he's the smiliest, nicest guy ever. I also saw Debra Messing waiting outside once. Could my life BE any more fancy!?

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Chirping Chicken (Amsterdam at 77) When I worked at Crumbs on the Upper West Side, this was the absolute first choice when it came to lunch or dinner break. I had one friend/coworker who would always get a turkey burger with fries, but the rest of us explored the menu, which varies from wings to roasted chicken to souvlaki. After a day of working with tooth-achingly sweet cupcakes, these meals, which always come with home-cooked sides like yellow rice, house salad, mashed potatoes or mac & cheese, fed our souls just as much as our bellies and appetites. Plus, returning there recently has reminded me what a great deal Chirping really is. Huge portions help a $10 to $15 meal carry into at least two meals. Gotta love a leftover.

Piccolo Cafe (Amsterdam between 74 & 75) This Italian cafe popped up between the time I moved out of the west 70's and the time I moved back and I couldn't be more grateful for the neighborhood addition. Piccolo has a few locations around the city, but I definitely believe that none is more well-situated than this one, where its newspaper-plastered walls and sometimes too-tiny reclaimed tables sit amidst greasy, old school UWS diners and delis. Incredibly fresh and authentic Italian food (handmade pasta, impeccable espresso, expertly composed secondi dishes, a brunch dish of poached egg with lobster on a croissant that's perfection) is among the best in the city, but beats the prices and sometimes too uptight feel at the Mareas of the world. Their menu is vast and you'll often hear an Italian-speaking waiter shrug, "ehh, we don't have the ravioli today, but we do have...." Whatever they suggest, go with it. I have never once been disappointed.

Easy Weeknight Meals: Spaghetti with Anchovies

Bisquick Hacks: Chocolate Maple Pecan Pancakes