Central Park Zoo is a great place. Many New Yorkers seem to forget that it even exists. It has high quality monkey and exotic bird exhibits. The penguin exhibit is also a favorite, especially among children. During the school year, this zoo is frequented my children taking school trips. If you find yourself walking through central park aimlessly (like many people) consider checking the zoo.
H & H Bagels is legendary in the Upper West and Upper East sides of Manhattan. The bagels are simply the best. They are baked to perfection, unmatched by any other bagel store. There are good bagel places throughout New York, leading one to believe that all bagels are created equal, but one visit to to H & H will quickly demolish that theory.
Nick's Pizza is great. It's always packed on Fridays and Saturdays, and you will need to wait on line to get in. I have been there many times, and the pizza is always fresh and delicious. The sauce is high quality and has a subtlety sweet flavor. The calzones are also top notch. The pastas and entrees are all family style and far better than the average Italian restaurant. If you love pizza, you simply MUST go to Nick's at least once.
Go Sushi is among the rare Japanese restaurants that are cheap, give you very large portions, and actually have pretty good food. Most dishes come in bento boxes, which include salad, dumplings, and rice. The chicken teriyaki is pretty good and is very filling. For under $8 you can get a bento box with a coke. This is simply an unbeatable price for the quantity of pretty good food. Go Sushi is a great bang for the buck. A true sushi connoisseur would probably be unhappy with Go Sushi, but if you don't want to spend a lot of money this is the place to go for Japanese food.
Portbobellos is a great pizza place and Italian restaurant. The pizza is always fresh, since the restaurant is very busy and they are constantly making pies. The owner and the workers are very friendly and like to joke around with the customers. Many of the customers are loyal regulars, many of who are from the nearby high school. Portobellos also has salads, pastas, and Italian deserts, such as Zeppolis. Everything is fresh and good. Highly recommended if you want good pizza or fresh pasta and salads.
Mansion is a standard diner. It has a huge menu with everything ranging from eggs to pasta to specialities. Most of the food is quite bad, but the basics are fine. Stick to eggs, burgers, sandwiches, and soup. (The matzoh ball soup is actually quite delicious) Do not order anything more complicated than these items. The prices at mansion are actually quite high. Sandwiches have gone up in price significantly in the past one or two years.
Arturos is the only pizza shop on york avenue for several blocks. The pizza is quite average. The Italian style heroes are standard but good, including the meatball and chicken parm. They also have some pastas, including meat sauce, baked ziti, and marinara, which are ok. The prices are average, about $2 for a slice. If you want some pizza, and live nearby, you could go here. If you want some better pizza, head over to 1st or 2nd avenue.
Italian Village is both a pizza joint and a sit down Italian restaurant. It is often quite busy. The pizza is quite good. In the back of the restaurant there is a dining room with waiter service. They serve basic Italian pastas and entrees such as veal marsala. The pastas cost approximately $10 and are decent. The Penne alla Vodka is surprisingly good and the marsala is pretty good, but a little on the small side.
Ollies is always packed. On a Friday or Saturday night you will always have to wait to get in. The prices are quite average (about $9 for a standard dish). Some excellent dishes include lo mein, which is not greasy and very flavorful, the spare ribs, and the noodle soups. The rest of the dishes are average. The service at Ollies, however, is very bad. They rush you out in order to serve more people. It is not the kind of place where you will want to linger and talk.
Gourmet Wok is a decent Chinese take out place. It is considerably better than most of the countless grundgey take out chinese places scattered across the city. The food is not a greasy mess like many other joints, and the prices are quite cheap. They also have a lunch special which is very reasonable. I stick to the classic chinese food dishes when ordering from Gourmet Wok, such as chicken with broccoli, lo mein, sesame chicken, General Tsos, etc. I recommend choosing Gourmet Wok if you want some good, cheap Chinese food.