Earlier this week, I went to a small dinner at the home of Bill Wachtel and Ann Zabar, of the famed specialty food shop Zabar's on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The meal was prepared by chef Ed Brown, who has finally broken away from his post of many years at The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center to launch eighty one on the Upper West Side (opening in December). The dinner was great (with very little fish!). Not surprisingly, practically all the journalists there live within 12 blocks of eighty one's future location. Clearly, those of us who are die-hard UWS'ers are eager to see the neighborhood get some promising restaurants and talk of this dominated the table. So where does the UWS food mafia eat now? Here's the list:

1. Ouest (Tom Valenti's incredibly consistent American food, which leans more towards winter even in summer, still takes the prize as best on the UWS.)
2. Telepan (Polished seasonal cooking from chef Bill Telepan.)
3. Nice Matin (Great bistro food, especially at lunch.)
4. Celeste (Better-than-average Italian; very cheap, but also very crowded and loud.)
5. Café Fiorello (Italian food near Lincoln Center, great for alfresco dining; one journalist said she loves having wine and antipasti here.)
6. Pio Pio (For awesome Peruvian chicken and super-crisp tostones.)

Everyone was really enthusiastic about the other places coming to the neighborhood in the next six months or so, like the Mermaid Inn, Bar Boulud, Tom Valenti's as-yet-unnamed brasserie, and new places by Zak Pelaccio (Fatty Crab) and John Fraser (formerly of Compass).