Murray Hill, tucked away in the Eastern side of Midtown, is a quieter neighborhood growing in popularity for its hidden dining gems: restaurants previously underestimated by the rest of New York City’s residents. Here are a few restaurants that put Murray Hill on the gastro map of Manhattan.
Michelin-starred Kajitsu is New York City’s only restaurant serving shojin ryori—an ancient Zen Buddhist cooking style that follows Buddhism’s nonviolent beliefs by foregoing meat in its dishes. All of Kajitsu’s menus use fresh, seasonal ingredients on specially-selected pottery pieces, crafted by both modern artists as well as ancient Japanese potters. Kajitsu’s new location in Murray Hill places it close to Japanese tea bar Ippodo and Kokage, a more casual Japanese restaurant.
Upland’s California-inspired cuisine is a star of New York City’s restaurant scene. Its menu is simply sophisticated and accessible to diners of all palates: chef Justin Simillie, formerly of Il Buco Alimentari, delivers consistently delicious meals in his whole crispy mushroom, beef tartare, Estrella pasta, and bucatini cacao e pepe, amongst many more. Upland is named after the San Bernardino County town where Smillie grew up. Its dining area evokes a country feel, similar to the chef’s upbringing.
Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza
Murray Hill’s Vezzo offers a thin crust that’s a refreshing change from New York City’s traditional pizza. Vezzo’s crispy, cracker-thin pizza crust supports a surprising range of toppings while staying reasonably priced.
Penelope, open since 2003 with a country charm, does triple duty as a café, bakery, and wine bar. Penelope’s kitchen features primarily comfort food with a southern feel, serving separate breakfast, brunch, and lunch-dinner menus. You can find everything from Nutella French toast to fontina mac & cheese, with plenty of sweet treats to finish off your meal. Penelope’s founder, Jennifer Potenza, calls the restaurant a “patchwork quilt” of her previous experiences in a variety of restaurants throughout the east coast and New York City. Penelope’s namesake is a nineteen-year-old turtle—available by appointment only.