Wells didn’t really pan the Upper West Side in this article; he’s just saying there are no, or maybe there’s one exciting destination restaurant that serves revelatory food. I live in the East Village, so I don’t go to the Upper West Side just to go to a restaurant.
However, I’ve noticed that in the years since I last lived in the neighborhood (2011), the restaurants have significantly increased in diversity, while my mainstays have remained in business. When I have another reason to be somewhere near 104 St. and Broadway, I like to get the shawarma combo at Jerusalem Restaurant. The last time I got one a couple of months ago, it was possibly better than ever, and I think they serve some of the tastiest shawarma I’ve had in Manhattan.
I’ve had only one meal so far at Awadh, but it was great and was the best meal I had had at a non-vegetarian Indian restaurant perhaps since I visited London (in 2010 - and their Indian food outclasses what we can get here by a tremendous margin). That might be the closest to a destination restaurant for me in that neighborhood, but it does suffer from the New York Indian restaurant problems of serving overly rich food (too much oil and ghee) that upset my stomach, and also a bit too much salt (a very common problem in New York, generally). But at least nothing was oversweetened like everything but the papadams at my last (and I probably really mean last) meal at Malai Marke a few months ago.
I always liked Kefi when I was living up there, but I haven’t been there for at least a couple of years now.
El Malecon and Flor de Mayo remain dependable places for tasty pollo a la brasa, and Flor de Mayo has had some tasty Peruvian food for a few years now.
There are also other places near the northern end of Columbus Avenue that are quite good. I’ve been to Freda’s fairly recently and love their coconut rice that accompanies the rest of the tasty food. The nearby Crepes on Columbus served quite a pleasant brunch when I joined a friend there some time last year.
I think any frustration about the Upper West Side now is overblown. It hasn’t been a restaurant desert for a while now. And there’s always the subway.