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Washington Heights food

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Marcia (on the Outer Boroughs board) asked: "Does anybody know of a decent place to eat in Washington Heights/Upper (way-upper) Manhattan? I'm sick of cooking."

I moved to the area (160s) about a month ago, and amidst all the unpacking, I haven't had *that* much time to explore, but here's what I've found so far.

Carribean Bakery, Amsterdam between 160 and 161. A limited selection of Caribbean food (chicken, beef in various curry sauces, moist rice and beans) from a steam table. It looks like a bakery with only cookies, but ask for rice and beans, and they open up the steam table behind the glass cookie case. Limited English, but point and they'll give you what you want. Not pretty to look at, but very tasty. $4 for a huge tin container that fed me for dinner and lunch the next day. Somebody mentioned to me that the coconut macaroons are very tasty, but I haven't tried them yet.

El Presidente-- 165 and Broadway. Latin American food (Dominican, maybe? I'm still learning all the different cuisines) in a diner with a fairly English-friendly menu and staff. I enjoyed the chicken mofongo a great deal, and the papaya shake is very tasty. Again, inexpensive for a lot of food. (If you search, you'll find a longer post from me about this place from about a month back.)

Devin's fry place-- 148 and St. Nick. Good, tasty fish and chips, fried to order. Also, shrimp and chips (which I've never tried) and few other limited items. I found this place because a woman walked into my building carrying a box, which smelled incredible, so I asked. I'm very glad I did. $4.50 for F&C.

I had heard good things about Carrot Top (164 and Broadway), but I personally wasn't that impressed. Carrot cake was only okay (could have been moister and more carroty tasting, ratio of frosting/cake wasn't to my taste [nearly an inch of frosting]), and danish were huge and inexpensive (8 pieces for $11), but soggy and so sweet they made my teeth ache. One of the most un-croissant-like croissants I've ever had.

For an amusing experience, you can go to (or order from) Tex-Mex Mexican Food on St. Nick and 163. Brand new place, run by Chinese folks. The food's not even remotely authentic, but they make their own "tortillas" fresh daily (think mooshu pancakes, and you're on the right track). Their spinach Enchi Ladas (that's the spelling on the menu) are made with baby Asian spinach. Their menu (very funny menu) claims they don't use MSG or Laid. Gotta love it! :)

For further up (Inwood, etc.), do a search for an earlier thread on Washington Heights. People recommend a bagel place on 181 (don't go on Saturday, like I did-- they're closed), a Mexican place, an Indian place, etc. And please, please, please, report back if you find any places worth mentioning.

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  1. Washington Heights has tons of wonderful homestyle Spanish food places. I've tried most of the restaurants mentioned by Beth above. Here are my favorites, as a resident of over 30 years I can say these places are usually quite consistent and quick. The places I usually order for delivery or take out from are: Comedor Economico on the corner of 180th and Audubon Avenue and Comedor Economico on Broadway between 160th and 161st Street. Both offer family style spanish food: rice and beans and rotisserie chicken are always available as are other dishes for lunch and dinner. Margot's Restaurant on Broadway btwn 159th and 160th is also great. My other favorite is El Malecon on Broadway and 175th St. this is a full service restaurant that also caters. Never fear for a quick and easy dinner in Washington Heights, these offer family sized orders for between $10 and $15.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Maria Garcia

      Wow! Thanks, Maria! I hope that you'll share more of your knowledge of the area with us. El Malecon has been mentioned here before, but the rest are all new to me and very close by, which I appreciate.

      I'll definitely try some and report back.

      1. re: Maria Garcia

        Does anyone know a good Italian food cater in Washington Heights or Manhattan

      2. Thanks for the info on Washington Heights places. I will certainly try out the ones you suggest. Also, thanks for reminding me that WH is in Manhattan. After living here for 11 years the why-don't-you-come-into-the-city attitude has gotten to me. (There used to be a cable-tv show called "Washington Heights Is Not In the Bronx.") Now for the food:
        The bagel place on 181 recently changed owners...and recipes. It's just not as good, although they have a sign in the window that says they make whole-wheat bagels (I can remember when I couldn't even get a cup of brewed decaf in the 'hood).
        There is an Indian restaurant, Kismat, on Ft. Washington and 187 that is good. In fact, people up here thought they'd died of happiness when it opened, but truly it's...good. Not great. Not something to hop on the A train for. But people around here eat there once a week. There's such a limited supply of decent restaurants. The other good place is Jesse's, on 181, between Ft. Washington and Cabrini (it might be Pinehurst--anyway, it's west of Ft. Washington, toward the Hudson). Good music (tapes, often 3rd world), good people, excellent wraps. I like their tangine chicken, which is roasted vegetables and chicken and some sort of tangine sauce. Good hummus too. Finally, there's a chicken place I've only ever ordered from, but it's in the 170s on Broadway. Called Malecon, it serves Dominican food. The roast chicken and rice and beans is very tasty, and cheap--$7.75 for a whole chicken, which comes with rice and beans (or other sides). Let me know what you think of any of these places, and if you learn about anyplace else. I don't know if this is in the domain of chowhound, but I wish I knew of a good fish store in the neighborhood. Anybody?

        4 Replies
        1. re: marcia

          Ohhh, I'm so disappointed about the bagels! I was very excited to hear that there were great ones so close (although my hubbie thought I was nuts to take the subway to 181 to get bagels). I'm personally a big Essa fan, but I was so looking forward to trying a particularly good example of what people consider a more "old-style" (misshapen, denser) bagel.

          I did try the bagels at 168 and Broadway (Mike's Bagels), which looked promising (a bagels-only place that bakes on premises, etc.), but they were only okay-- chewy inside, but not crunchy on the outside. I also tried Fairway's bagels (recommended to me by someone), but they were even more disappointing-- bread with a hole in the middle. Yech.

          Does anyone have any other recommendations for bagels (or pastry, especially croissants) in the area? I know it's the wrong neighborhood to be looking, but maybe there's something...

          And how about PIZZA? I'm willing to travel down to Patsy's now and again, but it's too far for a weekly fix.

          Oh, and does anybody in the area have a PET? I already posted to the "not about food" board but no one responded. I would hate to just pick a vet out of the phone book.

          Thanks!

          1. re: Beth

            There are two vets--One on Cabrini and 181, the other on 187, between Ft. Washington and Cabrini (actually Pinehurst). I don't have a pet but people I know who do seem to like these two places.
            Bagels, croissants--can't help you there. But have you tried the two Jewish bakeries--both called Gruenbaum's, I believe--one on 181 between Ft. Washington and Broadway, the other on 187 between Ft. Washington and Pinehurst? They are owned by the same people, and these are the places to go for challah, rye bread, and the kind of cakey brownies with icing and nuts you used to get before brownies became candy bars. Both of these places recently renovated and lost the old-world charm they'd had previously but not their recipes, thanken Gutt.
            Jeff (I think) asked about the Russian places west of Broadway. I don't know of any restaurants, but I'd love to hear of some. The Russian place on 181 and Ft. Washington is great for takeout and supplies. They have all these homemade things, the names of which I don't know. I just ask what's inside. Whatever I've tried hasn't disappointed me yet. Sometimes there are homemade blintzes, with various fillings. Good cheese selection (for the neighborhood), interesting breads (packaged, but not Wonder), nuts and dried fruit by the bin, candies and jams and other stuff with words written in Cyrillic. Halvahs and jelly candies that remind me of my parents' Saturday night poker games. Good homemade pastries too. And smoked fish, salamis, sausages. I can't tell you much about what things are called. Just point. People are very nice. There's another place just off 181, on Bennett (I think), and it too has interesting looking stuff, although not so much homemade. I like the first one I told you about (it has a ridiculous name--something like Smart Choice)so much that I tend to just go there. It has the right smell--salty, smoky, woody somehow.
            Finally, there's a place on Ft. Washington, south of 187, called Cafe Santiago. It's a coffee bar, owned by the same people who have Cafe Bleu. They make decent coffee and lattes and all that. They also make soups, wraps, sandwiches, carrot juice (if you like that sort of thing. I don't, but a friend of mine swears by their carrot juice). They have an outdoors patio with tables set up in the back. It's kind of upper-West-Side-y, but when you live so far uptown you miss it. Washington Height's answer to Starbuck's.

            1. re: marcia

              We take our dog and two cats to Ansonia Vet. Center on W. 75th. We tried the vet on 187th and were not happy with the care. Haven't tried the one on 181 and Cabrini, but have heard mixed reviews. There's a pretty good vet, Scott Luckow in Riverdale, but I've found Ansonia to be consistently good and easier to get to.

          2. re: marcia

            i lived in this hood for a few months. when i got there a cafe opened up on 168th of off (i think) broadway. right across from the hospital. i htink it's called CAFE JOU JOU. they have good ssandwiches and soups, and i think pretty nice linzer tarts. it's a good lunch place when your strapped in that area.

          3. Great message, Beth (and Maria, too).

            How about those Russian places toward the west?

            ciao

            1. Guys--Try La Cabana Salvadorena (El Salvadorean) and let me know what you think! We really liked it, especially compared to the other local choices (it's 4384 B-way, diagonally across from Key Food at 187th). Did write about this place before but under a lousy heading like "miscellaneous." 2 adults and toddler loved the chicken with onions, fruit drinks, papusas. They'll make vegetarian things on request (easier if you speak Spanish). The place isn't amazingly clean, but they make the food to order and with a lot of care. A long Wash Heights thread was in Jan/Feb, I think?

              Jim--also haven't seen any Russian restaurants up here. We also recommend Smart Choice for the Golden Key chocolates,, dried fruit pastry, and other takeout. More selection than the place on Bennett and 181 and better service--and cleaner--than the one on B'way and 189th. None of these places come close to a visit to Brighton Beach, not yet. (The places in WH probably get all their food from BB.)

              Also, anyone recommend Galicia at 4083 B'way?

              2 Replies
              1. re: alison

                I'll definitely try it, Alison. It's just a question of when. I'm very excited about all the posts about this area, and I'm printing them out so that I can refer to them while out and about.

                So many places to eat, so few meals a day!

                1. re: alison

                  On Alison's recommendation, I finally got around to trying La Cabana Salvadorena (Broadway at 187th) last night. Small place, about ten tables and two waitresses who were doing a good part of the food prep as well. We were the only gringos but didn't feel unwelcome at all. Smallish menu (Spanish one side, somewhat misleading English on the other side) with a good selection of papusas, tamales, mixed plates with egg, etc. Also lots of interesting drinks.

                  Ordering was fine, although the waitress wasn't keen on my butchered attempts at Spanish; she preferred to use her English, which was fine for ordering, as long as we didn't have a million questions. My husband and I tried a cheese papusa and a bean papusa. Obviously homemade, fresh and tasty enough, but more tasty with hot sauce (on every table). Then I had a plate with tortillas, huevos rancheros, sour cream and beans. I liked the super-thick tortillas (again, homemade, I'm pretty sure), and the slightly spicy tomato-y sauce on the egg. My husband had plato typica-- skirt steak, cheese papusa, tamale (choice of chicken or cheese-- he got chicken on the waitress' recommendation) and salsa fresca. Steak was a little tough (for $5 what else is it going to be?), salsa was tasty and very fresh but WOW that tamale! Moist corn, moist chicken with almost a dry rub of unidentifiable spices. It was heavenly, the highlight of the meal by far. Horchatas tasted slightly like they were premade or from a mix or something. Still tasty, loaded with sugar and sweet spices.

                  Only two dessert selections-- sweet corn atole, which they were out of, and "cheesecake" (written as "quesidilla" (!) on the Spanish side) which actually turned out to be like Thomas' toaster corn cakes but much better. Slightly gritty corn meal, but still moist, lightly sweetened but offset by a little bit of cheesy saltiness. I also had a mamey (is that persimmon, anyone?) batida, and hubbie had a cafe listo (translated, amusingly enough, as "coffee listo"), which turned out to be like a cappuccino. Either the coffee was specially flavored and spiced for the drink (almond and cinnamon, maybe?), or the house coffee is slightly almondy. Batida was good, but coffee was yummy.

                  Service was fine (lots of water refills), and the total tab came to $18 with tip. We were totally stuffed.

                  There was some kind of sweetish cole slaw/sauerkraut stuff in a jar on every table, but I didn't know what to do with it and didn't see anyone else using it. Anybody know?

                  I will definitely go back and have a tamale-fest. Great find, Alison-- thanks for sharing!

                2. Hispaniola around 180-181st street(Ft.Wash),Galacia restaraunt around 172-73rd st.(Ft.Wahington))Or Coogan's which is a cool Irish bar and eatery between 168th and 169th st.(Broadway)around Columbia presbyterian hospital(168th st)Enjoy!