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Feb 26, 2001 11:44 AM

Luch near Columbia University

  • m

My daughter who is a high school senior is coming with a journalism group to Columbia University for four days. They will be eating lunch in the University area at least two or three days. Any recommendations for a reasonably priced lunch for high schoolers?

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  1. Ollie's Noodle House.

    22 Replies
    1. re: Jason Perlow


      Taste is taste, but have you really eaten at the Ollie's on 112th? What did you have that could possibly pass for acceptable food? That place is truly god-awful. Rancid grease, bad meat, and MSG by the scoopful. Worst Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side, and that's saying a lot.

      Here's a mesage of mine from a while back, with some dated Columbia recommendations; there are other useful suggestions in that thread.

      Please don't go to Ollie's; no one deserves that.


      1. re: Steven Stern

        It's not a question of that one branch. The chain's quality ranges from contempt to beneath contempt. The difference between the two is that the former has a few survivable dishes.

        1. re: Jim Leff

          True enough. But in my experience, the 112th St. branch is the lowest of the bunch. It has to crane its neck to look up at contempt.

          1. re: Steven Stern

            44th & B'way is a close second. To add insult to quality issues, a tiny pile of sesame noodles at that location is now about $6.50 and presented in a very shallow bowl. Entrees there are priced at least $1-2 higher than at other chinese restaurants with better food and more competition nearby. More of a tourist rip-off place, but incredibly convenient.

            That said, Ollies'ss are still fast, easy places to take hungry, non-discerning kids and the overworked wait staff tends to be efficient and friendly.

            1. re: Alison

              Its really not that hideous.

              The fried rice and noodles are fine. Hell we're talking COLLEGE STUDENTS. Most of them eat microvaveable bagel dogs, burritos and ramen noodles purchased from vending machines anyways.

              Amazing that I can walk away practically unscathed by Jim and Steven by border French bashing... but mention Ollies, good grief.


              1. re: Jason Perlow

                When I was young and broke I became violently ill after eating at Ollie's--twice!! (Gave it a second chance at the urging of a so-called friend.) Not even college students deserve that.

                1. re: Chowbabe

                  Oh come on now, rancid grease is half the recipe of fried rice and lo mein and egg rolls. It just aint the same without it.

                  Ollie's isn't half as bad as a takeout/delivery joint named Blue Diamond ("Herro? Bru Diamond?" we used to joke about the guy who answered the phone) we had right by American University in Washington, DC's Tenleytown back in the late 80's. The place was closed down TWICE for health violations and yet everyone still ordered from the place, including myself.

                  I've seen and eaten -WAY- worse Chinese than Ollies.

                  1. re: Jason Perlow

                    "I've seen and eaten -WAY- worse Chinese than Ollies"

                    That may or may not be the case. But advising people toward "better-than-the-very-worst" options is NOT the purpose of these boards or this site (except, of course, when those are the ONLY edible options).

                    That's why I don't pipe in on each and every thread. If I don't have compelling advice to offer a given poster, I cede to those who might have something really good to suggest, rather than dilute the discussion.


                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      Jason "Screw it, I'm not a card carrying Chowhound" Perlow

                      That may be so, but the area immediately surrounding Columbia U. is a complete culinary wasteland. So under these conditions and the parameters that were given I still think Ollies is a good choice, irregardless of whether or not you and Stern hate the friggin place.

                      I'll also note that you and Stern hating the friggin place (or any particular place) for that manner does not preclude other people from eating there. And it doesnt invite bashing someone else's culinary tastes or value of their advice either.

                      Man I hate Mondays. I need a friggin drink.

                      1. re: Jason "Screw it, I'm not a card carrying Chowhound" Perlow

                        If Ollie's was truly a restaurant you really dug, then I'd indeed be completely off-base in bashing you for the opinion. But you yourself have made clear that you recommended it because 1. it's for students who won't know the diff, and 2. it's not the very worst Chinese you've ever had. In fact, you've just now described it as essentially a last-ditch bite in a culinary wasteland. So it's innappropriate for you to consider my reaction an attack on your Personal Aesthetic. You don't particularly like this place yourself.

                        This is not a clash of food opinions. It's just my latest attempt to ask you to please pick and choose your postings, and follow the example of myself and pretty much everyone else on this site by chiming in when you have something valuable to add.

                        I don't mean something *I* might personally consider valuable. I am NOT the arbiter here, I do NOT need (or even want!) to agree with all opinions expressed on this site. I'm just asking you to pause and make that determination for YOURSELF before chiming in. Consider whether you're adding value to the discussion or just injecting your fast/loose two cents for the heck of it. Consider whether you really need to send people, without caveat, to what you know is a mediocre-at-best chinese place. Whether you really need to weightily pronounce on the origins of the word "baklava" when you actually have no idea. Whether you have sufficient experience to confidently declare that gas-fired barbecue tastes exactly the same as wood-smoked as long as you add some wood chips. Whether it's mere empty provocation to interrupt a serious thread on French culinary history with a blustering insistence that the French haven't contributed "squat" to cuisine. Etc, etc, etc.

                        Not every message from every poster needs to be a gem, not by any means, and there is room for your often bombastic voice in our mix. But you post in staggering profusion, Jason; there have been days when you've personally accounted for over 10% of all postings. I've literally pleaded with you to self-edit and resist the temptation to weigh in on every single issue. You've periodically heeded these requests, but old habits creep back.

                        If we all contribute just the cream of our knowledge, this site will continue to be an unparalleled resource for us all. You obviously value this resource. All I can do is request that you please help us to keep it valuable.


                        1. re: Jim Leff
                          Jason "French-bashing, Baklava-history confusing, Barbeque-ingoramus, bad Chinese Food liking" Perlow

                          Jim you should have us sign a Ideology Acceptance Policy before letting anyone post here. Then we can all conform to Lefftopian behavior as you see fit.

                            1. re: Simon Majumdar

                              I'll be fine in a couple of weeks. Just gotta get through closing and renovating the new house.


                              1. re: Jason Perlow

                                I don't know you. Why do I have to suffer through crankiness caused by your personal problems?

                                Sez you about Ollie's:

                                First just the suggestion of Ollie's with no additional information about cuisine or quality, and then...
                                "The fried rice and noodles are fine. Hell we're talking COLLEGE STUDENTS. Most of them eat microvaveable bagel dogs, burritos and ramen noodles purchased from vending machines anyways."
                                "Oh come on now, rancid grease is half the recipe of fried rice and lo mein and egg rolls. It just aint the same without it."
                                "Ollie's isn't half as bad as a takeout/delivery joint named Blue Diamond. The place was closed down TWICE for health violations and yet everyone still ordered from the place, including myself."
                                "I've seen and eaten -WAY- worse Chinese than Ollies."

                                In general, you can go to any restaurant, order food, eat it and not be hungry anymore (various haute spots in SoHo notwithstanding). You can wrap yourself up in miscellaneous pieces of cloth and you will not be naked or cold anymore. This does not necessarily mean that these are good ideas, and so far as I can tell, that is not what these message boards are about.

                                We're not a bunch of college kids who are content to stuff our collective maw with whatever is 4 for a dollar at the grocery store this week (and if any of you are in college--obviously you do care about what you're filling said maw with). Any city guide can tell you which restaurants are in a neighborhood. This site is a unique and fantastic way for people to share their experiences on which ones are actually worth visiting (and avoiding!) and which are worth the schlep.

                                The original poster cared enough to ask where was worth going for lunch. The least we can do is appreciate the effort and offer our best suggestions, rather than the least offensive alternative.

                                My $.02: Toast. I haven't been there in a little while, but it is shabbily charming and serves sandwiches crafted by someone who obviously cares a great deal. Tasty catsup as well. It may be homemade.


                                1. re: Virginia

                                  (Hopefully, a thread title change can get us all back on track and away from endless nastiness.)

                                  Anyway: Toast.

                                  Glad you mentioned it. It opened about a month before I moved out of the neighborhood a year and a half ago. I only got to go a couple of times before I left, but I was really impressed. Like you said, there seems to be obvious care involved. The staff was outrageously flakey, but the guy in the kitchen really knew what he was doing.

                                  So, what's the story these days? How's it doing? What's good? Is it all sandwiches (the only thing I've had there) or has the menu expanded?

                                  At the time, it looked as if it was going to be head and shoulders above anything else in the neighborhood (though I am a fan of the cubano at Floridita). I'd love to know if it's lived up to its promise.

                            2. re: Jason "French-bashing, Baklava-history confusing, Barbeque-ingoramus, bad Chinese Food liking" Perlow

                              That is absolutely ridiculous and highly offensive. I'm surprised someone as bright as you is so unable to see my point. Especially when it's a point you'd previously agreed with. See link below.


                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                I do respect it, Jim. But I dont think my Ollies recommendation fits within your concerns of me chiming in for no reason.

                                1. re: Jason Perlow
                                  Pat Goldberg

                                  Jason, I think that Jim is legitimately calling attention not to your recommendation of Ollie's, but the manner in which you did it -- Namely, just saying "Ollies" without qualification.

                                  If you had written something like...

                                  The area around Columbia does not have much to recommend it, but one possibility is Ollies. It is by no means the best Chinese restaurant, but it is popular with the college kids, and if you stick to the noodles and rice dishes you will not do too badly...

                                  Then I don't think 1) you would have had such a rapid and negative reaction from the community at large and 2) you would not have had to insult the original poster by implicitly claiming that all his kid were looking for was junk food. I personally found that aspect quite offensive.

                                  I hope this is helpful

                                  1. re: Pat Goldberg
                                    Jason Perlow

                                    Such is possible Pat, but I think people are looking for excuses.


                      2. re: Jason Perlow

                        Yeah, accents are really funny! Must mean the guy spoke at least 2 languages. BTW, how many languages do you speak?

                        1. re: KT
                          Jason "Archie Bunker" Perlow

                          English, Spanish, some italian, some japanese, and I'm actively learning Mandarin.

                          And I still think accents are funny.

            2. re: Steven Stern

              Say what you want, when my friend Jonathan went to Teachers College, I used to meet him there all the time. I happen to think they make a mean fried rice. Grease is good.

              Granted the last time I went to Ollies was the midtown branch about six months ago, but still.

              The combination was Lunch, starving students and Columbia. I think I satisfied the criterion!

          2. s
            Simon Majumdar

            When I am over in NY, I tend to have lunch in a faux French Bistro called Le Monde ( on Broadway between 112th and 113th)

            While it is far from Haute, the food is always well prepared and very reasonable.

            They also have a great list of Belgian beers and a range of some of the even better British beers,

            I can only think of that and the West End bar in what is otherwise a gastronomic ghost town

            1 Reply
            1. re: Simon Majumdar

              After an experience that had me pleading for a stomach pump and left me eating baby pap for a good month, I feel compelled to send out a warning about Le Monde. DO NOT EAT AT LE MONDE if you have any fear of food poisoning. Or at least, NEVER order mussels in any form there. Two friends came from Japan to visit and offered to take me out. One of my professors (not to be trusted again on food) recommended Le Monde. Well, we all spent the night over the toilet bowl. I called Le Monde to complain and they were mildly apologetic but really didnft seem to give a shit. When I told friends about my experience three people told me independently that they had also been sick aftering eating at Le Monde.
              Be forewarned.

            2. I have to say that area is pretty bleak in terms of chow. But there is Columbia Bagels down around 110th and Broadway. Ollie's definitely sucks, imho. Tasteless and pedantic. Le Monde is all right -- especially liked the calamari appetizer. The Mill is pretty popular for its stone pot bi-bim-bop, although I can't recommend anything else there. There's also a decent pizza place around there as well -- I think it was called V&T or something like that.

              1. For a group of high schoolers (you didnt say how many), V&T Pizza at 110th and Amst across from the cathedral would be a good choice, with plenty of sitdown space.

                If they are not too many and adventurous, they could try Amir's Felafel on Bway at around 112th St or walk down BWay to Flor de Mayo for ok hispanic food.

                They might want to try out some of the on-campus food. There are probably cafeterias open to the public in Ferris Booth Hall and other campus locations.

                Finally, SOMEBODY posted on this website a while back about a source on Amsterdam for Philly cheesesteaks - there are a couple of lunch-type places on that side of the campus - any updates on this?

                6 Replies
                1. re: jen kalb

                  Amir's is terrible

                  1. re: Lora Frisch

                    agreed. No Amir please. Three strikes Amir's was out - never once did I receive a fresh falafel. Old, greasy, overcooked.

                    1. re: rebeccahodgson
                      Leslie Brenner

                      I got food poisoning!

                      1. re: Leslie Brenner

                        Maybe I should quit while I am behind, but I had a pretty good kefta kebab sandwich (as usual) there last summer. I dont have the faith I did 20 years ago when i ate there several days a week, but the kefta and kibbe were at that time the bestpicks. Nuf said. Im in the minority on this one.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          If you really want decent felafel, go 10 blocks down Broadway and get it at Jerusalem's (it's still there, right?). Worth a little hike. Blows Amir's out of the water. Also good baba ganouj and fava bean salad.

                          1. re: MU

                            Still there--we really like that place. The combination sandwiches are great deals.

                2. y
                  yvonne johnson

                  i've spent several years as a student at CU looking for something decent to eat in the area, but i've not found it. I'm not up there so much these days.....that darned dissertation.

                  On broadway, bet 112 and 113 (a few doors down from le Monde) up some steps there's the Heights. mediocre mexican food.

                  I've not been to Le Monde, but it looks attractive, and given earlier comments might be the best bet.

                  The West End (if it's still standing on b/way, bet 113 and 114): huge sandwiches and fries, tables on sidewalk. i found the overall quality poor. (This is a big bar, btw)

                  Again on broadway, b/w 112 and 113, east side of street there's an italian cafe, *huge* cheap salads, sandwiches. the name escapes me, but it's easily spotted.

                  Tom's deli (broadway and 112?): famous for being in Seinfeld. Agree with earlier post. Yucky.

                  there's a little tea shop on Amsterdam Ave at 113th, across the street from the Cathedral St John the Divine (worth a visit). tea shop is quaint for tea and a bun. it's cozy on a rainy day.

                  Been once to Fish Restaurant (2799 b/way, at 108th st, 864-5000) a couple of years ago. it was OK-nothing more.

                  Maybe the new students' ctr on broadway will have something....but then again. I'd suggest hopping on the subway and coming downtown for lunch.

                  and...oh, in case Ollie's is attempted, it's at 116 street immediately across from CU main entrance, not 112. Be kind of ironic after debate below if the highschoolers decide ollie's is the tops!