These are a bit south of Columbia but with walking distance or quick subway ride.
Sipan 702 Amsterdam 94 Street 212-665-9929-Peruvian-very good food, nice atmosphere, quite during the week, a little noisier on weekends.
Gennaro 665 Amsterdam 92/93 Streets - very good food-Italian-very hectic does not take reservations or credit cards-get there early for seating.
Docks 2427 Broadway 89/90 Streets 212-986-8080 OK fish, excellent oysters, lively but not hectic.
Gabriela's 688 Columbus 93/94 Street 212-961-9600 good traditional Mexican, good value
Saigon Grill 620 Amsterdam 90 Street good Vietnamese a bit hectic and noisy
Pampa 768 Amsterdam 97/98 Streets 212-865-2929 good grilled Argentinean steak. Crowded. No credit cards.
Alouette 2588 Broadway 97/98 Streets 212-222-6808 decent neighborhood French. Small. Make reservations.
Yuki Sushi 656 Amsterdam 92 Street 212-787-8200 Excellent quality of fish in sushi and sashimi. Moderate price for quality Japanese. Sushi lunch with salad or soup is less than $11.
Miyako 642 Amsterdam 91 Street 212-724-3448 About as good as Yuki Sushi and everything is $1-$1.50 less
Acqua 718 Amsterdam 94/95 Streets 212-222-2752 reasonably priced good Italian (Sicilian and Sardinian) in nice setting.
Pizzabolla 654 Amsterdam 92 Street 212-579-4500 Old style “checkered tablecloth” Italian with very reasonably priced good food. Good antipasti, entrees, brick-oven pizza and good selection of reasonable priced wine by the bottle and glass.
There's Gennaro on Amsterdam between 92nd and 93rd. It gets mixed reviews, but personally I love it. The lamb shank is particularly yummy, and every now and then they offer a really good red wine by the glass. Cash only, so be prepared.
For sushi, there's Miyako across the street on 91st and Amsterdam. They have an AYCE special on Mondays, I think, though their usually excellent fish is of noticeably lesser quality on AYCE days. Go when the fish is fresh. It's worth it.
Something not mentioned: Saigon Grill (Amsterdam & 90th). Excellent Vietnamese food. The thing to get there is the pho or any of the soups. My husband also enjoyed the Curry Tom (curry shrimp dish), and I've had the bun zao (similar to pad thai). Very reasonable--less than $30 for two for dinner. They also have an extensive sushi selection.
I can also second the suggestion for Noche Mex. It's really outstanding Mexican food for a fraction of the cost compared to other places closer to Lincoln Center.
Hope that helps!
POY, one important consideration if you decide to go to Pampa is that, unless things have changed radically somewhere along the line, their portions are humongous. Do not order the entrana (skirt steak) for two; get the portion that's allegedly for one and share that. Their morcilla (blood sausage) is a bit salty but very good, for those who like it. Their garlic fries are excellent, with plenty of raw garlic. And make sure to leave room for dessert. Get the Panqueques con Dulce de Leche!
More info here:
Note the $30 minimum per person and the cash-only policy.
I recall they had some pleasant Argentinian wines on their list.
Indus Valley is a flat-out excellent Indian restaurant, and not just for the neighborhood.
I haven't been to Metisse in years but was never very impressed with it. Perhaps it's gotten better, but I always felt it served food that was just OK and overpriced.
I also haven't been to Pampa in - wow, it's been three years, I think! I always liked the place, though.
I decided several years ago that El Malecon, Amsterdam between 97th and 98th, does better at pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) than Flor de Mayo. The style is Dominican rather than Peruvian, and the prices are a bit cheaper. In addition to the chicken, they have daily specials, and many of them are worth ordering, including the mondongo, oxtail, and chivo. And yes, I've been there within the past few months (same with Indus Valley).
Symposium on 113th between broadway and amsterdam is great family style greek cuisine. The dips for the pita are amazing.
Kitchenette at 123rd st and amsterdam does a pretty good brunch.
Celeste (for a more moderate price range) between 84th and 85th on amsterdam is very good and reasonable italian.
I also second Indus Valley for Indian.
Flor de Mayo, B'way and 101. Supposedly they have great traditional Peruvian dishes, but I've never seen reason to order anything but the greast chicken, beans, rice and plaintains.
Noche Mexicano, Amerstand & 102. Recommended with some reservations, as the last time I was there the service was horrendously slow (for no apparent reason) and the food only so so. But, other times, I've had delicious Mexican food there, and the prices are very good.
Rack and Soul, B'way and 109. Newish adition to the neighborhood. The fried chicken and ribs were excellent when I was there several weeks ago. The portions are huge on the regular menu, but, oddly, somewhat skimpy on the children's menu (not that you'd be ordering from there.)
Pampa, Amsterdam and 97-98: Delicious steak place (my favorite: the entrana, or skirt steak.) Excellent empanadas for starters, and get the house salad. Best in good weather, when you can eat in backyard 'garden." They only take cash and, alas, their prices have definitely crept up over the years, but a reliable place.
One step up (or more):
Metisse, 105th Street, right off B'way. Small, reliable upscale in food department but not in tone department, neighborhood restaurant. Just as good, if not better, food than nearby newcomer Cafe de Soleil, and much nicer, more intimate atmosphere.
Indus Valley, B'way and 100: the best Indian in this neighborhood.