amazing food near Columbia?
i'll be up at 116th and Broadway tonight and would love to have a fantastic dinner within, say, 20 blocks in either direction. any type - takeout, hole-in-the-wall, fancy sit down. what's the best uptown choice?
The food is adequate, the noise level is horrendous, and when I ordered a Martini, it came with a cherry; when I poindted this out to the waiter, he argued that lots of people prefer a cherry in their martinis. So I wonder what other, less obvious anomalies exist there. Anyway, though I live on 104 St., I'm not going back. (Noche Mexicana is much better, for my taste.)
Best hole-in-the-wall joint is Taqueria y Fonda on Amsterdam between 107 & 108. Great great great Mexican street food straight off the griddle. Stick with the tacos, tortas, and the cheap stuff on the menu and you'll be happy, but once you order anything that's more than $4 they don't do such a great job. They only have about 10 tables, and they play the Mexican jukebox pretty loudly, but it is SO worth going if only for the 3 kinds of homemade salsa (none of which are tomato based, oddly enough) they put down in front of you with homemade chips fresh from the fryer...beware of the green one with tiny chunks of avocado, it is INCENDIARY. Order a Jarritos or a Negra Modelo and a bunch of tacos and you'll be a happy camper, I guarantee you.
I love Mama Mexico for the party atmosphere and excellent margaritas, but if you want fantastic food, this ain't the place. You want a great time with your meal and food that won't offend you, then this is a good choice. And it's on 100th and Broadway.
There is an excellent bistro on 105th and Broadway, Metisse. Neighborhood stalwart, not terribly fancy, been there forever and ever amen, but very homey and the food is excellent.
For a really good burger in a really charming pub, go next door to Metisse to the Abbey Pub.
If you're looking for off-the-beaten path, uber underground gourmet, go to A on Columbus between 106 & 107. Tiny restaurant (maybe 6 tables), all specials menu, always seasonal. Very inventive new cuisine with a sort of French-y twist. I think it might be BYOB, call and check, I don't remember.
If BBQ is in your future, go to Dinosaur a couple of blocks up from 125th (the streets get kind of screwy up there) underneath the Riverside Dr/Westside Highway overpasses.
If you want really really fancy sit down, go to Terrace in the Sky on 119th and Morningside, on top of the Butler Building. New Yorkers are very spoiled in that this is definitely not the best of high-end dining in the City, but if this were a restaurant almost anywhere else, it would be very well thought of. Plus, the views over the City are absolutely unparalleled, there is something very magical about being on top of a cliff, on top of a building, with all of midtown about 60 blocks away.
Indian Cafe on Broadway and 107th has a very mediocre regular menu, and an absolutely heavenly specials menu. As long as it's a special, it's good here, don't order the regular menu at all.
There is almost literally a hole-in-the-wall Greek place, Symposium, on 113th between Broadway and Amsterdam. There is better Greek food in the City, but I actually do like this place a lot. A pitcher of sangria and lots of appetizers was always a lot of fun here. Pretty good moussaka as well.
If you must, Ollie's at this location (116th and Bway) is actually very decent. I don't like any of the others, though.
I've heard very good things about Carne and Henry's, both on Broadway below 106th, but I've never tried myself because I can't resist the call of tacos on Amsterdam when I'm eating in that neighborhood.
Avoid at all costs: La Monde (pretentious French bistro with the worst service in the world, the only restaurant I've ever felt compelled to walk out of...in the middle of dinner), Pertutti's (it pains me to say so, used to be my favorite Italian in the City, now it's just plain gross slop), Nacho Mama's (I don't think there is worse Mexican food in the City), The Heights (just blah in a nice location), Columbia Cottage (all I can say is: free wine with dinner, blech), and don't let anyone talk you into dessert at the Hungarian Pastry Shop (beyond excellent coffee, beyond awful pastries).
I live in the neighborhood and agree heartily with all of the above. Although I don't mind Le Monde (I don't seek it out either).
Also enjoy Carne - enjoyable burgers and a pretty good steak. A is a true gem and is still BYOB although now they actually have wine glasses (I kind of liked the charm of the plastic glasses - although my Malbec never tasted as good).
I avoid Mama Mexico whenever I can because it is too much of a Fiesta Mexicana. Taqueria y Fonda is terrific and so is Noche Mexicana (102 and Amsterdam). Having eaten lots of real food in Mexico both come close to the real thing.
Afterward, if you find yourself hungry and in the vicinity of 96th and Broadway, do grab a taco at the Super Tacos taco truck. The best. Ever. Really.
Symposium is a great neighborhood place - like you said, there is better Greek food, but it's a cozy restaurant with a very user-friendly menu.
I second Taqueria.
Never been to Le Monde for dinner, but I had one of the best omelettes _ever_ there for lunch last year. The roasted squash and wild mushrooms one.
I've heard good things about Tokyo Pop (I think that's the name), the newish sushi place on B'way near 105. Stay away from Tomoe.
Max SoHa on Columbus and 123 is a nice neighborhood Italian place. There's also an Ethiopean restaurant across the street that I like.
Does Crepes on Columbus do dinner?
OH! And I nearly forgot Amir's falafel joint on Broadway between 113 & 114, or Jerusalem Falafel on 104th and Broadway. Two very good tiny falafel joints, I had an Israeli boyfriend who used to insist that Jerusalem Falafel was the best in the City until I took him to Bereket.
And if you are in the neighborhood early enough to catch it still open you MUST get a selection of old-fashioned, hand-made chocolates from Mandel's next door to Amir's. Mandel's alone is worth a trip uptown. You're not going to find truffles or fancy stuff, but if you like hand-dipped, chocolate covered caramels and stuff like that, or turtles, or chocolate covered cherries, or anything chocolate covered, this is the place for you.
There was a very long (50+ comment) thread about Morningside Heights/Columbia area food about three months ago, mostly negative but w/ a few backup suggestions and nearby options.
The immediate Columbia is pretty grim, so you're wise to give yourself that 20 block radius.
I had a nice meal at Indus Valley (Broadway near 100th or 103rd?). I wouldn't say amazing, but on the poor Morningside Hghts sliding scale, it stands out.
Was there for dinner last night. I ordered the spaghetti with lamb ragu and broccoli rabe. My friend ordered the grilled vegetables with salad (she's on a diet). She really liked her food. I loved my broccoli rabe -- it was spicy and garlicky. Maybe a bit too salty for my taste, but otherwise delicious. My spaghetti with lamb ragu was terrific as well, but no match for the broccoli rabe. I would definitely recommend this place if you're in the Columbia area.
I also think the Mill is decent. While it's no K-town or Flushing, it's not bad for the area. I would recommend the dol sot bi bim bop there.