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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?

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  1. Mama Mexico!! Gotta love the live mariachi music. I believe it's on 103rd and Bwy.

    5 Replies
    1. re: LFeinberg

      Sorry, I'd have to disagree here on the "amazing food" part. If, however, you're looking for a festive and loud place, this is it. And if you're going tonight, be prepared for a loooong wait.

      1. re: gloriousfood

        It ain't Per Se, but I'd say they have pretty damn good Mexican food.

        1. re: LFeinberg

          I agree, they serve a particular KIND of good Mexican food that is improved about 100% by the atmosphere. When I want good refried beans and yellow rice, with enchilada suizas, this is the place I go for it!

          1. re: LFeinberg

            Sorry, I would have to respectfully disagree and go with hlbones and ballulah below.

        2. re: LFeinberg

          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.)

        3. 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).

          6 Replies
          1. re: ballulah

            what an exhaustive list! thanks... the last time I was up there we went to Le Monde and i was pretty appalled by how bad the service was. But Taqueria y Fonda or maybe A sound like they'll be perfect - exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for.

            1. re: helenheaven

              The even worse part is that La Monde replaced two VERY nice neighborhood cafes when they opened. When I gave it a try my order was screwed up beyond belief, and the manager actually yelled at my mother. Yelled. At my mother.

              1. re: ballulah

                Actually, last time we went we noticed that our server was unusually competent and attentive. I don't know if management has finally stepped it up a notch or if he was just a good egg.

                We both had steak frites with belgian beers and were very happy.

                1. re: scooter

                  They'll never get another chance from me. I don't see any way they can redeem themselves after yelling at a lovely, mild-mannered 60 year old woman for no apparent reason.

            2. re: ballulah

              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.

              1. re: ballulah

                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?

              2. 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.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ballulah

                  For Korean food, try Mills Luncheonette. It's on Broadway between 112th and 113th St.
                  I think it's next door to La Monde.
                  It's Korean food. Menu is limited but you can't go wrong with the price.

                  1. re: wench31

                    I love the Mill! Good call! I remember when it used to be a non-Korean luncheonette, and then one day it closed for renovation, re-opened and it was Korean. The first time I ever tried Korean food was here!

                    1. re: ballulah

                      Probably the only Korean restaurant where you can get an egg cream!

                2. 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.

                  1. Haven't made it there myself but have heard good things about Max Soha, an Italian place on Amsterdam and 122nd.

                    http://maxsoha.com/

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: LJW

                      I went there last summer. The food was good, and the service was nice. I had the broccoli rabe, which I would definitely recommend. Haven't been back, but that's mostly because there are so many restaurants in new york to try :-)

                      1. re: cbnyc

                        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.

                    2. Pisticci is very good. It's on La Salle between Broadyway and Claremont.

                      1. The best restaurant in your area is Henry's

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: traumachef

                          i strongly agree with gloriousfood. go to this link to read reviews re mama mexico and then decide whether or not you want to go there: http://menupages.com/restaurantdetail...

                          a mex alternative, hole in the wall is noche mex, around the corner from mama mex on amsterdam bet 102 and 103. it is amazing food, inexpensive, clean place, large portions and authentic. read reviews here:

                          http://menupages.com/restaurantdetail...

                          le monde is awful . i am shocked anytime i see people inside. i think people are attracted to the aesthetics.

                          i agree with the refs for pisticci but i haven't been lately. this is along the lines of what you may appreciate. i'd also like to recommend toast which is excellent. henry's and carne are also ok. indus valley is also good.
                          i agree symposium . it's very homey in there AND THEY ARE NICE unlike the people in ollies (DON'T GO) and le monde. flor de mayo may also be an interesting option. ti've eaten in the mill 90 times in 10 yrs. the food isn't horrible and it is kind of cute.i would recommend it.

                          1. re: traumachef

                            I live on 106th Street have always found Henry's to be mediocre at best. Unfortunately, there is not much to recommend in the immediate vicinity. Carne has been good at some points in it's exisitence. I see in the week's Times that they now have a new executive chef, so guess will try again and see if there is improvement. We tend to head further downtown (still no gastronomic panacea) for Yuki Sushi on 92 and Amsterdam for fresh sushi and fabulous service, Genero if we are eating early or don't mind the wait or Nice Matin or Earthen Oven for somewhat better dinner.

                          2. This post will be too late to help you, but I just had an excellent meal at Alouette - lovely, unpretentious French food, warm, friendly service. The restaurant was probably 1/4 empty last night.
                            Alouette
                            2588 Broadway bet 97th and 98th

                            1. Has anyone tried Regional on Bdway around 91st-92nd Streets? The menu looks interesting and different.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gloriousfood

                                Regional is on Broadway at 98th Street - it is uneven - some nights quite good, other nights, just gloppy and awful.

                              2. helenheaven, where did you end up eating last night? Did we steer you in the right direction? Or did you find your own way? (Or worse, were our recommendations so glowing that they didn't meet your expectations and you were disappointed with what you had?!)

                                1. great pizza at V&T across from St. John The Divine-I like the eggplant pizza-enjoy

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: marlie202

                                    IMO, the eggplant is the only pizza worth eating there (that eggplant is to-die-for). But the pizza itself is kinda heavy and blah otherwise - esp. the crust, which I consider the most important part.