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W 114th St: good eats nearby?

Hi, I'm visiting NYC for a week with hubby and baby and will be staying at W 114th St, which doesn't even feature on any of the maps in the guidebook I am looking at (a friend is lending me her apt). We have limited cooking facilities, so would be looking to eat out mostly or buy easy-to-prepare stuff to bring back to the apt. I've been told the area is quite expensive: will it break the bank to eat out a lot?
We're from London, so would like to try stuff that you can't get there easily, like American/Jewish/Mexican cuisine. Katz's is on the top of my list of places to eat at.
I'd be grateful for any tips. Thanks.

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  1. You should be able to find reasonably-priced food options. As you probably know you're near Columbia University so between the lower budgets of many students and a weak US dollar (strong British pound) I would think prices won't look so bad; they may even seem cheap, as I've heard more than once from visitors crossing the Atlantic.

    I visit Morningside Heights (the name for the general vicinity you'll be staying in) only periodically so maybe other Hounds will have more informed opinions, but you can certainly get Chinese take-out (or eat in) at Ollie's at 116th and Broadway. It's decent food, nothing incredible but solid and convenient. There are several delis and groceries along Broadway. There's one on the east side of Broadway between 113th and 114th (I think) that has kind of higher-end fare. A new restaurant that opened fairly recently had reasonably good food when I went. It's on the west side of Broadway between 112th and 113th (maybe one block further north) called Community something. It's a little pricier than other places in the neighborhood but the atmosphere, food and service are commensurately better, imo.

    Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam around 111th Street, across from St John's Cathedral, is a local institution, in case you want to linger over coffee and a pastry one day. Another institution, if you've ever watched the sitcom Seinfield, is Tom's Diner on 112th and Broadway.

    Enjoy your visit!

    7 Replies
    1. re: uwsgrazer

      Thanks very much for that. My husband is very excited at the prospect of visiting Tom's Diner because he is a Seinfeld fan. Is it very touristy because of the Seinfeld link?
      Any suggestions of what to buy from a NYC deli for a light lunch/supper?
      How long do delis stay open?
      I've heard NYC is a 24/7 city. London sort of dies after midnight, which is disappointing.

      1. re: medgirl

        Just to set expectations properly, please don't get your hopes up on the food at Tom's! It's pretty mediocre, at best. I haven't been in ages but I doubt it's very touristy, if you mean long queues of people waiting for tables and all kinds of gimmicks like T-shirts and such.

        I guess maybe the classic NYC deli meal would be a pastrami on rye sandwich, or a corned beef Reuben, with an egg cream and slice of cheesecake for dessert. (Actually, not sure if an egg cream is supposed to go with the sandwiches I just described. At the moment, it doesn't sound so appetizing to me.) You should save the pastrami / cheesecake menu for Katz's. Up by Columbia you may want to order simple fare like turkey breast sandwiches with Russian dressing, lettuce and tomatoes. "Hero" sandwiches are basically the same thing but on a larger piece of bread, usually a small loaf or something, for which they charge a little extra. You can also pick prepared foods like pasta salads and a side or two of veggies. I guess a classic NY thing would be a bagel with cream cheese and lox (nova salmon) with fresh squeezed orange juice. This would be for breakfast, or maybe lunch. Another NY item would be a bialys (type of bread) with a "shmear" of cream cheese. (A shmear is NY-ese for "smear" so it's a little less than a regular portion of cream cheese.) Black and white cookies are also classic NY fare but you want to get a well-made one. You can search on this on Chowhound; it's been a hotly debated topic. My key advice would be to stay away from the ones wrapped in cellophane where the icing is already runny. You may want to try a knish at some point from a deli.

        Some delis may be open 24/7 but they're not necessarily anything special in terms of what they carry food-wise. I would guess the delis up by Columbia probably stay open till at least 11 p.m., and later on weekends. From my admittedly limited experience I would guess NYC isn't so different from London in terms of opening / closing hours. Okay, now that I think about it maybe things did seem to close earlier in London but while there are certainly places in NY that cater to the night owls, sometimes you still have to search them out.

        Hope this helps.

        1. re: uwsgrazer

          Just a few point of clarifications:

          The Columbia neighborhood ("Morningside Heights") may in fact not be where the poster is staying, since W. 114th Street extends east beyond Morningside Park (which is the traditional boundaries of that the Morningside Heights neighborhood, I believe)

          Also, "deli", it should be made clear, for the benefit of a foreign visitor, can mean both a store that sells food (including sandwiches) as well as a sit down restaurant (like Katz's or Carnegie Deli.) There are no good traditonal deli restaurants in the Columbia neighborhood, though there are good places to get a sandwich to go (like Westside Foods (a supermarket on B'way and 110) or Milano Market, on B'way and 113th.)

          In any case, I would add to the various recommendations
          Symposium in the Columbia neighboorhood, like Hungiarian Pastry Shop a bit of an instituition, with solid (not great) Greek food in a slightly funky environment...And, in "SoHa" (South Harlem, a bit east of Columbia) I'd strongly recommend Melba's, on approx. 114 and 8th Avenue. Excellent, updated soul food in warm, but sophisticated setting with interesting mix of locals, tourists, young, old, etc And they have a great DJ, at leasat on certain nights ....

          have to disagree on the person who recommended Henry's--it's strictly mediocre and expensive for what it is.
          Better food can be found at Indus Valley (B'way and 100th Street) --best Indian in the neighborhood
          Flor de Mayo (B'way and 102) is an old reliable for roast chicken Peruvian style with excellent plaintains, rice and beans

          And for a classic NY coffee shop breakfast, go to Broadway Restaurant on B'way and 102.

          1. re: curranthound

            ooh, i'd strongly recommend against melba's. we had a very bad experience there, with service both clingy, obsequious and intrusive (please, leave the plate until the food gets swallowed), and totally neglectful (lost our order and totally forgot about us). they were aware of the lost order mess, and tried to make that part up, but the food overall (dried out fried chicken without appreciable batter spice or flavor and cold waffles in my case) paled in comparison to amy ruth's (116th and lenox). people recommend the hamburger there, and maybe i'll go there to check it out, but i'm really not in a rush.

            1. re: rose water

              Another vote against Melba's - awful food.

              1. re: rose water

                short ribs are to die for. IMO they have the best food in Harlem as long as you know what their specialty is. We got a chance to chat with the chef a bit and they will always let you know the best thing coming out of their kitchen. Rarely will I trust the opinion of the server.

      2. There are good casual options in your area. If you're willing to walk a few blocks -- give Thai Market (Amsterdam betw. 107/108th) a try. They also deliver. Henry's (B'way at 105th) is a wonderful neighborhood place. Good food and they always make our baby feel very welcome. Enjoy your visit!

        2 Replies
        1. re: amyleechen

          I second both Thai Market and Henry's - two of my favorite places in the neighborhood.

          1. re: selizara

            We just ordered delivery from Henry's last night, the lamb shank is SOOO GOOD!!

            And Thai Market is a MUST, cheap-ish and very yummy...i'm there almost once a week.

        2. There are a few good places to eat in the neighborhood (and cheap). The mill (Korean) on broadway and around 113th.

          A cafe on columbus and 106th is a great french-Caribbean place. It's BYOB, very laid back, tiny and fun.

          Tom's diner is open 24/7 and almost all grocery stores/delis in morningside heights are as well. Citarella on 125th and amsterdam is particularly great.

          For great pizza you can order in from Vinegar hill (on 138th and broadway).

          1. it's a bit weird up there in the exact pocket you're staying in, but you'll find you have more options then you know what to do with, and truthfully, if you're like most visitors, you'll be too busy exploring the city to worry about food at home.

            amy ruth's on 116th for soul food/brunches and late hours on weekends
            arties deli on broadway and 83rd has everything Katz's does and more, plus there's a takeout counter
            zabars is nearby, and you can take home prepared foods, and some of the last good knishes, and rugelach in the city
            also uptown in the same area would be h & h bagels, grom gelato, beard papa cream puffs, grand disy bakery, and gray's papaya for hot dogs.

            also near you is miss mamie's spoonbread on 110th... another soul food place.
            then dinosaur bbq on 131st.

            hamilton deli on 116th is supposed to have good sandwiches but that's heresy
            community food and juice is a spin off of clinton st. bakery, on 113th
            amirs falafel for lebanese food that's a favorite of cabbies
            camille's on 116th for italian is an old fav for columbia people
            le monde for french in a pinch....there's also some sort of gift shop/bakery next to a french school nearby but i don't have the name

            there's are some italian gems uptown too...pisticci, sezz medi, and max soha on 122nd all get some raves.

            there's a greenmarket between 114th/115th on broadway, and a fairway with prepared foods, and great selection of fun specialty items on 12th ave. and a 132nd or the one on 74th

            1. You should try Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too at 110th and Manhattan. It's good American southern cuisine. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/.... The portions are big, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is very casual.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kk49

                Awsome fried chicken and jerk chicken at Miss Mamies. The atmosphere is like you're sitting at someone's kitchen table, very quaint. Great sweet tea there if you're like me (from the south) and love the sickly sweet tea!

                You should also try Symposium for delicious Greek food on 113th b/t Bway and Amsterdam!