Nomingside Heights: A Culinary Wasteland No Longer

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Community's French toast is a force to be reckoned with

We all know that Morningside Heights contains a lot of good eats, but they haven’t always been taken seriously. Bwog’s Senior Foodie Diana Clarke reports that this is changing. Our beloved neck of the woods is finally getting the culinary recognition it truly deserves from city’s blogosphere.

Click the Morningside Heights tag on the excellent food blog Serious Eats NY, and you’ll find a mere 23 entries, 12 of them dating to 2009 or earlier. Compare that to the East Village, which has garnered over 40 posts since the beginning of 2011, and remember why people sometimes look at you funny when you tell them where you live. “Morningside what?” they ask. “Upper West Side,” you reply.

But no longer must Morningside Heights cling futilely to the Upper West Side’s culinary coattails, Zabar’s be damned! Ed Levine and the folks at Serious Eats have been giving Morningside some serious attention lately. If you look at the post-2009 entries, you’ll see that there are 6 posts from the last three months, which is exceedingly generous considering our modest pedigree and the fact that New York City is one of the most premiere culinary destinations on the planet.

Most recently*, Serious Eats praised Havana Central’s Queso Fundido and their “special, egg-heavy brunch menu.” Though you may scoff and (fairly) note that nearly all brunch menus are egg-heavy, MoHi is not yet listed in any culinary destination guides, so let’s take what we can get, folks. (Yolks.) Not to mention that Havana Central’s eggs are definitely different from those on the average brunch menu; rather than scrambled with spinach and goat cheese, they are paired with arepas, chorizo, and ropa vieja. Inexplicable, however, is Serious Eats’ pleasure at the West End’s replacement by a Cuban chain restaurant, which they call a “nice change.” Some of us like our bars dark, moody, and lax about carding.

Continuing the influx of tasty local chains is Joe the Art of Coffee, which has quickly become a prime on-campus study spot, despite the tiny new tables that barely fit a laptop, book, and cup of coffee. Serious Eats praises their Ham, Egg, and Cheddar Baguette, calling it “good news for all uptown stomachs.” And the Serious Eats team definitely thinks we need it. Their recent evisceration of the hallowed hamburger at Community Food & Juice, in which they wrote that “the only redeeming here factor was the bun,” is pretty disheartening, but at least Morningside Heights is getting noticed.

As it should. A look at older Serious Eats posts reveals praise for Kitchenette’s French toast, Community’s Potato and Celery Root Pancakes, Milano’s Chicken Parm sandwich, the veggie pocket at Amir’s, the seriously under-appreciated jazz club Smoke on Broadway and 106th, and even the Spicy Special (which Jenn Sit thought was “pretty darn tasty”), and Koronet’s massive slice, among others.

This comes as no surprise. There’s a definite foodie culture at Columbia (think 4Local, Mimi Truffles, Jason Bell’s endless sparring with prominent NYC chefs), and websites like Serious Eats get information about good food to more people, which means more people, including broke college students, are interested in good food (you never had us fooled, John Jay). Restaurateurs are noticing, as this recent Grub Street post demonstrates. Even Flushing favorite Xi’an Famous Foods is rumored to be scouting locations!

That said, Morningside Heights already has a lot more going for it than most Columbia students realize, foodwise. Just ten blocks down from campus, Silver Moon Bakery features gorgeous flaky baked goods (try the croissants, the rolls, anything!), and P&W Sandwiches has a huge array of delectable lunchtime offerings. For students feeling fancy, there’s tender homemade pasta at Max Soha (Max, stop trying to make Soha happen! It’s not going to happen!) and tangy injera and curry at Massawa. And I will forever love the chana masala frankie at Roti Roll, which is always satisfying and spicy even to the soberest of stomachs.

*Just before we went to press, another Morningside post appeared! Today, Serious Eats sings (and slurps) the praises of T Magic’s many colors and flavors. Stock up now before the tourists crowd you out.

Pain perdu via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. um...  

    Let's not exaggerate? Koronet's shouldn't be associated with "foodie havens" and neither should a chicken parm... from wherever...

    Things are improving but when Havanna Central and the Spicy Special make the list of our best food, we're reaching a tad.

    Props for giving a bump to Silver Moon though. They rule.

    • seriously?

      "from wherever…" ?!
      How can you not know of Milano Market? Unless you are a poor freshman with a ridiculously large meal plan who has yet to venture past the gates for food

  2. Anonymous  

    massawa serves curry?? it's ethiopian not indian let's try to be a little less ignorant and assume that not all foreign food is the same

  3. Jason

    kudos on this post. morningside isn't such a culinary wasteland afterall

    • Jason

      I will add though that most of the CU attention on serious eats is coming from Carrie Vasios, an MFA candidate. So it's more like--Serious Eats has a contributor that lives in the neighborhood now, than Serious Eats is paying more attention to MoHi. just sayin'

  4. Sam  

    One of the most premierest culinary destinations in da leaaaague

  5. Anonymous

    If Columbia students work there, most foreign cookeries are the best anywhere, because Columbia students are most demanding New Yorkers

  6. Anonymous

    We all know that Morningside Heights contains a lot of good eats? Don't include me in that "we." It is ridiculous how difficult it is to get good food in this neighborhood. There isn't any really good food--Terrace in The Sky is as close as we have to that. And as for the "good eats"? Falafel on Broadway and Five Guys, both of which just opened, are little more than a nice start. I'll grant Roti Roll is good and P & W Sandwiches offers a tasty way to fill your stomach but it is nothing but an at best mediocre sandwich shop with no appeal outside of convenience. Someone with a little money and some brains should put some real food in the neighborhood. In a wasteland like this, they'd clean up.

  7. Anonymous  

    What Morningside Heights needs more of is college food. My god, there is nothing cheap around here save the pizza. That's the problem with going to an Ivy League school in the city, I guess, but I shouldn't have to go to Brooklyn to get cheap eats.

  8. ...  

    seriouseats pumps out like what? 8-10 posts per day. new york city may have a lot of restaurants, but um, they've been at this for YEARS.

    morningside heights is like the new frontier for these people where the rich plots they've mercilessly milked have started to run a bit dry... a peak-review situation of sorts where the production of new places to review is being outstripped by production of reviews. coverage of food in morningside is like the offshore deepwater drilling of food blogging. a herculean effort is required, there's a fair bit of danger involved, and nobody's really sure if they can trust it.

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