Sick of John Jay already? Afraid of spending money at on the hit-and-miss restaurant scene in Morningside? Bwog staffers Izumi Devalier and Iggy Cortez have been around the block, and have a few pointed recommendations for securing sustenance on campus and off.
A – 947 Columbus Ave., between 106th and 107th
Yeah, we know: it’s out there. But this hole-in-the-wall French-Caribbean restaurant offers sweet and savory fusion dishes at affordable prices. Disclaimer: Don’t expect to flood this restaurant with your entire entourage of Carman floormates. The place is no bigger than a John Jay single, which is exactly why A, with its glorious BYOB (or W) policy, is best reserved for intimate dinners.
What to Eat: Unless you’re dying for a curry-laced reinterpretation of escargot, pick-up a red Burgundy at near-by M.E.R. liquors and opt for the roast duck leg with couscous. Don’t forget your corkscrew!
Amsterdam Café – 119th and Amsterdam
Columbia students deserted this former watering hole after it went all high-end Palo Alto. A pity, as the delicious dinner and breakfast options outweigh its air of steely pretentiousness. A particularly good place to head for breakfast if you tire of facing the vicious brunch wait-list at Kitchenette.
What to Get: For dinner, just get a whole bunch of their delicious appetizers. Such as their scrumptious ribs and the saganaki, and end it with an apple crisp for dessert. Their brunch pancakes are light and fluffy and served with genuinely fresh fruit.
Che’ Bella Pizza – 1215 Amsterdam, between 118th and 119th
In case you were too drunk to notice, the pizza quality in Morning Side Heights is kind of lacking. Famiglia, Strokos, Koronets, V&T and Pinnacle (with its abominable baked-ziti pizza) all serve what is essentially cheese on flatbread. If you’re looking for a slice that rises above the pack, try Che’ Bella. Thin-crusted and always fresh, it might not be the best pizza in town, but it certainly beats all the losers out there.
What to Get: Your favorite pizza toppings, baked to order on the perfect 10-inch pie.
The Coffeeshop at IAB – 6th Floor Student Lounge of IAB
This is a very well kept secret at Columbia, but students have many incentives to check their little coffee shop out. Its enormous, rarely overcrowded tables make it an excellent place to study and SIPA students tend to be better-dressed, more sophisticated and exotic eye candy than the sweat-pants contingency at Butler Library’s Blue Java.
What to Get: Illy Coffee. It’s the best coffee on campus. They also have a formidable selection of gourmet sandwiches, including a simple brie and green apple variety that makes a perfect late-afternoon snack for those pesky Friday language classes.
Mamie’s Spoon Bread – 366 West 110th Street, right off Columbus Ave
It is often hard to get a seat at this Southern comfort food restaurant owned by a former runway model, but the wait is well worth it. The food is superb, the atmosphere unique and it’s arguably the best place to go when you are starving and need to be filled with goodness.
What to Get: Where to start? Their Southern Fried Chicken has been called “the best in NYC” – while many may contest that, it is certainly the best in Morningside Heights. Their Lousiana Catfish is also equally scrumptious and their sweet-as-candy iced tea is a regular favorite.
Massawa – 1239 Amsterdam Ave, between 120st and 121st street
No self-respecting college student can possibly finish their freshman year without having experienced Ethiopian food. Massawa is the perfect restaurant for the uninitiated and long time fans alike. Please don’t embarrass your friends by asking for cutlery while you are there.
What to Get: Their menu is across the board excellent. Particular favorites are the gored gored (if you like things spicy), and the zeghini. But whatever it is you order, you must absolutely try the Axum Tej honey wine.
Max Café – 1262 Amsterdam Ave between 122nd and 123rd
Max is the sister café to the restaurant MaxSoHA. Its crimson walls and plush couches give it an air of thrift store savvy exuberance without coming off as tacky or excessively contrived. It’s the perfect spot for social unwinding or an informal date, and the wine list is decidedly sympathetic to a student’s pocket.
What to Get: The panini are spectacular. Get the Mortadella, Cheese and Tomato panino – and ask for avocado on the side. And for desert, try their delicious apple pie a la mode.
Rack and Soul – 109th and Broadway
This recent addition to the less than thrilling Morningisde Heights’ dining scene was mentioned in the latest New York Magazine Cheap Eats’ edition. While the magazine’s writers have a rather elastic approach to the word “cheap,” the food is delicious and the portions generous.
What to Get: If you, like me, had never heard of Red Velvet Cake prior to coming to New York, Rack and Soul is an excellent way to get acquainted with it. Their slices are meals in themselves.
Roti Roll – 994 Amsterdam Ave between 109th and 110th
Roti Roll is one of those addictions you need to OD on before you get over it. They serve spicy vegetarian and meat options rapped in a thin bread called “roti.” And they are particularly amazing when you are drunk. Pocket size and cheap, they are excellent on-the-go food.
What to Get: The vegetarian Aloo Masala Frankie and the Lamb Boti Frankie complement each other nicely, particularly when topped off by a cold Mango Lassi.
Symposium – 113th btw Amsterdam and Broadway
So appropriate that the neighborhood’s only Greek restaurant should find itself on a street filled with frat houses and sororities. An excellent, cozy hangout with one of the most amusing and illegible menus in New York.
What to Get: The saganaki of course, if only to amuse your inner pyromaniac. The lamb souvlaki is also delicious, as is their version of the beef patty smothered with melting cheese.