This semester, a truly impressive number of fast-casual eateries have made their stake in Morningside Heights, many of them right on top of each other. First, Junzi Kitchen opened over the summer at 113th and Broadway, offering build-your-own Northern Chinese-style noodle bowls and (more recently) late nights with better booze than Mel’s. Then, Shake Shack opened its doors on 116th and Broadway just in time for NSOP, including a menu of local items such as “Heights Bites” and “Pie Oh My.” Then, about a month later, we began to see signs of a Panda Express on 111th and Broadway, as well as an H-mart at 110th. We wondered if these new East Asian eateries had something to do with the demise of Ollies, a Chinese restaurant that used to occupy Shake Shack’s current location.
In November, we discovered that a Pret a Manger was coming in as well, taking up residence right between University Stationers and Morton Williams. This store managed to get its shit together faster than a senior writing their entire thesis in one week, and opened only two weeks later, with breakfast and lunch giveaways the day before its official opening that had students lining up along Broadway. (Also like a senior writing their entire thesis in one week, Pret seems to be suffering from doing too much too fast; a sign in the store’s window this morning announced that they are temporarily closed due to a lack of hot water.)
Panda Express opened the day before Pret’s “soft opening,” greeting us with a friendly panda mascot on our walks into campus from 110. We’re still waiting on more news from H-mart, which appears to be nearing completion.
We’ve always known that MoHi secretly wants to be the Upper East Side, but this semester’s openings have really cemented that this neighborhood is giving in to gentrification and letting the chains take over. However, we’re optimistic that our longtime faves, like Absolute, Tom’s, and Hungarian, will stay strong enough to give us at least some claim to originality. And we’re hopeful that, among all of these new casual restaurants, a dive bar will slide its way in – we’ve replaced Ollies and Deluxe, sure, but something still needs to replace Cannon’s.
All photos via Bwog Staff