Columbia / Morningside Heights - Not For Tourists Guide to New York City - Not For Tourists

Not For Tourists Guide to New York City - Not For Tourists (2016)

Map 18. Columbia / Morningside Heights



Neighborhood Overview


Map 18

Squeezed between the Upper West Side and Harlem, Columbia and Morningside Heights have had a symbiotic relationship with ups and downs. In truth, any institution with a multi-billion-dollar endowment (and we’re talking multi-multi-billion-dollar here) is going to get to call the shots, but like every other behemoth institution of learning in an urban environment understands, the delicate dance takes constant maintenance. For your purposes, 116th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam is the main entrance of the gorgeous main campus of Columbia. A stroll through here is almost edifying—or at the very least a pleasant escape from the chaotic city around. Just watch out for the freshmen rushing to and from class.

Until the late 19th century, Morningside Heights was mostly undeveloped farmland. In 1895, Columbia University moved from Midtown Manhattan to 116th and Broadway, the site of a former insane asylum, and the rest is history. Over time the university was perceived as a Gibraltar of culture within a barren, dangerous part of town; that psychodrama played out in the notorious 1968 campus protests, ostensibly over plans to build a gym in Morningside Park but really over just about everything as the world around seemed to implode. Tensions eased over time, especially after Morningside Heights rents began to skyrocket in the ‘90s, but Morningside Park still serves as the dividing line between Columbia and basically everything else. Today, that relationship ebbs and flows as the university’s plans for expansion heat up, generating both land disputes (including unseemly eminent domain fights) and of course more gentrification.

But speaking of “seeing light” (or whatever Columbia’s “In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen” motto refers to; our Latin basically sucks), there’s also the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Anglican church and fourth largest church in the world. An awe-inspiring display of architecture and that something else that makes people want to build stuff very high into the air, the cathedral is a beacon for procrastinators everywhere; although it dates back to the 19th century, the thing is still unfinished. The church has three distinct phases of construction that are immediately visible as you gaze up at the Gothic masterwork. The grounds are just as fun; look for the resident peacocks and sculptor Greg Wyatt’s 40-foot-high Peace Fountain that goofs on tried-and-true allegorical representations of good and evil.

Meanwhile, there’s an old corny joke that should hip you to who is actually buried in Grant’s Tomb—or not, since it’s really a mausoleum for the head of the Union Army and the 18th President of the United States (along with the 19th First Lady). The final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant, who spent the last part of his life in New York City working on a memoir (sounds familiar, no?), is actually a national memorial under the supervision of the National Park Service. Don’t miss the asinine mosaic tile benches around the perimeter, someone’s screwy idea of a “fun” public art project from the late 1960s.

Right across the street from Grant’s Tomb is Riverside Church, an interdenominational house of worship with longstanding ties to the city’s African American community. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Kofi Annan have all given notable speeches at the church; Dr. King most famously denounced the Vietnam war here. The Gothic architecture is modeled after the cathedral in Chartres, France and the 392-foot-high tower—one of Upper Manhattan’s most notable landmarks—is unusual in that it’s actually functional, with 24 floors worth of programming space.

Since outsiders rarely head uptown, neighborhood nightlife mostly consists of grad students avoiding dissertations in beer bars (1020Bar), undergrads avoiding papers with heavier drinking (The Heights Bar & Grill), and residents avoiding that all in dives (Paddy’s). Columbia will regularly bring in world-class operas at the Miller Theater.

Columbia / Morningside Heights


Map 18

image Landmarks

✵ Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine ✵ 1047 Amsterdam Ave [W 112th St]


Our favorite cathedral. Completely unfinished and usually in disarray, just the way we like it.

✵ Columbia University ✵

2960 Broadway [W 116th St]


A nice little sanctuary amid the roiling masses.

✵ Grant’s Tomb ✵ W 122nd St & Riverside Dr


A totally underrated experience, interesting, great grounds.

✵ Pupin Hall ✵ 550 W 120th St [Broadway]

Original site of the Manhattan Project.

image Coffee

✵ Cafe Amrita ✵ 301 W 110th St [Central Park W]


Study (or update your blog) while you caffeinate.

✵ Hungarian Pastry Shop ✵

1030 Amsterdam Ave [W 111th St]


Professors and grad students love to read here.

✵ Max Caffe ✵

1262 Amsterdam Ave [W 122nd St]


Great spot to hang out. Open at 8 am.

✵ Oren’s Daily Roast ✵

2882 Broadway [W 112th St]


Hip staff pours superior java at local mini-chain.

✵ Toast ✵ 3157 Broadway [La Salle St]


Good coffee starting at 11 am.

image Farmers Markets

✵ Columbia Greenmarket ✵

Broadway & W 114th St

Thu & Sun 8 am-6 pm, year round.

✵ Morningside Park Farmers Market ✵ Manhattan Ave & W 110th St


Sat, 9 am-5 pm, June-Dec

The Columbia kids have many long-standing quick favorites such as the giant slices of Koronet Pizza or the quick Middle Eastern food of Amir’s. For something more relaxed, try Ethiopian at Massawa, brunch time at Kitchenette, or the dangerously delicious meat emporium of Dinosaur BBQ. Italian lovers get their fix at cozy Max SoHa and the wonderful Pisticci.

image Nightlife

✵ 1020 Bar ✵ 1020 Amsterdam Ave [W 110th St]


Columbia dive with super cheap beer.

✵ Cafe Amrita ✵ 301 W 110th St [Central Park W]


Caffeinated Columbia students, snacks, wine, beer.

✵ Cotton Club ✵ 656 W 125th St [St Clair Pl]


Good, fun, swingin’ uptown joint.

✵ The Heights Bar & Grill ✵

2867 Broadway [W 111th St]


Hang out on the rooftop with Columbia students.

✵ Lerner Hall ✵ 2920 Broadway [W 114th St]


Columbia student union features coffee, conventions, and wacky parties.

✵ Max Caffe ✵

1262 Amsterdam Ave [W 122nd St]


Low-key date place. Wine, good food, and sweet patio.

✵ Paddy’s ✵ 3155 Broadway [Tiemann Pl]


Ridiculously cheap drink specials.

✵ Showman’s ✵

375 W 125th St [Morningside Ave]


Live jazz. In Harlem. That’s all you need to know.

✵ Solomon & Kuff ✵ 2331 12th Ave [W 133rd St]


Sharp focus on rum with sustainable West Indian menu items.

image Restaurants

✵ Ajanta ✵ 1237 Amsterdam Ave [W 121st St]

212-316-6776 $$

Morningside Heights’ prime Indian lunch/dinner place.

✵ Amir’s Grill ✵ 2911 Broadway [W 113th St]

212-749-7500 $

A for price. B- for quality.

✵ Bettolona ✵ 3143 Broadway [La Salle St]

212-749-1125 $$$

Pizza from a wood burning oven in a sleek dining room.

✵ Bistro Ten 18 ✵

1018 Amsterdam Ave [W 110th St]

212-662-7600 $$$

Excellent uptown American bistro.

✵ Bus Stop Cafe ✵ 3341 Broadway [W 135th St]

212-690-2150 $

The nabe’s best greasy spoon, plus Spanish cuisine.

✵ Community Food and Juice ✵

2893 Broadway [W 113th St]

212-665-2800 $$$

Columbia foodies dig this place. And so should you.

✵ Deluxe ✵ 2896 Broadway [W 113th St]

212-662-7900 $$

Hip diner with good brunch and happy hour.

✵ Dinosaur Bar-B-Que ✵

700 W 125th St [Broadway]

212-694-1777 $$$

Not just for Syracuse fans. Head WAY uptown.

✵ Havana Central ✵ 2911 Broadway [W 113th St]

212-662-8830 $$$

The old West End gone Cuban. Bring earplugs.

✵ The Heights Bar & Grill ✵

2867 Broadway [W 111th St]

212-866-7035 $$

Columbia students can’t drink all the time so they eat here.

✵ Hungarian Pastry Shop ✵

1030 Amsterdam Ave [W 111th St]

212-866-4230 $

Exactly what it is—and excellent.

✵ Jin Ramen ✵ 3183 Broadway [Tiemann Pl]

646-559-2862 $$

Kickin’ ramen for Columbia crowd to slurp on.

✵ Kitchenette ✵

1272 Amsterdam Ave [W 123rd St]

212-531-7600 $$

Cozy and good for everything.

✵ Koronet Pizza ✵ 2848 Broadway [W 111th St]

212-222-1566 $

Just one slice. Really. That’s all you’ll need.

✵ Le Monde ✵ 2885 Broadway [W 112th St]

212-531-3939 $$

French bistro pub with a nice bar.

✵ Massawa ✵ 1239 Amsterdam Ave [W 121st St]

212-663-0505 $$

Neighborhood Ethiopian joint.

✵ Max Soha ✵ 1274 Amsterdam Ave [W 123rd St]

212-531-2221 $$

The Italian genius of Max, uptown.

✵ Mill Korean ✵ 2895 Broadway [W 113th St]

212-666-7653 $$

Good Korean for Columbia kids.

✵ Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too ✵

366 W 110th St [Manhattan Ave]

212-865-6744 $$

Soul food spectacular.

✵ Pisticci ✵ 125 La Salle St [Broadway]

212-932-3500 $$

Wonderful, friendly Italian. A true gem.

✵ Subsconscious ✵

1213 Amsterdam Ave [W 120th St]

212-864-2720 $

Lunch deli with quality usually reserved for Midtown.

✵ Symposium ✵

544 W 113th St [Amsterdam Ave]

212-865-1011 $$

Traditional underground (literally) Greek fare.

✵ Toast ✵ 3157 Broadway [La Salle St]

212-662-1144 $$

Great diverse café menu.

✵ Tom’s Restaurant ✵

2880 Broadway [W 112th St]

212-864-6137 $

Yes. This is the Seinfeld diner. Can we go now?

✵ V&T Pizzeria ✵

1024 Amsterdam Ave [W 110th St]

212-666-8051 $

Columbia pizza and pasta. Family friendly if you’re into that.

The newly-expanded Book Culture is a world-class academic bookstore and Ricky’s provides a resource for style needs. Coffee on the go at Oren’s or sit and talk Nietzsche at Hungarian Pastry Shop. Groceries and free samples at the 24-hour Westside Market. Or everything at the massive Fairway. And then you have a world-class neighborhood wine store in Vino Fino.

image Shopping

✵ Amsterdam Liquor & Wine ✵

1356 Amsterdam Ave [W 126th St]


Stock up on your way to that beer pong party.

✵ Appletree Market ✵

1225 Amsterdam Ave [W 120th St]


One of the better grocery options for Columbia kids.

✵ Book Culture ✵

536 W 112th St [Amsterdam Ave]


Excellent bookstore servicing Columbia/Barnard students.

✵ Book Culture ✵ 2915 Broadway [W 114th St]


Offshoot of the original location that Columbia students love.

✵ C-Town ✵ 560 W 125th St [Old Broadway]


No-frills market way cheaper than your local bodega.

✵ Clinton Supply Co. ✵

1256 Amsterdam Ave [W 122nd St]


Random hardware stuff for your new dorm or apartment.

✵ Fairway Market ✵ 2328 12th Ave [W 133rd St]


So big. So good. So New York.

✵ Franklin & Lennon Paint Co. ✵

537 W 125th St [Broadway]


Long-standing outlet with biggest selection of paint and supplies.

✵ Hartley Pharmacy ✵

1219 Amsterdam Ave [W 120th St]


Mom-and-pop pharmacy with staff that knows you personally.

✵ M2M Asian Market ✵

2935 Broadway [W 115th St]


Sushi, soba, Asian groceries. Perfect for a quick stop.

✵ Mondel Chocolates ✵

2913 Broadway [W 114th St]


Mom-and-pop candy shop with great chocolates.

✵ Samad’s Gourmet ✵

2867 Broadway [W 111th St]


Hard to find Middle Eastern and world delicacies.

✵ Sea & Sea Fish Market ✵

310 St Nicholas Ave [W 125th St]


Fish and more fish. They’ll fry it up for you!

✵ University Hardware ✵

2905 Broadway [W 113th St]


Where the smart kids get their hammers.

✵ Vino Fino ✵

1252 Amsterdam Ave [W 122nd St]


Lots of tastings and friendly owners.

✵ Westside Market ✵

2840 Broadway [W 110th St]


Bordering on gourmet shopping for Columbia U.