A visit to Washington Heights isn’t complete without some good rice and beans. I’ve tried out a few restaurants in the area and I’d place Margot at the top. As a vegetarian, I can’t testify to the quality of beef or poultry, but I’m told good things. And the maduros—the fried plantains—make me want to run straight back to Puerto Rico. The storefront is totally unassuming, but don’t be fooled—or waste your time at some of the new, upscale places that are beginning to crop up along Broadway—Margot is the real deal.
In the Heights, I grab my coffee and I go… to any of these excellent places in this gem of a neighborhood. Now that we’ve got the obligatory “In the Heights” reference out of the way, take the A train to Upper Manhattan (or the Columbia shuttle—it’s free!) and have a gander around this beautiful, beloved corner of the city.
Are you that kid who likes making the trek to Fairway because it’s the only “authentic” market near campus? Broaden your horizons and schlep up to Frank’s Market—you’ll be breaking up with Fairway in no time. Right across the street from Gideon’s, Frank’s puts Westside’s cheese samples to shame and has a charming deli staff, who serve up organic meats and cold cuts on demand. Established in the 1940s, this slice of old New York life really makes you wonder why anyone would ever pay nearly $1 per rotting banana at Morton Williams.
One of Manhattan’s largest movie theaters and certainly the most aesthetically pleasing, the United Palace Theater has undergone quite the renaissance over the past few years. It opened as a movie theater in the 1930s, but in 1969 was converted to a house of worship by the first black televangelist, Rev. Ike. Now it’s showing movies again, with “In the Heights” creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda hosting a New York film series once a month. The next installment, on Feb. 23, is “West Side Story,” which will be introduced by Anita herself, Rita Moreno. There are great comedy and small-scale music events as well.
Before it became the epicenter of New York’s Boricua and Quisqueyano populations, Washington Heights was once the home to tens of thousands of German Jews. Gideon’s, a hole-in-the-wall kosher bakery, is a small reminder of that history, offering delicious challah and black-and-white cookies that leave Nussbaum’s in the dust. It’s about as local as local gets. Closed, of course, on the Sabbath.
You might not think of track and field as a spectator sport, but everyone knows that it’s tied with swimming for the best part of the Summer Olympics. It’s really thrilling to watch fit people run super fast, and I swear I’m not saying this just because I cover track and field now for Spectator. The Armory is one of the country’s best track arenas, and you can often get in with a student ticket of just $5. Weekend meets last for hours, so there’s always something happening—whether it’s runners on the track, pole vaulters or jumpers on the inside, or throwers at the end of the cavernous room.