Washington Heights has a couple rivers, the world’s busiest bridge, and a Met Museum where you’ll find a series of massive unicorn tapestries. But more impressive than any of that is the incredible variety of places to eat. Despite only being about two avenues wide, this area north of Harlem has an abundance of Dominican, Italian, Puerto Rican, and Mexican restaurants, just to name a few. So instead of settling for a fruit cup at the cafe inside The Cloisters, go to one of the 18 places on this guide.
The Uptown Garrison is like that friend who’s an eagle scout - life’s just easier when they’re around. In the case of your friend, that’s because he knows how to open wine bottles with a shoe, and in the case of this all-day bar and restaurant a block from the A train, it’s because it’s great for so many different dining situations. It opens at 7am every day and works for breakfast meetings or a casual lunch, and then it turns into a dark, constantly packed cocktail bar with very good pizzas and bar food, affordable cocktails, and wines on tap at night.
Floridita serves a large variety of Cuban and Dominican food, like mofongo, asopaos, and rotisserie chicken, but the reason you’re here is for the Cubano sandwich. The $6 sandwich is very filling, with fatty ham, roast pork, and swiss cheese, but the browned, pressed bread holds it together more tightly than a Victorian-era corset. Floridita is open 24 hours a day, so order a sandwich with a coffee at the diner counter or a beer at the bar in the back.
Order one slice at this small counter-service spot on 181st Street if you’re hungry, and two if a self-help podcast convinced you to enjoy the present. Even the margherita - our favorite - has enough mozzarella and dense, doughy crust to function as a last meal for a bear heading into hibernation. But no matter what, make sure to get a side of garlic bread, which is charred and crispy, painted with butter, and topped with a ton of black pepper. Whether or not you order it with cheese is between you and your future self.
The very long menu at Malecon, a casual Dominican spot with three locations around the city, is illustrated with pictures of their dishes, like whole-fried snapper and mofongo de chicharron. They all look delicious, but the most effective advertising here is saved for the rotisserie chicken, which rotates on spits in the front window. For $7.50, you get a half-bird with skin that tastes like it’s coated in brown sugar, and for another $4, you can and should add a side of boiled green bananas.
The Pandering Pig feels like something you’d find at a bed and breakfast upstate. It’s a tiny French spot with exposed brick walls covered in old photographs, and when you stop by, you’ll probably see one of the owners walking around, opening bottles of wine, and chatting with everyone. So if you need a charming spot where you can talk to a nice stranger and eat a big plate of coq au vin, The Pandering Pig is an excellent choice. Bring a date, or stop by with your family for a nice meal during which you probably won’t argue.
Carrot Top Pastries is a neighborhood bakery that makes some of the best carrot cake we’ve ever had. Unlike many other spots with neon signs on the walls, this bakery has been open since 1979 and the cake slices are taller than your coffee mug. Aside from the incredible desserts, come here to eat diner classics at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
After you visit The Cloisters, you should head down the hill in Fort Tryon Park and get food at another spot on this guide. But there’s a lot to see at this medieval-looking Met Museum, and if you need to take a break between the priceless unicorn tapestries donated by Rockefeller and the priceless trinkets donated by another robber baron who was trying to make up for all the bad sh*t he did, walk into the museum’s courtyard and sit down at The Trie Cafe. Order a glass of wine, and eat a CLIF bar in what looks like the country villa of Catherine de Medici.
La Casa Del Mofongo is a massive spot that’s open 24 hours. As you can you probably tell from the name, mofongo is the house specialty, and there are about 30 different ways you can get it, with everything from shrimp and pernil to octopus and lobster. There are also a bunch of other things like steak and fried chicken, but you should stick to the mofongo. This is a good spot for a casual group dinner, and we especially like it for a quick meal in the bar area where you can watch sports on TV and smoke some hookah (if you’re into that).
If you want to eat pizza and drink beer in Washington Heights, do it at Bodega Pizza. Before you even enter this neighborhood spot, the yellow exterior and rainbow light bulbs will tell you this place is special. And if you come on a Friday night for Open Mic, the packed house is a sign that you were right. The very good pies are made in a brick oven and come topped with things like black truffle oil and soppressata, which you can enjoy with beer or wine. Just be sure to save room for the Nutella calzone.
Grito is open until 1am most nights, and that’s the main reason why we like this place. You can stop by at 11pm on a Tuesday, grab a table, and eat some perfectly decent Mexican food, like steak tacos or an al pastor burrito. They also make some very strong cocktails here, and we’re fans of the dark, festive space stuffed with liquor bottles and other knick knacks. Stop by with a friend for a quick weeknight dinner, or just sit at the bar, drink a mezcal negroni, and have some nachos by yourself.
El Paisa is just across the street from Grito, and the tacos here are just a little bit better. That said, this place is also smaller, more casual, and feels like a cross between a diner and a deli grocery. It also doesn’t have a bar, so it isn’t the best for a fun night out - but if you just want to pick up a quick torta, quesadilla, or a couple of tacos, this place is ideal. Try the chorizo, it’s excellent.
Even if it’s your first time sitting down at a candlelit table in the small, dark dining room or covered backyard at Saggio, you’ll feel like you’ve been coming here for years. It’s such a pleasant place to hang out and drink big $10 glasses of Italian wine that the generally unmemorable Italian food - like crostinis and handmade pastas - won’t bother you, especially considering the large portions and affordable prices.
La Cheile is an exceedingly Irish pub with two floors, a view of the George Washington Bridge, and faded pink walls covered in old photos and posters. It feels like something you’d find in a small Irish town, and it’s a great spot in the area to treat as your own personal clubhouse. The dinner menu consists of things like shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash, and there are also a few decent burgers - but mostly we just come here for the wings. They’re 25 cents each on Mondays from 6-9pm, and there’s also a Happy Hour that goes from 4-7pm every day but Sunday.
This is a counter-service Dominican spot with locations in Manhattan, New Jersey, and The Bronx that, as you might have guessed, serves incredible chicharron. Everything on the menu here is in Spanish, but even if you don’t speak the language, all you need to know is that you want the chicharron, which goes for $15 per pound. From there, just point at whatever looks good behind the counter, like fried plantains, rice, and mofongo.
Pretty much every neighborhood has a solid sushi spot where you can fill up on raw fish for less than $30, and in Washington Heights, that place is Sushi Yu. Will the sushi here blow your mind? It’s very unlikely. But you can get a sushi deluxe combo for $26.95, and the dining room - with its wooden furniture and hanging plants - is perfectly quiet and pleasant. Try this spot for a casual weeknight sushi meal or just order delivery the next time you’re feeling a strong emotional bond with your couch.
When you’re in the mood for a very good burger in Washington Heights, this should be your destination. It’s a counter-service spot that has thick beef, turkey, and veggie patties that you can get topped with things like pineapple or guacamole. This converted garage is mostly a takeout spot, but if the weather is nice, order some gelato and sit at one of the sidewalk seats along Wadsworth Ave.
Tampopo Ramen is the Swiss Army knife of restaurants. This ramen spot and sake bar is casual enough for a solo dinner, intimate enough for a date night, reliable for takeout, and pleasant enough to get drinks with a friend. And during the daily Happy Hour, sake is $4.50 and craft beer is $4. A couple drinks in when you remember that you haven’t eaten yet, get some pork buns and an order of the (not-so) spicy miso ramen.
If you’re looking for something quick and affordable, pick up a cold cut sandwich from Tasty Deli. This counter-service spot has been in the neighborhood since 1957 and has a menu of over fifty different deli sandwiches. Most of the people who eat here have a “usual” and the guy behind the counter telepathically understands their needs. The “Celebrity sandwiches” and “Classics” are the most popular orders and a good place to start, but if you’re here before 10 a.m., the breakfast burrito is also a solid choice.