While Harlem is often touted as the new uptown destination, there’s another notable neighborhood farther up the A line. Washington Heights, home to the Cloisters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has a know-your-neighbor atmosphere, delicious food finds, green parks, and gay bars. The hilly upper-Manhattan neighborhood is steeped in Latino heritage, ever-growing upscale services, and reasonable real-estate prices that attract first-time home buyers. For New York culture in the city’s northern territory, don’t cloister yourself.
714 W. 181st St., nr. Bennett Ave. 212-923-9153
For eleven years, this family-run store has catered to uptowners with a taste for downtown style. The shop sells men’s and women’s jeans, T-shirts, and hooded sweatshirts from G-Star, Fred Perry, and True Religion, among others. The owner’s nephew, Rey Cordova, who has been helping out since he was 12 years old, mans the register.
2. Manny’s Bicycle Shop
8 Bennett Ave., nr. W. 181st St. 212-927-8501
This dusty joint carries an array of mountain bikes to navigate local hills; the well-priced repair services keep customers coming back. Flat-tire fix: $8.
3. Nuñez Hardware Store
756 W. 181st St., nr. Ft. Washington Ave.; 212-568-0312
At this narrow, merchandise-filled neighborhood shop, the staff is friendly, which is good, considering you’ll need their help to locate what you need—be it painting supplies or hard-to-find nuts and bolts. Every nook is filled, but it all coalesces beautifully.
4. Moscow on the Hudson
801 W. 181st St., at Ft. Washington Ave.; 212-740-7397
There’s no vodka, but this specialty grocer has pretty much anything else you’d need to re-create a Tolstoyan feast, including handmade Russian-style ravioli (pelmeni; $5 a pound), Baltika beers, hot smoked paddlefish (which has a similar taste to sturgeon; $14 a pound), and cherry and cheese blintzes. Russian is still the main language, but pointing works, and samples are freely given.
5. Groom Team
812 W. 181st St., nr. Pinehurst Ave.; 212-795-9586
Visit this seven-chair unisex barbershop where owner Manny Rosario sits by the door and jazz plays on the radio. Women are welcome, but the specialties are scissor cuts (about $20), beard trims, and “line-ups”—a trim of the forehead, sideburns, and neck. Wait for your treatment on the bench outside so you can watch the neighborhood comings and goings.
6. The Cloisters
Fort Tryon Park, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr., nr. Riverside Dr.; 212-923-3700
The area’s most widely known tourist draw; the 500-year-old Unicorn tapestries are shockingly vibrant and detailed, while the cool, shadowy buildings are ideal for escaping steamy summer days. Walk left at the mouth of Fort Tryon Park for a stroll through the Heather Garden and sweeping views of the Hudson, or go right to trek up the winding driveway reminiscent of arriving at a grand estate. Suggested donation: $20.
7. Jesse’s Place
812 W. 181st St., nr. Pinehurst Ave.; 212-795-4168
This pub draws local medical students from Columbia-Presbyterian and young neighborhood residents with Jesse’s Special Burger, stacked with onion, bacon, mushroom, and Cheddar cheese, for $9.95.
8. Cabrini Wines
831 W. 181st St., nr. Pinehurst Ave.; 212-568-3290
This mom-and-pop emporium has expanded five times to reach its current size: 2,400 square feet with 2,500 different wines and 1,000 spirits that fill the store’s shelves. Although there are fancy three-digit wines for sale, this shop specializes in good buys and easygoing service. Manager Daniela Castiglioni likes to suggest Castiglioni Chianti ($11.99), for obvious reasons. “That’s my last name,” she says. “I’m still doing research to see if we’re related.”
9. Hudson Pilates
836 W. 181st St., nr. Pinehurst Ave.; 212-740-7178
The area’s first Pilates studio has seven instructors and offers group and private classes (of mat, tower, and reformer Pilates). The “Mommy and Me” class, taught by owner Mollie Slaton, lets new mothers focus on realigning their bodies after pregnancy. New members get three private sessions for $165.
837 W. 181st St., nr. Pinehurst Ave.; 212-543-2130
Dunhill smoking accessories and Truefitt & Hill shaving products are sold at this new clubby cigar bar. Its walk-in humidor holds 150 boxes with prices ranging from $7 to $60. The Ultimate Royal Shave ($65) includes a hot-and-cold towel treatment, a cigar, and a shoe shine.
854 W. 181st. St., nr. Cabrini Blvd.; 212-740-4417
A lone outpost of health food in an area filled with bodegas and big-chain groceries. Like its Harlem and Clinton Hill siblings, this health- and natural-food store carries 27 types of Jim’s Organic Coffee. There’s also a juice bar, and green cleaning products are available.
839 W. 181st St., nr. Cabrini Blvd.; 212-740-5222
A sophisticated two-floor restaurant with a menu divided into “Land” and “Sea.” If both appeal to you, order the combination platter of hanger steak and salmon with garlic mashed potatoes (about $30). Prices are high relative to the neighborhood, but it’s worth it.