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.
13. Bennett Park
W. 183rd St. at Ft. Washington Ave.
General George Washington set up camp here during the Revolutionary War. (At 265 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point of land in Manhattan.) Now it’s a playground with colorful swings and a jungle gym, and a lunch spot, thanks to ample bench space. When the weather’s nice, you might see local schoolchildren on recess and maybe a bake sale in progress.
14. Critter Outfitter
210 Pinehurst Ave., nr. W. 187th St.; 212-928-0342
“In the last five years, the neighborhood has become very doggy,” says Valerie Volinski, the owner of this pet-grooming-and-supply store. Her shop is a community center of sorts for pet lovers, who regularly stop in for conversation and dog treats. Grooming costs from $55 to $100.
15. Sava Spa
211 Pinehurst Ave., nr. W. 185th St.; 212-543-0008
Uma Thurman, Christy Turlington, and Sting and Trudie Styler (and well-heeled locals) patronize Joanna Czech’s day spa, the neighborhood’s first. The pristine minimalist interior provides a calm environment for pampering. The Sava Ultimate Facial ($350) lasts up to 120 minutes and includes a foot-and-hand massage.
810 W. 187th St., nr. Ft. Washington Ave.; 212-927-9262
Just like Nana used to make at home. This small, 60-year-old kosher bakery pumps out fresh, fragrant challah, black-and- white cookies (60 cents for a small one; large, 90 cents), and black-and-white cake ($9.95), which is even better.
17. Pleasant Cleaners
810 W. 187th St., nr. Ft. Washington Ave.; 212-927-5663
The preferred neighborhood stop for alterations, done by Adam the tailor, who can usually be found plying his sewing machine in the window.
18. Bleu Evolution
808 W. 187th St., nr. Ft. Washington Ave.; 212-928-6006
With its rustic décor and faux Victorian grandeur, this restaurant feels like your favorite thrift store but with food. The French and Italian cuisine suits its spacious garden dining area. Try the tilapia served with saffron risotto, broccoli rabe, and its delicious orange rum sauce ($18.95).
19. Frank’s Market
807–809 W. 187th St., nr. Ft. Washington Ave.; 212-795-2929
This half-century-old market has blossomed into a fully stocked gourmet haven with prepared food; an array of cheeses, meats, breads; and fourteen varieties of olives.
20. Hilltop Pharmacy
593 Ft. Washington Ave., at W. 187th St.; 212-568-5510
The sign should really say APOTHECARY, because having a pharmacist greet you by name is a courtesy reminiscent of a bygone era.
21. Monkey Room
589 Ft. Washington Ave., nr. W. 187th St.; 212-543-9888
On weekends, the outdoor patio is usually standing-room-only at this hopping bar with its gay and straight multicultural patrons. Broken-in banquettes and a flat-screen television with sports programming bring drinkers inside.
22. United Palace
4140 Broadway, at W. 175th St.; 212-568-6700
Six months ago, the Reverend Ike’s Christ Community United Church, a 3,293-seat space, started moonlighting as an indie-rock venue. Bloc Party, Arcade Fire, and Björk have played recently, drawing a new kind of crowd. The interior is Old Hollywood grand, but nowadays the exterior is somewhat shabby.
4141 Broadway, at W. 175th St.; 212-927-3812
“King of the Roast Chicken” is not an overstatement at this Caribbean-influenced restaurant that stays open from 7 A.M. to 2 A.M., welcoming livery drivers and downtown clubbers returning home late at night.
24. La Rosa Fine Foods
4161 Broadway, nr. W. 176th St.; 212-923-4100
This Spanish gourmet shop with five staff butchers sells fresh fish, meats, and produce to local gourmands.
25. No Parking
4168 Broadway, at W. 177th St.; 212-923-8700
This year-old Latino and African-American gay bar grooves on Saturday night to D.J.’s spinning Puerto Rican–inspired reggaeton, salsa, and more. Go-go boys have been known to dance atop the circular acrylic-and-glass bar.
26. Típico Dominicano Restaurant
4172 Broadway, at W. 177th St.; 212-781-3900
A 24-hour restaurant with Dominican-influenced dishes such as mofongo ($7.95) and shrimp seviche ($16.95). Its breakfast special is hard to beat: two eggs, home fries, toast, juice, and coffee or tea, for $2.25.
Let visitors complain of the dearth of high-end stores and Zagat restaurants. The vibe here is that of the Upper West Side, before Circuit City and others turned chunks of it into a mall. And yet, prices in Washington Heights—for both rentals and sales—are still a fraction of what you’d pay 50 blocks south.
27. 801 Riverside Drive
This prewar building is undergoing a condo conversion that began in 2006. Six units, two- to three-bedrooms, are on the market at prices ranging from $450,000 to $875,000. (Corcoran Group; 212-444-7866)
28. Heights 163
467 W. 163rd St.
Downtown chic invades the low-key neighborhood. Of eight units, three listings, including a 1,684-square-foot duplex penthouse, are asking less than a million (okay, a dollar less). (Corcoran Group; 917-312-4497)
29. Castle Village
120–200 Cabrini Blvd.
Red-brick towers built in the twenties and thirties, these co-ops are amenities-laden complexes perched atop Hudson Heights, arguably the neighborhood’s most coveted pocket. (Stein-Perry, 212-928-3805)
30. 703 W. 171st Street
A boutique condo with just eleven units will be ready by late fall. Most of the apartments will be one-bedrooms. (Stein-Perry)
31. The Audubon
779 Riverside Dr.
Many of the 92 apartments in this prewar gem should begin conversion into condos late this summer. (Corcoran Group; 212-543-9013)
—S. Jhoanna Robledo
SEE ALSO: Washington Heights Real Estate