Washington Heights has a couple of 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 cocktail bar with very good pizzas and bar food, affordable cocktails, and wines on tap.
If you’re looking for proper Chino Latino food, head straight to the Heights where you’ll find this classic spot serving a mix of Latin and Chinese-American dishes. The menu, written in both Spanish and English, has everything from fried pork chops with sweet plantains to the tangy and delicious General Tso’s chicken. Or meet in the menu’s middle, where dishes like tenderloin steak and breaded shrimp are paired with La Dinastia’s special fried rice, prepared to perfection with tiny cubes of ham, baby shrimp, and fresh scallions.
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. The $6 sandwich is very filling, with fatty ham, roast pork, and swiss cheese, but the browned and 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.
One of Harlem’s best burger and chicken sandwich spots has finally expanded to Washington Heights. Located inside the long-planned Northend Food Hall, Harlem Public is the first vendor to open in this 6,000-square-foot shared space on Broadway and 183rd Street. Grab a chair in the colorful seating area and try the Hot Fried Thigh, a massive piece of fried chicken slathered in hot sauce and served on a soft bun, or any of the burgers - they’re pretty much all terrific. The pub opens every day starting at 11am, and delivery is now available to Inwood at the tippy top of the island too.
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 the 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.
This coffee shop now has three uptown locations - there’s also one in Inwood and another inside the GWB Bus Terminal - but the tiny original on residential Pinehurst Avenue is great if you’re planning an afternoon in Fort Tryon Park. All of the coffee here comes from small growers in Ethiopia, where the husband-and-wife owners first met. The beans are then roasted in small batches and sold by the pound or ground for use in the shop’s espressos, macchiatos, and cold brew. If you feel like taking a snack with you to go lay in the sun, grab one of their injera wraps, filled with spicy lentils and veggies.
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.
With its dark-wood interior and penny-tile floor, this spacious pub feels like it’s been in the neighborhood forever - even though it actually only opened in 2018. There’s a wide menu here but it’s easy to get pulled in by the burgers, which range from a juicy short-rib-and-brisket-blend with onion straws and roasted garlic aioli, to a salmon burger as well as an all-veggie version made with red quinoa and kale. They also have a long list of beers and ciders (in cans or on tap), which you can pair with a Murray’s cheese board or a plate of the sriracha buffalo cauliflower bites if a burger feels like a bit much. Brunch is the time to go for buttermilk pancakes and avocado toast, plus live jazz on Sundays. All in all, it’s one of the more versatile spots in the neighborhood where you can come with a whole group and not worry about anyone not being able to find something they’ll truly enjoy.
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.
This small Singaporean place started out at the Queens Night Market before opening here in winter 2021 and still serves the same great Southeast Asian food that can be especially hard to find in Upper Manhattan. While it started off as counter-service only, Native Noodles has expanded with a few tables both inside and out where you can take your time exploring dishes like the spicy laksa and the chili crab linguine. Or go beyond noodles with fried pork and shrimp wontons, crunchy popcorn chicken, or the roti john, a Singaporean omelet sandwich combining ground beef, onions, and spicy ketchup on a roll.
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.
Named after a town deep in Colombian coffee country, this stylish cafe opened right before the pandemic and is one of the best places to go for coffee and a bite (or substantial breakfast) in the Heights. The large display case holds an array of traditional pastries like bunuelos - crispy, not-too-sweet doughnut holes - and various puff pastry treats stuffed with sweet (guava and cheese) or savory (chicken, mushroom, or beef) ingredients. Besides breakfast snacks, they also have fresh empanadas, arepas, and, if you’re truly hungry, the bandeja paisa - a classic plate with beef, chorizo, chicharron, arepa, sweet plantains, and fried egg over rice and beans.
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).
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.
El Paisa makes some of the better tacos in Washington Heights. That said, this place is also small, very 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.
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.
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.
It’s hard to resist the almost cartoonishly good-looking egg sandwiches at this Korean-influenced cafe. Two slices of thick, supersoft brioche bread are used to hold fluffy scrambled eggs paired with everything from bulgogi to avocado, which comes with a squiggle of spicy sauce. Being a coffee shop, this spot also has plenty of espresso, flat whites, and lattes, along with croissants and other pastries. If you’re looking for something sweet and cold, however, try one of the sweetened shaved ice concoctions called bingsoo in flavors like sesame and matcha.
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 Washington Heights 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 of 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.
You’ll find this laid-back coffee shop up a series of metal steps just around the corner from Broadway in the southwestern corner of Washington Heights. You can start your day off here with a latte or cold brew and Balthazar pastries, then invite a friend to join you for a beer or a glass of wine paired with a fresh panini or omelet. No matter the hour, the brick-walled space is one of the most pleasant places to hang out in the area, and don’t be surprised if you end up befriending the owner if you spend enough time here.