Visit Washington Heights And Inwood
Ethnic, religious and cultural diversity is a hallmark of New York City — part of the reason why many people, across the world, yearn to call it home.
It is the world’s melting pot — a gumbo of sorts. If you stand on a Manhattan street and just listen, you can hear the sounds of so many countries. Take a walk down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and you may hear Creole or Jamaican patois. If you walk down Steinway Street in Queens, you will hear a variety of different European languages. When you take a stroll down Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, you will surely hear the tongue of Italy.
In a sometimes forgotten neighborhood of Manhattan lies a ton of history and culture. This neighborhood is perhaps dismissed because of its proximity to the cultural epicenter that is Harlem. We are talking about Washington Heights and Inwood, or as many like to call it, “Upstate Manhattan,” a 35-minute train ride from midtown.
Washington Heights and Inwood are among the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city, owing largely to one of the largest ethnic groups in the city, Dominicans. Dominicans began settling and moving into these neighborhoods in the late 1960s when they were Irish and Jewish strongholds. Now, you can’t walk a block without seeing Dominican salons and barbershops, windows displaying rotisserie chickens and classic Dominican plates, or passing older Dominican men playing dominos on a street corner.
Every August, the Dominican community celebrates with their annual parade down Fifth Avenue. But, you don’t have to wait to get your Dominican fix. Here’s the rundown of what to do and where to go in one of New York City’s best-kept secrets.
Where to Eat
Malecon Restaurant, 4141 Broadway at 175th St. Whether you’re stopping in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, El Malecon Restaurant is not only a Dominican staple, but a neighborhood favorite for residents of all backgrounds. The authentic Spanish/Dominican cuisine will have your mouth watering even from outside the restaurant as you see their famed rotisserie chickens roasting to your delight.
If in the area for breakfast, try the famed tres golpes of salami, eggs and mangu — mashed plantains. If you’re around for dinner, go with the classic rice, beans and chicken. Make sure you ask for chimichurri sauce to drip on your chicken. The added flavor will make you want more.
Margot Restaurant, 3822 Broadway at 159th St. This tiny spot gives you the feel of an old restaurant with the look of a bodega, and the best authentic Dominican dining in Washington Heights. With super-affordable prices and classic Dominican drinks to pair with your meal, you can’t go wrong. Make sure to try the rice, beans and steak with onions plate. Ask for fried sweet plantains or tostones to add to your meal. And don’t forget the avocado salad. When you walk into Margot’s, understand you’re walking in with food to take home as leftovers as well.
Saggio Restaurant, 829 W. 181st St. If you’ve had your fill of Spanish and Dominican cuisine, try a change of pace with the elegant, Italian restaurant Saggio, nestled down a hill in the Hudson Heights neighborhood of Washington Heights. Make sure to start off your dining appetizer with the calamari — it’s a “can’t miss” here.
Indian Road Café, 600 W. 218th St. Right on the edge of Inwood Hill Park sits the famed Indian Road Café, a favorite for area locals. The restaurant serves as a gathering place for locals and a town hall of sorts, popular for brunch and dinner. Go in and enjoy delicious plates created from local produce from the Inwood Farmers Market, as well as a great beer and wine selection. Diners are treated to a fantastic wait staff who offer great recommendations and frequently, live music.
Locksmith, 4463 Broadway at 191st St. The cozy neighborhood bar, which used to be a locksmith/hardware store, is one of the local residents’ favorite stomping grounds. The delicious food from the burgers all the way down to the garlic fries have customers always coming back for more. But the best part about this neighborhood bar is the wait staff, probably the best in the entire neighborhood; and while your Locksmith food may take a little longer to come out than other restaurants or bars in the area, they will make sure to keep you entertained while you wait for a dish you will have no regrets about ordering.
Where to Party
La Marina, 348 Dyckman St. Enjoy one of the city’s newest and most beautiful waterfront restaurants right off Dyckman Street. For many years, the space for La Marina was a dumping ground. Now, it’s quite arguably one of the most beautiful waterfront destinations in the city. Come on a weekday evening for a quiet dinner and drink or on the weekend for an early brunch. A word of warning: It can get a bit rowdy at night as the mood shifts from eating to partying off those calories. The breathtaking view of the Hudson River, boat docks and the brilliant George Washington Bridge will make you want to linger.
Apt78, 4447 Broadway at 191st St. The headquarters for culture and diversity in Washington Heights and Inwood nightlife is Apt78. Run by a native resident, the lounge offers a cozy space with an extensive, delicious bar and dinner. Check out their live jazz and Latin nights, or party into the wee hours Thurs–Sat with great local DJs spinning classics from all genres.
District 12, 4892 Broadway at 207th St. One of the newest additions to the neighborhood is mega-bar District 12, a steakhouse, sports bar, beer garden and whiskey bar — all under one roof. Stop by for their happy hour specials or enjoy their diverse cuisine in the beer garden while you listen to live tunes. Or, if you’re a sports fan, there may be no better place for live viewing, especially during football season.
What to See and Experience
Inwood Hill Park, 207th Street and Seaman Avenue. Inwood Hill Park is not just a local gem, but one of the best parks in New York City. It’s a favorite place for yoga, jogging, baseball and young musicians practicing their instruments. Set along the Hudson River from Dyckman Street going north, Inwood Hill Park contains the most natural forestland on the entire island of Manhattan. Enjoy the 100-foot-high red oaks and tulip trees as you peacefully walk around and realize why it’s a quiet escape for many of its residents.
Fort Tryon Park, 1 Margaret Corbin Drive. A creation of John D. Rockefeller, Fort Tryon Park, which stretches from 190th Street to Dyckman along the Hudson River, is probably the most important cultural artifact in Washington Heights and Inwood. When enjoying the many acres of park land, make sure to stop at The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that houses Medieval European art and much more. On weekends, drop by for one of the frequent food and cultural fairs, complete with live entertainment. If you’re in the mood for a bite, try the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar, a beautiful restaurant inside the park.
Little Red Lighthouse, Fort Washington Park on the Hudson River. Officially known as Jeffrey Hook’s lighthouse, the Little Red Lighthouse is located under the eastern pier of the George Washington Bridge. The nearly 100-year-old lighthouse is an ideal place to picnic as well as a beautiful tour stop along the Hudson River Greenway. The 40-foot-high structure was built and painted red to prevent nautical accidents, common way back when.
George Washington Bridge, 181st and Pinehurst Avenue. While you can experience one of the world’s most famous, and busiest, bridges by walking it from 178th and Broadway, the best location to take in the bridge is on 181th St, where you get a direct view. Try a late afternoon or early evening and take in the 4,760-foot connection between the Empire and Garden states. At night, the lights on the bridge provide one of the most captivating and romantic scenes in the city.
Travel to New York is affordable and accessible on the Northeast Regional train. If you’d prefer a more luxurious journey, try first class on Acela Express service — with great meals, served right to your seat.
About the Author: Claudio E. Cabrera award-winning journalist and digital marketer based out of the Inwood section of New York City.