March 15, 2003 — It wasn’t too long ago that all but the daring stayed below 110th Street in Manhattan. Those days are gone, of course, with the continuing emergence of the new Harlem renaissance. And now, the rebirth is moving even further north.
Thats right. The nosebleed sections of the island, better known as Inwood and Washington Heights, are experiencing a boon as well. The neighborhoods, once viewed as the nether regions of Manhattan, are now welcoming a new crowd of students, artists and actors looking for cheap rents ($900 one-bedrooms), beautiful parks and, finally, great restaurants and nightspots.
“I never thought about moving up here,” says six-month Inwood resident and choreographer Nicholas Pierro. “But the price was right, so I came up here a few times to check it out and was sold.”
One of the most recent additions to the area might also be its swankiest. DRK — formerly known as Republi’k until confusion with the Midtown noddle shop, Republic, forced the name change — opened on Dyckman Street in late December, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the 99-cent shops, pizza parlors and delis that populate the area.
And if the pan-Latino spot’s sleek facade stands out in the crowd, so does chef Ricardo Cardona’s menu of ceviche, paella and other chichi derivations of Inwood’s local cuisine.
“It was a neighborhood missing this kind of restaurant,” says manager Saverio Laguareio.
After dinner, sip on the house specialty pineapple mojito in the upstairs champagne lounge. Not the Inwood youve heard about, is it?
For a similarly dignified dinner (but minus the hustle and bustle of Dyckman Street), head to the New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park. Owned and operated by Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, the restaurant offers popular brunch, lunch and dinner menus featuring everything from barbecue chicken sandwiches to roasted salmon.
Of course, its close proximity to the Cloisters and some of the best natural views in the city doesnt hurt business either. “Generally, restaurant views in New York aren’t the most bucolic things,” says manager Fausto Espinosa. But we’re as close to the country as youll find in the city.” An outdoor patio that opens later this spring, allows diners to breathe in the fresh air.
When Guy Pepin and Brian Washington-Palmer were looking to open a restaurant, they initially looked in the East Village and Park Slope before realizing that — surprise! — rents were too steep. They found their promised land in Washington Heights and opened Bleu Evolution.
“Nothing was going on in this neighborhood, but a lot of young people were moving here,” Pepin says. “We realized that we needed to be here. “
The price was right and soon their funky restaurant established itself as an institution. Everything here is mismatched, from the silverware to the mishmash of velvety drapes and animal prints that create the decidedly downtown ambiance. Brunch, lunch and dinner are served, featuring intriguing dishes like seafood cobbler.
Business became so good that Pepin and Washington-Palmer decided to expand around the corner, opening the similarly untamed Monkey Room. Connected by a backyard patio and a flare of dissimilar animal prints, the Monkey Room is a sunny coffeehouse by day, serving jazz on the stereo and espressos, lattes and hot chocolate at the bar.
But as the sun sets, the drinks start to flow. DJs spin both new music and old, alternating with popular karaoke and open mike nights. Order food from Bleu’s menu at any hour and they’ll whisk it through the patio right into the Monkey Room.
114 Dyckman St., between Post and Nagle streets
808 W. 187th St., between Fort Washington and Pinehurst avenues
New Leaf Cafe
One Margaret Corbin Dr., Fort Tryon Park
589 Fort Washington Ave., at 187th Street
New York Post, March 15th, 2003