Welcome To The Hood

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Amy Langfield asked me to put together a little guide highlighting my neighborhood, so here goes…

I live in that slice of the Upper West Side just north of Lincoln Center; in years past it used to be called “Ansonia”, no doubt taking the name from the venerable apartment building on 73rd and Broadway. Some other famous landmarks in the area include Lincoln Center (Broadway and 65th St.) and the Dakota, most notorious to contemporary visitors as the building where John Lennon lived and was shot.

While Lincoln Center is most commonly associated with with its four largest constituents (the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera and New York City Ballet), many people don’t realize that the performing arts complex also houses two Broadway theaters under the administration of Lincoln Center Theatre, the Julliard School, two branches of the New York Public Library, a movie theater, and a fire house. Two more educational institutions abut and are closely associated with Lincoln Center; the first is the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (more commonly known as the Fame school; fans of the movie are sure to be disappointed that the school’s students, while armed with formidable talent, generally do not make a habit of spontaneously dancing on cars in the middle of Amsterdam Avenue) and the Manhattan campus of Fordham University. In addition, Jazz at Lincoln Center maintains residence just a few blocks down Broadway at Columbus Circle.

This section of Manhattan isn’t known for destination dining (though, with the recent opening of Telepan at 69th and Columbus, that may slowly start changing); instead, it’s dotted with neighborhood standbys. O’Neals, on W. 64th St. directly opposite the Lincoln Center Plaza, is a popular pre- and post-theater restaurant and watering hole; Fiorello’s (Broadway between 63rd and 64th), another pre-theater favorite, is known for its Italian food and warm service. Other eateries of note in the nabe include Cafe Luxembourg (Continental, W. 70th between Amsterdam and West End Avenue), Scott Campbell’s @SQC (New American, 270 Columbus Ave, between 72nd and 73rd); Pappardella (Italian, 316 Columbus Ave., 75th St.); Cafe Ronda (S. American, 249 Columbus Ave. between 71st and 72nd St.); and Terrance Brennan’s Picholine (French, 35 W. 64th St, between Central Park West and Broadway). My personal favorite neighborhood restaurant is a tiny North African/French bistro called Epices du Traiteur (103 W. 70th St, on the corner of Columbus Ave).

Continuing the food theme, there are plenty of bakeries in the area; the giant Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidien has branches both right next to Lincoln Center (on W. 65th St, east of Broadway) and further uptown on 72nd St. between Columbus and Central Park West. Levain Bakery (164 W. 74th St.) is known not only for its artisianal bread but is famous for its cookies, which you can order on their website. I’m personally partial to Soutine (104 W. 70th St.), a French bakery that started in owner Marge Rosenberg’s kitchen and specializes in cakes, both birthday and wedding. They’ve recently started cashing in on the cupcake craze, but they’re also responsible for fantastic croissants and tarts.

Caffeine hounds should note that in addition to the local delis, the area is well-stocked with Starbucks (on 74th, 71th, and 68th streets). Those in the know, however, head over to The Sensuous Bean (68 W. 70th St.) for gourmet beans and hand-mixed blends.

Bars on the Upper West Side have generally consisted of either run-down frat-boy hangouts redolent of stale beer or dimly-lit, swanky lounges populated by ensuited investment bankers and their prey, with the occasional antique Irish bar thrown in the mix. Bin 71 (237 Columbus Ave.) is an elegant new wine bar that serves small plates (think tapas, but Italian) that caters to a local crowd tired of the traditional scene. It’s a great place to take a date—if you can manage to squeeze into the tiny place. At the far other end of the spectrum is the P&G Cafe (279 Amsterdam Ave), a relaxed, low-key dive bar that’s home to some of the more colorful, uh, characters in the neighborhood.

Venerable supermarket Fairway (Broadway and 74th) is still the place to go for produce and meats in the neighborhood, despite both competition and the famously aggressive little old ladies with shopping carts who treat grocery shopping at Fairway like a demolition derby.

Columbus Avenue between 72nd and 66th has accidentally evolved in to a corridor for beauty products; from north to south, one can find high street boutiques for Clarins, Face, Lancome, Kiehl’s, and MAC.

There are plenty of public spaces in the neighborhood, ranging from Central Park to the Lincoln Center Plaza to the Sherman Square subway stop plaza at 72nd Street. However, the true hidden gem is Riverside Park; for some reason, it seems that non-Westsiders never make it over to the river. With easy access at 72nd St., the park features stunning views of the Hudson and New Jersey without the oppressive crowds of Central Park.

The neighborhood is well-served by public transportation; the 1 train stops at 66th and Broadway; the 1, 2 and 3 trains stop at 72nd and Broadway, and the B and C trains stop at 72nd and Central Park West.

Top Five
Neighborhood Eatery: Epices du Traiteur (103 W. 70th St.)
Dive Bar: The P&G Cafe (237 Amsterdam Avenue)
Bakery: Soutine (104 W. 70th St.)
Public Space: Riverside Park
Coffee: The Senuous Bean (68 W. 70th St.)

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on March 19, 2006 11:44 PM.

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