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Washington Heights

Washington Heights is a veritable United Nations of immigrant stories. Irish settlers moved up north in the 1900s. After World War I, European Jews called this hilly stretch of Manhattan home. Now, the 'hood swings to an undeniable merengue beat. The largely Dominican sliver of northern Manhattan probably claims more authenticity than any Punta Cana all-inclusive. Street vendors whip up delectable chimichurris, a sort of Dominican hamburger. Broadway houses a seemingly limitless number of chicken-and-rice eateries. English almost feels like a second language. As with all of Manhattan, this swath of delis and pollerias sees change in the future. Hipsters searching for cheap rent keep hiking uptown, and higher end Dominican fusion eateries are breaking into the restaurant scene. It looks like everyone knows that all you have to do is take the A train even farther than Harlem.

Some of Manhattan's most storied buildings live far uptown, and The Heights are no exception. Most no  See more.

able is the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a hilltop home that looks like it belongs in Gone With the Wind, not Gotham. British Colonel Roger Morris built the abode in 1765, but George Washington famously stationed his headquarters here in the fall of 1776. After the Revolutionary War, Morris left the estate, which stretched up from Harlem. If that's not impressive enough, note that Washington also took John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams to dine there in 1790. The museum is open for visits, but beware: There have been rumors of hauntings. For a less ghostly architecture tour, check out the two-block historic district of Sylvan Terrace. This stretch of wooden row-houses line the skinny street leading up to the mansion. Although the turn-of-the-century homes underwent a few incarnations--from wooden to faux brick to stucco--they are now largely restored to their original facades. Another turn of the century creation, the New York Armory, had a similar rebirth. The armory first served as a training center for the National Guard in 1909. It rose to fame as a center for track and field competitions until the 1980s, when it became a homeless shelter. Now, the armory has been restored and functions as a track and field center.

This skinny expanse of Manhattan boasts some of the country's top transportation accomplishments. Construction began in 1948 for the Cross-Bronx Expressway, one of the country's first highways to forge through such a densely populated urban area; suffice it to say, "first" does not necessary mean "best." Heading west into Fort Lee, NJ, the George Washington Bridge is the only 14-lane suspension crossing in the country. Hikers, bikers and skaters can skip the pricey tolls and enjoy views of Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey. The best part about the bridge: The Little Red Lighthouse that rests underneath. The charmingly out-of-place tower only operated between 1921 and 1948, but it earned fame from the 1942 children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward.

Nightlife
From hopping gay bars to suave wine lounges, The Heights nightlife scene won't leave you wanting. Groove to salsa and Reggaeton at No Parking or duck into Coogan's or Le Chéile for a pint. When the live music itch strikes, the shabby but grand United Palace hosts a bevy of artists.

Restaurants
Dominican eats dominate the food scene up here; Margot Restaurant is easily one of the best. Hit up Malecon for unsurpassed roast chicken. When variety beckons Sushi Yu dishes up a tasty alternative and Saggio is a pleasant Italian trattoria. And good luck choosing from the massive Hudson View menu (though we're sorry to report that there is not much of a view).

Shopping
Broadway's chaos anchors this nabe's shopping options. Stroll the street for a mind-boggling number of hardware stores, check out oodles of vendors at La Plaza de las Americas, and score free delivery on groceries at Liberato. Find a decent selection of wine and liquor at Columbia Wine. For a taste of Russia, check out Moscow on the Hudson. It's all here.




         
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Posted By:  Jena Tesse Fox
Photo:  Jena Tesse Fox

Carrot Top Pastries
Before bakeries became integrated with corporate supermarkets, they were specialty shops that catered to their neighborhood's unique tastes. In Inwood, the Carrot Top Bakery conjures up those bakeries of yore, serving fresh homemade pastries, cakes and breads to kids and gourmands alike. The sugar is shamelessly pure and there are few unnatural ingredients to be found in any of the goodies on display. You haven't had pastries like these since Granny moved to Florida. Light breakfasts are available in the morning, and from inside the cozy interior, it’s easy to pretend you’re enjoying your pastry and coffee in some bakery by the Seine. Unfortunately, Carrot Top’s prices are more in line with Paris (or at least downtown) than Inwood. The exquisite fruit tarts with meringue toppings cost about $4, while a whole cake can cost almost $40. Yes, the pastries are delicious, and any local would have to travel pretty far downtown to find their equal, but one of the benefits of Inwood is the (comparative) cost efficiency. If the food weren't so damn good, no Inwoodite would be caught dead paying these prices.




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