The first stop of the day is at Bennett Park, where natural history pervades. The public gathering place was named after James Gordon Bennett, the former publisher of the New York Herald. The thing with this park is that it’s home to the highest natural point in Manhattan. The spot is actually marked with a stone plaque. The schist, the natural bedrock foundation of the city, is about 265 above sea level here. If you make it to the park on the right day you could just catch a Revolutionary War reenactment with Redcoats and George Washington’s army converging to fight the battle of Fort Washington, which unfolded right here, in this very park.
In an era of high rents, affordable living resides in Hudson Heights. The Hudson View Gardens, built in 1924, was one of the city’s first affordable housing units. The idea was to create “a garden community” of cooperative apartments to draw in those who wanted the comforts of new suburbs in the city. Today, the complex, set in exquisite gardens, features much of its original Tudor-style architecture.
With all the storied theaters in the city, the most majestic is located a few blocks from your Hudson Heights spot. The United Palace, located at 4140 Broadway at West 175th Street, was built in 1930, originally as a movie palace. It was one for the five “Wonder Theatres” constructed by Loew’s in the city. The interior is lavish, eclectic and immeasurable. The theatre featured many vaudeville acts and today it remains a destination for live acts. The terra-cotta-faced architecture is astounding, combining several styles such as Byzantine, Romanesque, Indo, Hindu, Sino, Moorish, Persian, Rococo and Art Deco. The result is what many call a “delirious masterpiece.”
There’s an instant sense of Northern Africa that’s invoked when you enter Cafe Buunni. The muted colored walls and artwork create a sense of Ethiopia, which is where the owners are from. The fact that the spot operates out of a former shoe repair shop adds to a sense of quirk and coziness. The shop produces its own coffee beans to brew and sell. The food highlights are injera (Ethiopian flatbread) and smoked ham and Swiss cheese sandwich.
The Rue La Rue Cafe is your lunch destination not because of the food or the drinks. The cafe is inspired by actress Rue McClanahan from the hit 1980s show “The Golden Girls.” The corner spot is filled with memorabilia and photos of the actress. There walls are adorned with pictures of McClanahan through the years, and many photos from “The Golden Girls.” Impersonators even come in from time to time, and coffee cup sleeves are printed with her image. You already know that your lunch won’t be the same as every other day, and you haven’t even tried the food yet.
You have procured a seat in another unique restaurant in the neighborhood. The Pandering Pig is a French restaurant infused with the Northern Californian flair. There’s the taste of France with the Pate Board that features foie gras, venison pate, duck rillettes, and smoked duck breast. The California flavors include a salad with roasted cauliflower, melted Gruyere and toasted walnuts over arugula. The mood is sleek and stylish with the spot’s oak wood tables and fabric seating. Very inviting.
If you are still feeling European, your next stop should be La Cheile. The Irish bar and restaurant’s name is Gaelic for "together.” The multicolored entrance and interiors instantly fill you with a sense of joy. The walls are plastered with memories of Irish history, both large and small. The drinks are just as impressive with a long Irish whiskey list and a modest but strong beer selection.