A Day in Morningside Heights

The burning question always at play here is whether Morningside Heights is part of Upper West Side or part of Greater Harlem? The question had been a source of debate among the area’s residents for many years. Regardless of nomenclature, Morningside Heights has become the center of the academic world, with more than five major universities calling the neighborhood home. There’s also a cultural and religious significance to this NYC neighborhood that's beyond dispute.

Kitchenette Uptown

It is said that the morning meal is the most important meal of the day, which rings even more true if you live in Morningside. This is a college neighborhood so you are going to need lots of energy to start to the day. There’s one fantastic morning joint that has fed residents for sometime now. Kitchenette Uptown, located just north of Columbia University, is the perfect choice for today. The comfort food eatery has earned accolades for its straightforward, classic approach to cooking. The biggest draw are the milkshakes but the morning meals are right there, too. There’s the Lumber Jane (eggs, French Toast, and bacon) or the Lumber Jack (eggs, pancakes and bacon). If pancakes are your poison, sink your teeth into the Hudson Valley (chocolate chip and banana topped with homemade granola) or the strawberry peach pancakes.


Tom’s Restaurant

There’s a diner at the corner of Broadway and 112th Street that you’ll need to check out. The exterior of Tom’s Restaurant was used as the stand-in for Monk’s Cafe in the legendary sitcom Seinfeld. Naturally, you will need to sit and sample some grub. The food is your typical diner selections, but what is startling is that the interior of the place does resemble Seinfeld’s (the show’s interiors were filmed on a stage in L.A.). That alone will make you come back many a time to re-enact a scene or two from the show.


Academic Acropolis

The biggest attraction in Morningside Heights is the unparalleled presence of academia. The neighborhood has been called the Academic Acropolis, and here you are nearly at all times mere blocks from some of the most storied educational establishments in the country. Morningside Heights has been compared to Boston, home to MIT and Harvard. But if you walk around your neighborhood, you will discover other distinguished colleges like Barnard College (site of the Battle of Harlem Heights), NY Theological Seminary, and Manhattan School of Music.

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Columbia University

Some of the most distinguished human beings in the world got their start at a cherished landmark – Columbia University. The structure itself is a marvel to just stroll through. The university, established in 1754, was built with the vision of a late-19th century campus. Architect Seth Low designed the campus with Beaux-Arts principles seamlessly engraved into six city blocks (32 acres). The most famed spot on the campus is the college walk and courtyard dominated by the Butler Library. There are other landmark buildings that should also be seen, such as Philosophy Hall and Pupin Hall. The Teachers College building is also a treat to see. The prestige of the campus is beyond any in the city. Columbia is home to the Pulitzer Prize and among the alumni are more than 120 Pulitzer Prize winners. Several presidents attended Columbia, including Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt (law school), and Barack Obama. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is an alum. Businessmen such as Robert Kraft (New England Patriots owner) and Warren Buffet studied here. Legendary athletes like Sid Luckman and Lou Gehrig also graduated from Columbia.


General Grant National Memorial

One NYC political memorial that holds high praise outside of Washington D.C., and that is Grant’s Tomb. Located in Morningside Heights, the memorial is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. The tomb was completed in 1897 and has a striking resemblance to the Jefferson Memorial in D.C. The historic memorial is popular among tourists and residents alike.

A Night in Morningside Heights


Church of Notre Dame

Aside from the strong presence of faculties, there’s a large contingent of religious institutions that simply must be visited for their glorious architecture. In the area, you will come across a number of historic and landmark churches, including Corpus Christi Church, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Riverside Church and the Church of Notre Dame. The last was critical in integrating the first French community in the city. Today, the Church of Notre Dame still features an intricate façade and pillars. It was also to have a dome, but the dome was never completed.


The West End Lounge

The bar scene in Morningside is surprisingly low key, considering the number of colleges in the area. Still, there’s one bar that you will have to visit. The West End Lounge, located at West End Avenue and Broadway, was established in 1911 and continues to be a watering hole preferred by the Columbia University students and faculty. Its slogan even mentions the university: “Where Columbia Had Its First Beer.” The bar plays an important role in the city’s pop culture. The West End was the former hangout of many founding members of the Beat Generation. In the 1940’s, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (a Columbia University student) spent hours at the bar discussing their studies and future.

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Flat Top

This is a college town/neighborhood, which means you’ll always be able to find some affordable and fast eats in the area. There are great spots like the Digg Inn and Shaking Crab. Tonight, you have your sights and palate set on Flat Top. The casual American eatery offers some interesting twists on classic dishes. There’s the Caesar Salad with a poached egg or a burrata salad with anchovy toast. But for larger plates, try the Airline Chicken Breast served with scalloped Yukon, sautéed Brussel sprouts, bacon, and roasted jalapeño cilantro cream sauce, or maybe a grilled Mahi-Mahi with a Romesco sauce.

Words by Arte Vincent

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Erik Serras
Erik Serras
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