Where To Eat Around Columbia University

Whether you are a student, visiting a student, or just lost in this part of town, here's how to eat well around Columbia University.
Where To Eat Around Columbia University image

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

Let's talk about Morningside Heights.

Known to Columbia students as the University's version of a college town, and to everyone else as the otherwise nondescript stretch of land between The Upper West Side and Harlem, this neighborhood is not usually thought of as an #EEEEEATS destination. Nor is any of the Upper West Side, frankly.

But attending Columbia (as I did) offers a unique perspective into the area's dining scene. One learns, for example, that while it's sort of cool that Tom's Restaurant is the diner featured in Seinfeld, it's not somewhere one should ever actually go to eat. Or that Columbia has a good Farmers' Market every Thursday and Sunday year-round.

Whether you're looking for some restaurant options outside of the 110th-116th block radius, visiting a student, attending a conference in the area, or are very lost on your way to Lincoln Center, here are 18 of the best that this area has to offer. Get them in rotation for whenever you're looking to eat, drink, and/or talk about the patriarchal structures of power that pervade every aspect of modern society.

The Spots



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Having a decent ramen spot up by campus means, 1) not having to travel all the way downtown to Ippudo or Momofuku, and 2) an almost constant wait. That being said, there's pretty much a serious wait at every ramen spot these days, so get in line.

Kitchenette is an upscale, retro-ish, polka-dotted little diner. One might even go as far as to call it "cute." Hit it when pancakes are the only solution.

Massawa image




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Need a last minute spot for a whole bunch of people? Massawa. This place has delicious, family-style portions of Ethiopian food, which is actually the perfect thing to eat with a group. You basically order several portions of meats and vegetables in tasty sauces, and they arrive at your table with a big spongy piece of bread for everyone to use as a utensil. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too image

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too


Miss Mamie's is east of campus, and it's on 110th, which, for most Columbia students, is equivalent to Brooklyn. But making the trek is worth it for serious soul food. Order the Famous Southern Smothered Chicken, and yes, that's what it's called.

Mel's is a sports bar by day, and a serious undergrad bar scene by night. They have solid burgers and some crazy sides. Also, whiskey milkshakes.

Pisticci is like a Columbia version of a hot West Village Italian spot, meaning it's good for date night and the pasta is pretty good, but there will definitely be some professor eating there with his wife and kids. This will remind you that you are, in fact, not in the West Village.

Community is not actually Columbia's only brunch spot, but you might think it is from the insane weekend crowds. Try going on a weekday for lunch or dinner and get all the same rice bowls and veggie burgers, without the long waits.

Thai Market feels pretty scene-y on a Friday night, which can be difficult to find up at Columbia. Some prefer the less glamorous but arguably higher quality Wondee Siam across the street, but can you get electric blue mystery cocktails at Wondee? Didn't think so.

This take on traditional Indian street food (think burrito) presents a serious conundrum: order a Bombay Frankie now, and experience pure ecstasy, or order a Bombay Frankie now, and feel dead inside almost immediately after consuming it. You know what to do. Just eat one.

Milano sandwiches. Game over. Try any one of them: you can't go wrong, just make sure you have at least two hours to nap after consuming one.

Saiguette has some of the best Vietnamese food in NYC. If you haven't ordered in from here yet, get to work.

You know that feeling after a night ou, when you're super drunk and think to yourself, "Damn, I wish I could eat a slice of pizza that's bigger than my face”?

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

The best bagels in NYC. WHO WANTS TO FIGHT?

If you're up by Jin Ramen, still want to eat delicious food, and don't want to wait in line, go to Chapati House. It's like the Indian version of Chipotle, and it's very good. Pro tip: bring a Process Theology book to read while eating.

This is the go-to spot for at least half of the city's cab drivers. You can get four curries, a side salad, and naan/rice with a Chai for $7. Cab drivers know what's up.

The Hungarian Pastry Shop image

The Hungarian Pastry Shop


Filled with lots of Europeans and students who prefer to work in a cramped cafe with no wifi, Hungarian is the kind of place that will make you want to smoke a cigarette while you eat your baked goods. If anyone asks, tell them you're working on a novel.

Joe has a Columbia location, in the creatively named Northwest Corner building on the northwest corner of campus. It's a great spot for meeting people and for Instagramming your cappuccino, because that's what you do with cappuccino.

1020 is the kind of super disgusting dive bar that is only kept alive by its proximity to the campus. This is not a Columbia bar, it's the Columbia bar. Go (don't actually) on a Saturday night to pay way too much for a sh*tty G&T and to watch grad students pick up undergrads.

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Suggested Reading

Community Food & Juice image

Community Food & Juice

Community Food & Juice is one of the best brunch spots around Morningside Heights and Columbia University. Unfortunately, that's exactly when it's at its worst. Hit it any other time for best results.

The Best Chinese Dumplings in NYC image

Our guide to the city’s plumpest, steamiest, tastiest Chinese and Taiwanese dumplings.

Jin Ramen image

Though not the very best in town, Harlem's Jin Ramen still provides great ramen and pork buns for the Columbia community and neighborhood locals.

Amy Ruth’s image

Amy Ruth’s is a big, casual soul food institution in Harlem where you can bring a group and get some very good fried chicken.

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