If you walk any direction other than south in Inwood, you’ll eventually reach a railing. And if you go any further, you’ll find yourself in one of three bodies of water. So wandering aimlessly in search of food isn’t the best tactic around the northern tip of Manhattan. Fortunately, there are plenty of great places to eat in the neighborhood, and that’s why we made this guide. Whether you’re looking for outdoor brunch by yourself, wine and small plates with a date, late-night tacos, or the greatest patacon in New York City, use this guide to the 14 best spots in Inwood.
Unless you count eating an energy bar in the Columbia Tennis Center, Indian Road Cafe is the northernmost place to eat in Manhattan. Its location at the very western tip of 218th Street overlooking Spuyten Duyvil Creek and The Bronx makes for an interesting piece of trivia, but this all-day American spot is worth checking out regardless. The space feels like a ski town tavern, and the menu includes the kind of meat and sauce-heavy dishes you want when the city’s crosswalks are under a foot of wintery slush. Sit at the bar during Happy Hour and get the dry-aged burger with chive aioli and aged cheddar, or come with a group and share the huge portion of mac and cheese.
If you’ve never had a patacon, it’s a Venezuelan sandwich that swaps out fried plantains instead of bread. And the best one you’ll find in NYC is from Cachapas Y Mas, which is conveniently open 24-hours on weekends and is always playing Latin music videos from the ’80s and ’90s. Throw in a cachapa - which is stuffed with moist, shredded beef and cheese - as well as some tequenos, arepas, and maracuchas for the table.
Tannat is a great place to drink wine. They offer around 20 wines by the half or full glass, and the long bottle list has lots of options under $60, including a bunch from some of the top natural wine producers in the world. You’ll be very happy coming here just to drink, but don’t miss out on the rotating small plates that are cooked behind the bar, like a medley of different mushrooms cooked in butter and wine, or spaghetti squash carbonara with beet pesto and slices of rich guanciale.
From pancakes to burgers, we always say yes when asked if we want anything topped with “the works.” But you should override that automatic-reply when you go to Taqueria Emilio. The tacos are big on their own, and they become fork-and-knife dishes when topped with everything from cucumbers and radishes to sour cream and cheese. Most importantly, all the toppings mask the flavor of the meat, and the juicy al pastor and tender lengua are the reason you should come to this all-day counter-service spot in the first place.
Maybe you had a bad day at work, or perhaps your significant other’s snoring kept you up all night. No matter the reason, El Tina is where you should eat in Inwood when you just want to be left alone. Well, alone with your thoughts and a $6 bowl of soup, which will be a light chowder packed with crab and fish. Sit at the diner counter in the tiny space underneath the 1-train at 207th Street, eat some soup and a side of plantains, and remind yourself to pick up nasal strips on your way home.
Garden Cafe is like the pillowcase of Inwood restaurants. It’s not the thing you excitedly show off to friends when they come to visit, but it gets more use than any of the flashier things around. This casual American spot serves big portions of omelettes and lunch salads every day, and then equally filling pastas and burgers at night. You don’t need to go out of your way for any of it, but you also won’t have to because it’s less than a block from the A train at 207th Street. It’s a good option for a lunch meeting or last-minute dinner with a friend, and there’s a nice backyard where you should drink during Happy Hour when it’s nice out.
La Casa del Mofongo is open 24 hours a day, has sushi, hookah, and an attached nightclub with multi-colored strobe lights, but the real reason you should come to this massive restaurant is for the mofongo. More than 30 different types of this fried plantain dish are served here, with add-ons ranging from herring and lobster to oxtail and tripe, but we prefer to keep it simple with crispy chicharron and a heavy pour of garlic sauce.
Patacon Pisao now has locations in Elmhurst and the Lower East Side, but it all started at this food truck on 202nd Street. Like the other locations of this casual Venezuelan spot, the focus here is on the patacon - beans, fried cheese, special sauce, and your choice of meat sandwiched between two fried plantains. Our favorite is the one with grilled steak and chorizo, but no matter which you go with, you’ll get plenty of food for about $10.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, get a large portion of crispy fried pork with a side of moro de habichuelas from the Inwood location of Elsa la Reina del Chicharron. The portions of crispy fried pork here are big and sedative enough to qualify as an efficient alternative to melatonin. There are a few tables inside, and we recommend bringing at least one friend to support you emotionally after you finish your plate and realize that you’re too full to function.
After messing up what was supposed to be a home-cooked meal or watching a movie that made you think harder than you ever did in school, sometimes you just need a platter of very good grilled chicken. Get that need met at La Nueva Espana, a Dominican spot on 207th Street. Once you walk in, you’ll realize that this place has two floors and a bunch of big tables that could easily host your entire inner social circle. Order half of a grilled chicken with a side of rice and beans - it might be the best $14 you ever spend.
The pizza at Grandpa’s Brick Oven Pizza is average at best. But thankfully, our years of watching the Fast and the Furious movies have taught us to be optimistic that there’s something useful in every ostensibly useless situation. The Fast and the Furious is useful because it gives us an accurate temperature check on toxic masculinity, and Grandpa’s Brick Oven Pizza is useful because it provides us with cheese-filled carbs, like calzones and strombolis after 10pm on weeknights. As an added bonus, nothing here costs more than $10 and there’s almost always an open table inside.
Even though John’s Fried Chicken is a chain with locations in the Bronx and New Jersey, this Dominican fried chicken spot feels like a neighborhood restaurant run by a small family. When you walk in, you’ll be greeted by someone at the counter who will kindly pack a foil to-go box full of fried chicken just for you. The crispy fried chicken’s delicious vinegar-based batter objectively tastes so good, most other fried chicken will seem unforgettable. Return to the counter and order more for the ride home.
If you need a spot to host a birthday dinner for someone who loves flowers, the color pink, and Yorkshire Terriers, go to Bocaditos Bistro. This sit-down Spanish restaurant is over-the-top in a good way, and the food is better than average. Come here even if you aren’t particularly excited to eat in what feels like the oversized bedroom of someone’s seven-year-old princess. Start with the almond and cheese bites and then move to the crab cake sliders - they’re crunchy on the outside and buttery on the inside. Just note that most of the tapas range from $12-17, so things get pricey fast.
Every neighborhood has a great slice shop. For Inwood, that’s Pizza Palace. It’s a run of the mill, cash-only, pizza place, and both the triangle and Sicilian pies here are nearly perfect. We like the classic cheese and pepperoni slices best, but the Sicilian crust is practically invisible under a layer of melted mozzarella and that’s just how we like it.