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 best spots in Inwood.
If you’ve never had a patacon, it’s a Venezuelan sandwich that swaps in fried plantains for bread. And the best one you’ll find in NYC is from Cachapas Y Mas, which is conveniently open until 2am every day 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. They also have a bit of outdoor seating now, in case you feel like experiencing the wind in your hair between bites.
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. Stick with paired-down versions, which will highlight the juicy al pastor and tender lengua from this all-day counter-service spot in the first place.
Choc NYC is a bakery so good that it’ll make you wish you lived next door (or at least in the neighborhood, if you don’t already). This place bakes their own croissants, pastries, tarts, and cakes in the back, and it’s best to swing by first thing in the morning for a latte and one of the must-try caramelized croissants (some even come dipped in chocolate), a muffin, or a pistachio eclair. With an excellent selection of desserts for a crowd - we like the classic chocolate layer cake and seasonal baked fruit tarts - keep this place in mind the next time a holiday or special occasion pops up.
Where To Eat In Washington Heights
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.
This Spanish restaurant got a nice little facelift when it moved from Broadway in Washington Heights to this sunny corner in Inwood in 2019. Now there’s a long bar plus a roomy outdoor patio where you can enjoy perfect Spanish omelets, grilled octopus, and, if you want to make a night of it, classic seafood paella with clams, mussels, and shrimp. Galicia also has a sizable list of Iberian wines, which you should definitely explore as you work your way through an onslaught of tapas.
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 omelets 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 anytime it’s nice out.
The Best Restaurants In West Harlem/Hamilton Heights
La Casa del Mofongo is open 24 hours a day, has sushi, hookah, a little outdoor seating, 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.
Few people come to this spot right on the Hudson River just for the food - a mix of burgers and vegetarian-friendly dishes, plus barbecue and sushi. But they definitely come for the views, which can be enjoyed from both the covered pavilion with table service and the open self-service deck and are some of the best in the neighborhood. Face north to take in the Hudson and the Palisades, crisscrossed with a few sailboats. Turn south and you can stare at the George Washington Bridge and, if you time it right, the stunning sunset - their website conveniently lists the precise time every day.
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.
The Best Restaurants In Harlem
Elsa La Reina Del Chicharron
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 largest of this uptown coffee spot’s locations, this Broadway cafe has enough tables for you to meet with friends over a brew and - thanks to an expanded food menu that launched in spring 2021 - even lunch and dinner. Place your order at the long counter, where you’ll find a large selection of drinks featuring the shop’s small-batch Ethiopian coffee, as well as things like smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and Ethiopian dishes including ful (fava beans prepared with berbere spice). And yes, there’s beer, wine, and cocktails, too.
The Best New Pizza In NYC
The pizza at Grandpa’s Brick Oven Pizza is average at best. But thankfully, our years of watching the Fast & Furious movies have taught us to be optimistic that there’s something useful in every ostensibly useless situation. The Vin Diesel-led franchise 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 until 11pm on weeknights. As an added bonus, a lot of things here cost less than $10 and there’s almost always an open table inside.
Located in the shadow of the elevated tracks near the northern tip of Manhattan, Lina is a Dominican spot that specializes in lots of things that’ll keep you warm during the winter months, or just make you feel better when it’s been a day. Choose from a solo spot at the counter or one of the tables topped with a floral tablecloth (and, because this place is nothing if not practical, covered with plastic) and get ready to fill up on a bunch of classic dishes. There’s tender roast chicken, garlicky mofongo, and plump oven-cooked shrimp, all of which should be ordered with a generous side of tostones, rice and beans, sweet plantains, and a cold bottle of Presidente (or three).
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.
The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In NYC
This casual luncheonette is one of Inwood’s most popular spots for an easy and affordable breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Much of the menu is made on the flat top grill right behind the counter, including freshly-made Mexican dishes ranging from tacos to tortas, plus egg sandwiches, pancakes, and the like. But the breakfast burrito (listed as a special) might just be the best thing here. Get the works: scrambled eggs, home fries, chorizo, cheddar cheese, avocado, and salsa wrapped in a large tortilla and sliced in half. You’ll pretty much be set for the rest of the day.
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. Or don’t and just sit outside. Start with the patatas bravas and then move to the tenderloin beef taquitos. Just note that most of the tapas range from $12-17, so things get pricey fast.
This cheerful pub is the perfect spot to grab a beer and a bite after a day spent exploring gorgeous Fort Tryon Park, and it’s only a seven-minute walk down the hill from the Cloisters. The food here is pretty standard - think burgers (including an Impossible version), plus nachos, wings, and guac - but exactly what we want after a long afternoon looking at Romanesque and Gothic art. If TVs playing sports aren’t your thing, the outdoor patio has pleasant views of the park too.
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.