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© 2020 by The Curious Uptowner

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Top 6 reasons to visit Columbia's Manhattanville campus–even if you're not a student

You may live uptown and think, Columbia University's new campus–what's it got to do with me? It's just another extension of a behemoth school gobbling up real estate and even whole neighborhoods. (That's of course if you're not a current student, a staff member–or one of the actual people displaced by the development.) But there is reason to pay attention to–and even visit–the new Manhattanville campus. Columbia's latest buildings right above 125th Street have little in common with the gated main campus on 116th Street. The university is purposefully aiming for a completely different kind of vibe–one that welcomes the surrounding community. And it's not just the lack of physical barriers tha

Uptown pizza taste-off: Uncle Tony's vs. P&M Classic

New York takes its pizza very seriously, and Uptown is no different. So when Uncle Tony's Pizza, a takeout joint that's an offshoot of the popular and stylish Fumo, opened a few months ago, I wondered how it would compare to an old-school pizzeria with relatively deeper roots in the neighborhood. I aimed to find out. I gathered a group of four friends who have what I consider to be sophisticated city palates and invited them over for a taste-off. I chose the old-school pizzeria by looking at three in my West Harlem neighborhood and using one of the most widely-used metrics–Yelp–to find the one with the highest rating. It turned out to be P&M Classic Pizza, a few blocks above Uncle Tony's on

Uptown double date: Montefiore Park weekend flea market + Las Americas bakery

Whenever I walk to the 1 train at 137th Street on the weekends, I make sure to take the long way around so I can drop by the unofficial flea market that groups in the vicinity of Montefiore Park on Saturdays and Sundays. For anyone who loves to rummage through other people's castoffs, this bazaar is a must. Year round, a small group of enterprising merchants sells everything from kitchen wares and assorted electronics to shoes and clothing. Over the years I have found a very fancy paper shredder, a banana bread pan, and collectible vintage Pyrex. Last weekend there was a deer head for $100–perfect for your private hunting lodge. A word of warning before you go, however: lately there have bee

Uptown links: Michelle Obama taps a Studio Museum emerging artist as her portraitist, Bo's Bagel

• Michelle Obama has chosen artist Amy Sherald–who has two pieces currently in the Studio Museum's "Fictions" show, including the gem above–to paint her official portrait. Sherald usually paints strangers she approaches on the street, so this should be a huge departure for her. (The Make Believer, courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery) • Not even a year after Bo's Bagels opened its first storefront in Harlem, its handmade bagels have been voted as one of New York magazine's "Absolute Best." Looks like we're all going to have to try the za'atar, the blueberry and the Black Russian. (Absolute Bagels near Columbia also made the cut. Life is good.) • Looking for a personal, 90-minut

The Second Avenue Subway is coming to 125th Street (one day)–in the meantime, give the train simulat

It may feel a bit Pollyannaish, but the MTA recently set up a Community Information Center on 125th Street in East Harlem to give the neighborhood more details about the eventual extension of the Second Avenue Subway. Expected completion date? The folks inside wouldn't commit to a precise year, but let's put it this way: right now the MTA is just beginning to take soil samples. Inside the small storefront is a tidy exhibit with maps showing the three future stops–106th Street, 116th Street and 125th Street–and the work that will be involved in building them. At the last station, the track will curve around to Lexington Avenue where the Q will connect to the 4, 5, and 6 trains, the Metro-Nort

A cool new music store in Harlem champions vinyl (and, yes, cassettes too)

Imagine getting off the subway on a Friday evening after work, hitting the wine shop for a nice bottle, then swinging by the record store for your favorite artist's latest album and heading home for the night to enjoy both. That's the ideal–and decidedly retro–routine Pat Lombardo envisioned when he first walked from the subway to the small storefront that would become Cinderblock People, the new music shop he owns with his partner, Emily Weill. And if you happen to live near the 145th Street station on FDB, that perfect evening–say, a bottle of red from Hamilton Wine House and Beyonce's Lemonade on vinyl–can now be yours. The two-month-old store, launched with the help of a Kickstarter camp

Neon shines anew in Harlem, but are all the old signs gone?

Have you heard? Neon is in again. Once linked with the flashy (and even sinful) glow of Broadway and Vegas, and more recently with cheap motels and neighborhood bars, neon is turning another corner–a hip one. The trend is easy to spot uptown. From Angel of Harlem on Frederick Douglass Boulevard with its "Harlem State of Mind" motto to Streetbird Rotisserie a few blocks down with its high-tops-wearing rooster to Filtered on Amsterdam and its mod "coffee" sign, fun neon is shining brightly in Harlem's new crop of restaurants and cafes. Of course, Harlem had many iconic neon signs in the old days, but most are either falling apart (like this 400 Tavern sign on W 148th Street near St. Nicholas A

Uptown double date: ROKC cocktails + Halloween stroll (4 spooky spots)

The signs (and decorations) are everywhere: Halloween is fast approaching. And Harlem, particularly its historic parts, is an especially fun place to walk around this time of year. It's a great excuse to check out some of the area's prettiest neighborhoods. But before you do so, why not stop by ROKC for some drinks to get you in the mood? This accolade-winning bar and restaurant in Hamilton Heights, whose name stands for Ramen, Oysters, Kitchen and Cocktails, serves some serious–and seriously beautiful–drinks. Two in particular are perfect for a Halloween-y cocktail hour. The Smoke, a mix of bourbon, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Cynar and house bitters, is served with a glass dome that capture

Uptown links: new Ethiopian and Brazilian restaurants debut in Harlem, A$AP Ferg goes local in his l

• Benyam, a new Ethiopian restaurant on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, is a NYT Critic's Pick (photo courtesy of Benyam). • Poetry in motion: a reviewer at the New Yorker thinks The Edge, an Anglo-Jamaican restaurant in Harlem, "feels like a place the young Langston [Hughes] would like." • Even more food to check out: a vacant lot in East Harlem is now a cheery outdoor spot where Brazilian dishes are served. • Wish I could have seen them shooting the bicycle "mob" scenes for Hamilton Heights native A$AP Ferg's new music video. They included 200 Harlem friends and extras, fronted by two pro BMX riders. • Lots of Uptown real estate to gawk at: a group of theater friends created a cozy place to

So much gorgeousness (and fall spirit) at Trinity Church Cemetery

In New York City, it's always nice to hit up your local park once the leaves start to change. But if you live Uptown, there's a truly special place to enjoy the fall foliage–and get into the Halloween spirit while you're at it: the historic Trinity Church Cemetery & Mausoleum. Located on the upper, upper West Side (the main entrance is on 153rd Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive), this large, winding cemetery is a bit like our version of Paris' Père Lachaise. Buried here are naturalist James John Audubon, Mayor Ed Koch and three other city mayors, dynasty founder John Jacob Astor, "Invisible Man" writer Ralph Ellison, and so many more. (As I discovered while doing research for my pr

Margot and Richie Tenenbaum: perennially cool Halloween characters with uptown roots (and how to get

If you're a fan of Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums," you'll know that "Royal Tenenbaum [the character played by Gene Hackman] bought the house on Archer Avenue in the winter of his 35th year." Much of the action in this quirky tale about a dysfunctional family takes place in and around his home. In real life, Archer Avenue is Convent Avenue in Hamilton Heights, and the house in the movie can be found on the southeast corner at 144th Street. Walking past it on my way to the express train, I always look up and admire this beautiful building and marvel at the fact that Anderson scouted it so many years ago when the neighborhood was ignored by anyone who didn't live there. It just goes to s

Brooklyn real estate agency moves to a stretch of Amsterdam Ave in Harlem that's heating up

Walk up the west side of Amsterdam Avenue between 149th and 150th Streets and you might do a double-take. This unassuming block in Hamilton Heights is now home to a sleek-looking new real estate agency that looks like it would fit right into popular parts of Brooklyn. That's because it already does. Brick & Galo landed a month ago in Harlem, but already has locations in Crown Heights and Flatbush. Its new Manhattan branch focuses on listings in uptown neighborhoods including Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood (there's a dedicated Bronx section on its website, too). Co-owner Joe Brikman says he chose the Amsterdam location because he wanted to be on the border between Harlem and Washington

Uptown double date: Morningside Coffee & Biscuits + Schomburg Center

Make plans with your carb-shunning friends another weekend. Now you'll be free to go to Morningside Coffee & Biscuits in Central Harlem for brunch. The menu is small, as is the seven-month-old restaurant, but full of tempting buttermilk biscuit sandwiches of the scrambled egg or fried chicken varieties. One choice you won't regret is the Fried Chicken & Cheese sandwich, accessorized with pickles and a tangy house sauce that the crunchy crust and slightly-too-crumbly biscuit soak right up. Once you've been properly fed and caffeinated, head three blocks down Malcolm X Boulevard to the NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. After a major two-year renovation, the center is ready

Uptown links: two new hip hop museums prepare to battle it out, Colin Kaepernick visits Harlem, and

• Which will come first? The Universal Hip Hop Museum in the South Bronx (rendering above) or The Hip Hop Hall of Fame in Harlem? Place your bets now. (Photo: L+M Development Partners) • Quarterback and national-anthem-protest symbol Colin Kaepernick was recently in Harlem for a good cause and a photo shoot, possibly for GQ Magazine–and TMZ got a piece of the "top secret" action. • An Italian restaurant and a speakeasy are coming to a huge commercial space in Manhattanville that has seen a lot of turnover. Now that some buildings on Columbia's new campus are finally open, maybe this latest venture will stick. • Harlem's churches are closing or being sold at a fast clip. Point the finger at g

TV and film productions head uptown in search of a vanishing New York

Miss the old New York? The one without the soulless bank and drugstore chains on every corner? You might want to follow the noses of production designers on two noteworthy new TV series (and one movie that's about to start filming). Two great shows that came out this fall, The Deuce on HBO and season 3 of Narcos on Netflix, used uptown streets to create an old New York some still remember–and even miss. And it was just announced that "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins will shoot his adaptation of James Baldwin's "If Beale Street Could Talk" on Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem sometime this month. The love story is set in the 1970s. Present-day 133rd Street under the 12th Avenue Viaduct in West Har

Top 5 reasons to visit the new Whole Foods in Harlem

It's now been almost three months since the much-buzzed-about Whole Foods opened in Harlem–enough time for most of the kinks to have been worked out. So I thought I'd pay a visit to the bi-level location on 125th Street and report back on what I saw and ate. My main impression? Whole Foods made sure to add some unique details to make the Harlem store feel special, and for the most part it works. Here are 5 noteworthy reasons to stop by (and a few improvements they could make, too):​ 1. Harlem Local Vendor Program When it first opened in July, the Whole Foods in Harlem made a point of featuring 18 local (as in made-in-Harlem) brands on its shelves. They included Egunsi Foods–maker of West Afr

A few thoughts on Columbus Circle, only two stops away on the A train

Indigenous Peoples' Day is gathering steam (according to Time, the holiday is replacing Columbus Day in 55 American cities), and it's thrilling to see these mistreated and long-marginalized groups slowly get more recognition. May the idea grow and prosper. That said, the New Yorker in me still loves the old-fashioned majesty of Columbus Circle, statue of controversial explorer and all. What's more, since I moved way uptown, this intersection is suddenly a much bigger part of my life; you could say my commercial center of gravity has completely shifted (I love you Union Square, but you're so very far away). So now when I need a dose of classic New York City hustle and bustle (or just to see m

Uptown double date: 151st Street pedestrian bridge + Bono Trattoria

Although I live pretty close to the Hudson River, getting from here to there for a nice walk or bike ride can be a challenge: up, down, and all around I go, looking for access. Sure 125th or 133rd Street go straight under the highway, but it's a bit of a hike. Closer to me, at 145th Street, it's a confusing maze of stairs and paths to get across–especially tricky if I'm on two wheels. Now, after many delays, the sleek new 151st Street pedestrian and bicycle bridge (at Riverside Drive) is an improved, slightly smoother way to get to the water and bike path by the river. Named after recently retired local pol Denny Farrell, the bridge is super fancy, with all sorts of Chutes and Ladders-y step

Uptown links: David Adjaye's Harlem inspiration, Dapper Dan in MoMA, and more

• Architect David Adjaye says he drew inspiration from Harlem's iconic brownstone stoops when designing the public hall in the Studio Museum's forthcoming new building (photo courtesy of Studio Museum). • The '90s, Harlem, street photography: I want this new book. • A designer gets his due: Two of Dapper Dan's creations are in a show that just opened at MoMA. • The Taino Towers, a federal housing project from the '70s, could gain historic status if these East Harlem preservationists get their way. • Hallelujah! #CentralHarlem #uptownlinks #architecture #museum #fashion #art

Moving next to Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton's uptown home

Before moving to Hamilton Heights two years ago, I lived in the West Village. It is one of the most enviable neighborhoods in all of New York, its leafy streets lined with picture-perfect townhouses and charming cafes. These days it is also overrun with overpriced megamansions and Sex and the City tours. Jane Jacobs' innocent little Village it is not. So while I was sad to be leaving such a beautiful downtown location, I was looking forward to moving to my new neighborhood, which still felt relatively normal by New York standards (goodbye overpriced Gourmet Garage, hello Food Universe!). Happily for me, I happened to make my home in a historic section of Hamilton Heights that is just as capt

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