Tag Archives: Morningside Heights

Breaking Up With Community Food and Juice

by Andrew Luzmore, Cornell University

The beginnings of relationships are always great. Every action they make is performed with the utmost of grace and charm and you eagerly await the next time you can see them. They can do no wrong in your eyes.

Then things start to change; the honeymoon period inevitably comes to an end. Their unique quirks that you once found so endearing seem less so, and begin to cause irritation. You try to convince yourself that they are just having an “off day,” but the reality of the deteriorating situation begins to set in. Things are different. You long to go back to that time when everything was fresh and exciting, but those days are over.

Community Food and Juice, I think it’s time that you and I start to see other people. Continue reading

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Jin Ramen Just Isn’t Ippudo

I feel compelled to comment on Jin Ramen, a new restaurant located between Tiemann Place and 125th Street on Broadway. Although I have become disenchanted with the generic conventions of “restaurant reviewing,” I would like to offer a few notes on my experience at this addition to the Columbia family. The take-away: Jin Ramen is not nearly as wonderful as its downtown competitors—Ippudo, Totto Ramen, etc.—but its the best we Columbians have. Continue reading

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The Phenomenology of Bagels

When I arrived at Columbia, the first thing I did was drop my bags in my new dorm room. The second thing I did was stand in line at Absolute Bagel for twenty minutes. 9:38 a.m. and it was time for breakfast, a meal that reasserts its persistent necessity every morning hour. Since I eat breakfast three or four times a day, I like to try novel dishes. A serving of Pride and Prejudice, a scoop of cheesy grits, and a generous helping of The Red and the Black, green figs, yogurt, coffee, very black. Enough for first breakfastses.  There’s a new item on the Absolute menu, a whole wheat everything bagel. I ordered it out of psychotic compulsion. Waiting to fork over my greasy creased $1 bill, I palmed the brown paper bag: baby’s breath hot, an auspicious sign for crusty bagel skin and steaming doughy meat. After a three month stretch of sobriety, a New York bagel fix felt so wrong, felt so right—on the sidewalk, I dragged the bagel from its bag and took an eyes-closed bite. Grunting in pleasure, I weaved between pedestrians oblivious to my Absolute high. I liked it. My dendrites untied their own knots; my fingers flexed off onion garlic and sesame scent like a ballerina unlacing pointe shoes from ankle to metatarsal, unwinding pink ribbons in little curls around the thumb.

Bill Livant, author of untidy Marxist monologues like “The Dialectics of Walking on Two Legs,” published a piece in Science & Society titled “The Hole in Hegel’s Bagel.” Continue reading

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Filed under Columbia University, Theory and Criticism

More Roti Roll, Please!

by Andrew Giambrone, Yale University

My first experience with roti—the famed flatbread of India—actually occurred at a Thai restaurant in Midtown. Crispy and unleavened, the roti was served as a dessert dish, drizzled with warm, condensed milk and rolled up like a Hot Pocket (though thankfully more delicious). Since then, I’ve craved roti in whatever form I can find: with curry and cooked vegetables, or, my personal favorite, with scraped coconut and Nutella. Luckily for students of Columbia University, Roti Roll Bombay Frankie—a small, nondescript storefront on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—offers a variety of relatively cheap “frankies” (basically burritos) that will satisfy your Indian fix any time of the day (Roti Roll is open from 11am to 2am).

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Mexican in Morningside Heights: Cascabel Taqueria and Papasito

This summer, Morningside Heights went Mexican: the neighborhood bid farewell to Thai (Lime Leaf) and Italian (Angelina Pizza Bar) and welcomed two new Mexican restaurants. Continue reading

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West Way Cafe Gutted

With its signage removed and interior gutted, West Way Cafe looks like it has served its last smoothie. A construction project of unknown end has been undertaken in the space. During my first week at Columbia, I stopped in for a greasy Greek salad and a glass of juice. Caught up in a tour of the Morningside dining scene, I never returned. Yet, I will always associate West Way with an exciting and newly independent period in my life.

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Il Cibreo: Meet the New Menu, Same As the Old Menu

Ryan Skeen needs to step up his game.

Opening night at Il Cibreo, and the management has contracted a case of stage fright. Wandering between tables and hovering with paranoiac intensity, they watch diners dig into Skeen’s Italianite menu. For Skeen, however, it’s a different story; curtain’s up and he’s ready to rock, a veteran of restaurant openings at, among others, 5 & Diamond and Fishtag. Known in “the industry” as a mercenary, a culinary gun for hire, Skeen has consulted his way around Manhattan. Standing behind Campo’s—excuse me, Il Cibreo’s—pass, Skeen barely breaks a sweat. Jeremy Wladis, Il Cibreo’s owner, need not worry either: his prime location on Broadway and reputation for vaguely European food will continue drawing Italianophiles off the street.  That peculiar species of hipsterish, Columbia-bred WASP will still stop by for a tipple of house red and a serviceable bowl of linguine. Goofy-eyed young couples will always be found lingering in sidewalk seating, enjoying sewer fumes and other delightful 114th Street scents.

In Morningside Heights, generic and trite mean wildly successful. In fact, most of the neighborhood’s supposedly “better” restaurants—Vareli, Community Food and Juice, and Mel’s Burger Bar—come to a certain trend two years too late: scamacious wine bars, sustainalocaganic, and “gourmet” burgers, respectively. By that logic, Il Cibreo will, in the parlance of Columbia’s money-stuffed summer intern community, “make bank.” Bruschetta? Check. Fancy pizza? Check. “Contorni”—cough, please write “side dishes” if your menu does not consistently employ Italian? Check. (I assume that Cortino is a spelling mistake, not a new, exotic menu category.) “Contemporary Italian” is the natural successor to “contemporary American,” which ended up signifying repetitive menus of seasonal “American” ingredients prepared Euro-style. Of course, “contemporary Italian” just implies a sterile and cartoonish portrait of incredible regional diversity; it means “anything goes, as long as wild mushrooms, Pecorino, burrata, ricotta, and cured meats are in abundance”; it means ignore specificity in favor of generalism, caricature in favor of verism, oversalting and overfatting in favor of subtlety. Unfortunately, Skeen’s “extreme makeover” of Campo merely entailed streamlining a previously amateurish menu, making it more obviously “Italian,” and making it more obviously “downtown.” Il Cibreo is sexier than campy Campo. Wladis is smart to evoke a Soho aesthetic uptown at student-friendly prices. Skeen, however, needs to do more than update the Campo concept: he needs to take the food in a more ambitious and delicious direction. Continue reading


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