I am in love with my neighborhood (98 percent of the time). The Morningside Heights area is full of food, gorgeous architecture, and a mix of fascinating people. On my days off I like to stay local and explore what my neighborhood has to offer…endless possibilities. Let’s pretend you are me, a typical day of freedom would go something like this. When I wake up a tasty treat is the first thing on my mind. Head to Hungarian Pastry Shop on 1030 Amsterdam Ave. Listen to your sweet pink ipod, a relic from high school, start with something mellow but morning-ish like Belle and Sebastian or the Shins. Sit outside at Hungarian and eat something sweet with hot coffee. Pull out your book, again nothing too heavy (I am not a morning person), maybe an old favorite, something from Ms. Austen or of the Bronte persuasion. ‘Wuthering Heights’ goes along quite well with the view from Hungarian, look straight across the street and absorb the majesty of the Cathedral.
1047 Amsterdam Ave. is home to The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The largest gothic cathedral in the world, yes the world, the Cathedral will stop your heart. It is an amazing place to tour, with gorgeous stone interiors, crypts, and murals. The Cathedral is so much more than a place of worship. The community there is constantly contributing to the arts and hosting events. Everything from musical reviews to poetry readings, the Cathedral is a meeting place for artists and creative minds. For example, November 1-8 is a Week of Celebration in honor of Tennessee Williams to honor the induction of Williams into the Cathedral’s American Poets’ Corner. Not to miss will be Thursday’s event, an Evening to Commemorate Tennessee Williams, which will be composed of reading and performances from theatre luminaries, friends of Mr. Williams and people who were inspired by his life work. Participants include Vanessa Redgrave, Marian Seldes, John Guare, Olympia Dukakis, as well as the Cathedral’s own Poet-in-Residence Charles F. Martin.
After this overdose of sweetness and religious worship, walk down the street and pop into the best little bar on Amsterdam, Sips. Sips is all about deals and every Monday all their food is half price. The food is good on a full price day, but on half price Mondays, the food is outstanding. Order my most favorite creation, the Sipwich. On half price day, this tiny cousin of the egg McMuffin is only two dollars. It is an eggy sandwich, but the killer part is the little pieces of Sips own ‘Billionaires Bacon’, which are snuggled in the egg. This is no average bacon; it is sugary and savory, crunchy and perfectly cooked. Sips also does a great happy hour, as well as half price wine on Wednesday AND a really spectacular all you can drink brunch. You might need to walk off the Sipwich in order to prepare for lunch, so head into Morningside Park and enjoy the green space. A lovely park, Morningside is manageable and you need not fear that you will never be found if you get turned around. Cute dogs abound and there is plenty of space to lie down and read some short stories, maybe a little Katherine Anne Porter or if you are feeling into the nature vibe, pull out some poetry, Wordsworth or otherwise.
I know it’s hard to believe but you are hungry again. Get yourself down to Taquerea Y La Fonda Mexicana, located at 968 Amsterdam Ave, for an amazing burrito and a delicious dose of Horchata, sweet cinnamon rice milk. This is really one of the friendliest restaurants in NYC; do not be put off by its less than exceptional exterior. Space out with your ipod, and slip into a lunch coma. The Smiths are good help with this, as is Modest Mouse. Spend the day walking around the neighborhood, take in the Cathedral’s extensive grounds, and maybe even journey down towards Central Park West.
When the sun begins to set, you have the ultimate decision to make. Where to choose for dinner? For me, it usually comes down to two places on beloved Amsterdam, Thai Market or Awash. Thai Market, 960 Amsterdam Ave, has wonderfully delicious food. It is where I ate the first night I moved to New York, and let’s just say it completely reassured me of my decision. The Pad Se-Ew is the best I have ever tasted and the Curry Puffs are so good you want to put five in your purse. The atmosphere is young and hip, but not overwhelming. Awash, at 947 Amsterdam Avenue, is a different flavor altogether. It serves Ethiopian food on platters, best if shared by large groups, and extremely tasty sweet wine. For longer nights out, Awash is the place. Either way you can’t go wrong on Amsterdam. Head home now, oh bloated one, and snuggle up with a heavy book, ‘Middlemarch’ maybe or ‘The Pickwick Papers’. If you are too full to read listen to the new Devendra Banhart album, ‘What Will We Be’, and drift off to sleep!