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A post you can sink your teeth into

Jun 3, 2017

I've written posts about the brain - the memory-storing hippocampus, the habit-forming striatum, the prefrontal cortex and inhibitory control; and about people I know - unusual characters like Alex (despite his intelligence, he sometimes tucks his shirt into his underwear), Marty (a big friendly guy who seems to remember everything he reads and watches on TV), Bill the fireman (who carries a 'magical' cane to fire scenes), Old George (who knows nearly every street of Manhattan and Queens) and John the Priest (whom I miss along with George).  I met them during the three years when I went almost every day to the Hungarian Pastry Shop, which is just across the street from St. John's Cathedral, which is just a few blocks from Columbia University where I taught and did research on the brain and learning. I still live in that neighborhood, but now I teach and do research at City College, 15 minutes north of the pastry shop by a bus that stops in front of St John's Cathedral. 

I've written about lots of the things that interest me.  But restaurants interest me too, and I've never mentioned any of my favorite restaurants in NYC.  I don't go to expensive restaurants. I'd rather spend money on other things - travel, maybe a show or a music concert.  A few times I've eaten really expensive meals, but a few hours later it seemed like I'd flushed the money down the toilet (sorry -- if you're no longer in the mood to read about food and want to bail on this post, I understand.)

When I'm visiting another city, one of the first questions that comes to my mind is  -- where should we eat?  A lot of people visit NYC at one time or another, and so I want to recommend a few restaurants with meals less than $20, and a few cafes.  Today I'll mention just one restaurant and one cafe.  They're both in my neighborhood. The Columbia University area isn't a major tourist attraction like Greenwich Village or Times Square, but is worth visiting if you're in NYC for a few days.

The restaurant is Community Food and Juice  - 2893 Broadway, between 112-113th St.  When I go out with friends to eat, I usually choose Korean, Thai, Indian, something like that.   The food at Community isn't ethnic, but it's special.  I recommend the salmon rice bowl.  They'll ask you how you want the salmon cooked, the default is medium rare, and I think you should go with that.  You don't want overcooked salmon (and they know what they're doing).  It's served over brown rice with a citrusy sauce, carrots, beansprouts, crushed peanuts, ...  Rosa usually gets the quiche  and after 8 years in NYC she still says it's the best quiche in the city. Both are reasonably priced and I don't think you'll find better salmon or quiche dishes in the city at double the price.

Community is on Broadway, three blocks from Columbia University's main entrance. But that doesn't mean that the restaurant is filled with Columbia students. There's a diverse mixture of people around here, so you rarely get a big dose of any one element.   After lunch, if you walk down tree-lined 112th street toward Amsterdam Avenue, you'll see the Gothic towers of St. John's Cathedral in front of you.  Before or after you visit this big*, beautiful cathedral (worth visiting even if cathedrals aren't your thing), you can go to The Hungarian Pastry shop, just a block down Amsterdam Avenue (between 110th-111th St).  If it's nice weather, sit at a table outside and look out over the cathedral while you  have a cappuccino and pastry.  You order inside, give them your name, and the waitress calls out to you as she brings your order to the table.   If you see a big friendly-looking guy sitting next to a guy with a shaved head and a (magical) cane, that will be Marty and Bill the Fireman.  I'll be the other guy at the table.

*It has one of the largest free-standing domes in the world.