UPPER MANHATTAN — Eating uptown can be a varied experience for adventurous diners.
Whether it’s a new twist on the traditional hamburger or a melt-in-your mouth bite of pork, uptown has many popular hangouts — whether it's for a quick snack or a fancy meal.
Elsa La Reina del Chicharon
4840 Broadway, 212-304-1070, 212-304-10441249
Saint Nicholas Avenue, between 172nd and 173rd streets, 212-795-3667
Elsa, the self-proclaimed Queen of the Chicharon, or fried pork rinds, says she began her business as a way to pass the time.
With the launch of her business in Inwood more than a decade ago, Elsa stirred in the hearts of uptown residents a longing for pork.
Today Elsa owns five restaurants where she slings chicharon along with salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, chicken platters and an array of mofongo, a Dominican smashed plantain dish.
But the real star is the chicharon, which is sold in hulking portions meant to fill up dozens of hungry eaters.
There is really no way to describe the delicious fried fatty treat, but Dominican-born Carmelina Paulino has a few tips for getting the most out of a chicharon platter: spritz the nuggets with lime and order some batata, a root vegetable similar to the sweet potato.
“I blew my diet,” Paulino said.
If it’s your first time, you might also want to schedule some time at the gym the next day. You’re going to want to burn off what you can so you can go back soon.
Cachapas y Mas
107 Dyckman Street, between Post and Nagle avenues, 212-304-2224
There was a time in Upper Manhattan when the only answer to midnight munchies was the Dominican-style hamburger called the chimi.
But ever since the patacon, a sandwich that substitutes two flattened fried green plantain patties for a bun and offers a choice of shredded beef, roast pork, chorizo or chicken for a filling, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and a special sauce, was introduced uptown, demand for the Venezuelan treat has been nonstop.
“This is my go to spot day or night,” said Inwood resident Manuel Brunelo, 29, who said the place gets especially busy after the clubs let out uptown.
After three years in business, the restaurant’s popularity has resulted in an expansion of the shop from a cramped storefront to a more accommodating bright space with nearly ten wooden-picnic bench style tables and seats.
The owners also opened a second shop in Washington Heights called Patacon con Too', named in homage to the Dominican way of ordering the patacon with ‘todo,” or everything in English.
Other well-liked options include the chain’s namesake the cachapa, similar to the patacon but made with baby corn cakes instead of fried plantains; and the Venezuelan-style burrito called the tacucho, said manager Primo.
A tip for the uninitiated: Make sure to ask for a tequeno, a fried doughy cheese stick, or a corn masa empanada filled with chicken, beef or cheese. Both are sure to whet the appetite.
4165 Broadway, between 176th and 177th streets, 212-923-9100
The refined menu at Manolo Tapas gives diners a taste of Spain with its focus on foods from the Galician region.
Tapas are offered in abundance with hot dishes like chorizo al Jerez, a smoked cured Spanish chorizo sautéed in Jerez wine; Vieira a la Gallega, broiled scallop in its shell with Galician sauce and crusted breadcrumbs; and cold dishes including Aceitunas Aliñadas, a selection of Mediterranean olives marinated in olive oil, thyme, garlic and Pimentón, and Jamón Ibérico Pata Negra, acorn-fed Iberian air-cured ham.
Traditional paellas, the Spanish rice that originated on the east coast of Spain, include three seafood medleys including Paella a la Valenciana, Marinara and Marea Negra or the vegetarian Paella Vegetariana de la Huerta.
Many of the dishes feature ingredients imported from Spain, and a selection of more than 100 Spanish wines are on the menu.
“This isn’t just a good place for uptown, it would be an amazing restaurant anywhere in the city,” said Christie Amar, 43, who said she studied abroad in Spain while in college during the 1980s.
“Best of all they are authentic. It’s great to have a taste of Spain in Washington Heights.”
Come prepared to eat and drink plenty, but bring cash. Manolo does not accept credit cards.
Corcho Wine Room & Tapas Bar
227 Dyckman Street, between Broadway and Seaman Avenue, 212-203-3371
The Dyckman Street of late is a place to see and be seen, but nestled inside the sometimes raucous party scene that is the western stretch of the street is an intimate restaurant that may be one of the most romantic spots in Upper Manhattan.
Corcho, a sliver of a wine bar, is best known for its extensive selection of international wines, but best remembered by those who have dug into one of its high-end culinary feasts.
A range of tapas and canapés featuring Prosciutto de Parma and aged gouda and other meats and cheeses are available for a nibble.
And for those with a heartier appetite, three boards feature a diverse selection for discerning palates.
The Patriota includes bread with small piles of bacalao fish, grilled eggplant, the Dominican cheese queso geo and sweet bites of guava; the Maravilla features goat cheese, sopressata, chorizo and olives; and the Delicia brings together sotocenere cheese, a cheese made while covered under ash, brie, fruit and a crabmeat dip, all for $17 each.
The chef also creates specialty boards for those with allergies or picky eaters.
And for those seeking a little adventure with their tour of the bar’s selection of more than 45 wines, ask for the porrón, a traditional glass wine pitcher from Spain that allows a group of people to sample different wines as the pitcher expertly pours tragos, or swigs, of the rich elixir in the mouth.
“This place changed the uptown game, there's no reason for me to go south of Dyckman Street anymore,” said one Inwood resident and fan of Corcho, 26-year-old Amarilys Duarte.