This may be the worst area in the city for restaurants. (Bars are even worse.)With a couple of exceptions, which I will mention in a moment, the only ones I know of that are acceptable are extremely expensive. Unfortunately for me, I live here (In spanish harlem) in a super-cheap apartment and am sort of stuck.
I would love to argue with people about where the best places are to eat in my neighborhood and surrounding. I'll start the debate:
Best Dominican (and one of my favorite restaurants period): El Caribeno (Lex and 105 or 6 or maybe 7) northeast corner. The service is very bad unless you act like a Dominican and shout very loudly (preferably in Spanish) what it is that you want. But the roast chicken is fantastic and the pernil (roast pork), when it is good, is really, really good (should be eaten with lots of garlic sauce, btw).
sweet (maduros)and salty (tostones) plantains are fine (but no sour cream, which I like with maduros)
Excellent Mexican sandwich and juice place: the Jalapeno Cafe (east side of lex between 102 and 103)
after these two, my enthusiasm wanes considerably, but here's the rest:
okay sushi/annoying crowd: some "tasteful" looking place on third ave and 74 or 5 or 6 (northeast corner)
3 places that are good, but not great, and too expensive, and which i've only been to two or three times, and not for a while:
Butterfield and some number 69? 78? 81?
Lusardis (second ave in the 70's)
cheeseburgers at luke's (third ave around 80) were okay, but twice made me throw up in the middle of the night. (maybe i was ordering them too rare and eating them too late)
BTW, if anybody knows of any bar(s) in this area that aren't Bemelman's and aren't full of yahoos, please tell me about it/them.