I'm spending the summer not far from Columbia Univeristy. The good news is I have a gorgeous neighborhood! The bad news is I've got to eat out two or three times a week, and I've got to be able to converse during dinner. Plus, what would really be nice is to find some restaurants where whoever is cooking food understands food or cooking -- or something!!! I have the feeling if I looked into most of the kitchens around here I'd find literature majors or law students with summer jobs, indifferently following a cheat sheet.
Anyway, the priorites are:
ABILITY TO CONVERSE PRIVATELY
FOOD I CAN EAT A COUPLE OF TIMES A WEEK. (I can't eat foie gras, or fried chicken, incendiary sauces three times a week, for example.)
Some places that have been recommended that I'd like your opinion about:
Some places I've already tried and don't want to go back
Community Food & Grill
I ate at Henry's, and while it's a nice space, at those prices I need some menu guidance. The mezza plate I had combined too many flavors that clashed. The hamburger was overdone. What do they prepare well? No point in ordering the pistachio-crusted something if nobody in the kitchen understands making a pistachio crust. (Ditto Community Food & Juice, which I take it is really a brunch place, and I was there for dinner. But the place is just too jammed up.)
Any other ideas beyond what I've mentioned? I'm not afraid to go to Harlem, but soul food is not everyday cooking for me. I already like the grilled tapas and salads (dressing on the side) at Floridita's Tapas on 125th, and Pisticci on La Salle has some nice items -- but both get crowded and noisy on weekends, so i'm looking for more.
Can you recommend civilized dining spots near Columbia? . I'm curious to know if there are any old neighborhood haunts around that I'm missing. I'll pass on mediocre Chinese, but I can do Chino-Cubano if the seating isn't cramped and the noise is low. I think what I'm really looking for is a nice, quiet owner-run place that can cook for me and a companion when I can't cook at home.
PS: Do you know if Terrace in the Sky is okay with weeknight drop-ins who order a couple of appetizers or just an entree? Can you eat at the bar there?
PPS: I sometimes long longingly into Tom's -- not because I've ever been a Seinfeld fan, but because of all those empty booths at dinnertime. Is there anything edible in there?