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City Living: Washington Heights
Filled with rich history, cultural diversity and plenty of parks, Washington Heights is more than the struggling barrio portrayed in the Broadway musical “In the Heights.”
Named for Fort Washington, a Revolutionary War-era defensive fortification formerly located in Bennett Park, the Heights is now known as a lively community with family-friendly restaurants, many niche stores and top-rate schools.
Annie Hawkins, a Sovereign Associates broker, says the nabe is growing in popularity because of the reasonably priced, well-sized apartments.
“People can get more space for their money up here,” said Hawkins. “It’s true that the air is cleaner, there aren’t as many high-rises and you’re close to so many parks.”
Starting in the 1960s, this neighborhood became well-known for its high percentage of Dominican immigrants.
According to New York census data from 2010, WaHi continues to be an ethnic enclave, as nearly 30% of residents declare Hispanic heritage.
--By KATHARINE ULRICH
Need To Know
Do not be fooled by the unassuming façade of this local-favorite bakery. Specializing in ornately decorated cakes for any occasion, from kids’ birthdays to weddings, Angela’s Cake serves up consistently tasty Dominican treats. Downtowners consider it a destination spot when planning a big event.
Craving something other than Caribbean cuisine? Kismat Indian Restaurant, located just down the street from Fort Tyron Park since 1996, is one great option. The menu features Indian and Bangladeshi dishes such as samosas and Kori kebabs. A great spot for picky vegetarians.
La Casa del Mofongo
Mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican and Dominican dish consisting of mashed, fried plantains, reigns supreme at this well-established Washington Heights haunt. While mofongo is widely available throughout this heavily Dominican neighborhood, La Casa del Mofongo remains one of the most popular spots, with heavy crowds most nights. Part of the draw stems from their extensive menu with more than 20 varieties, ranging from plain or with cheese to adventurous toppings of herring, spaghetti and lobster. Bonus: It’s open 24 hours.
Despite serving food, this restaurant-slash-bar definitely has more of a bar vibe, albeit in a relaxed, family-friendly environment. Try one of their 12 beers on tap, or pick from their wine list. Le Chéile can get quite lively for a wine bar, so get there close to happy hour to snag a seat.
Locksmith Wine and Burger Bar
Locksmith, with its low-key vibe and above-average bar food menu, is the type of neighborhood bar that feels like a regular haunt for many. Come with friends or strike up a conversation with strangers over the $3 tequila shot special or Negro Modelo. Check out its Taco- Tequila Tuesday or $18 weekend brunch.
For those choosing between a night out dancing, watching sports or smoking hookah, the Monkey Room fits the bill, as it has all three. Weekend nights, they have DJs spinning Latin tunes and hip-hop, and occasionally karaoke. Need a little liquid courage to sing or dance in front of strangers? At Monkey Room, $5 gets you two beers until 9 p.m.
La Plaza de las Americas
This year-round outdoor market, featuring vendors proffering housewares, clothing, food and arts and crafts, opened in 1994. Since then, the Department of Transportation launched a plan to better accommodate the 20 to 50 vendors (depending on the season), making La Plaza de las Americas more shopper friendly with open pathways and benches. A greenmarket operates here on Thursdays, June through November.
Probus NYC, an upscale menswear store, became so popular that the owners launched an online “digital boutique” which ships its wares internationally. City dwellers head to the Heights to scope out their popular brands such as Fred Perry, G-Star, J Shoes and Brian Wood.
This large store offers a variety of shoes for everyone, from infant Ugg boots to adult Dr. Martens. Bonus: The staff is helpful and friendly.
This historic park — once home to Munsee Native Americans, then headquarters for George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War — now features a well-maintained playground and plenty of benches, perfect for a sunny afternoon family outing. Be sure to scout out the plaque marking the highest natural point in Manhattan. Standing here at 265 feet above sea level can make you feel on top of the world (or at least, on top of New York).
The Palladian-style Morris-Jumel Mansion dates to 1765, making it the oldest house in Manhattan. History buffs, take note: George Washington stayed here in 1776 during the Battle of Harlem Heights, returning in 1790 to host a dinner with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
The Hispanic Society of America
Housed in a Beaux Arts compound, the Hispanic Society of America features a free museum and research library for those interested in Latin cultures. The collections include 800-plus paintings from famed artists such as El Greco, Goya and Sorolla y Bastida. Saturdays at 2 p.m., the Hispanic Society hosts free 45-minute tours of the institution.