Bounded on one side by Riverside Park and the Hudson River and on the other by Morningside Park and Harlem, Morningside Heights is nice neighborhood. Columbia University is the major feature of the neighborhood, and is also by far the largest landowner in the area. Lumped into this category is the University proper, as well as Barnard College, the all women's institution which is a holdover from the days when Columbia had all men. The Jewish Theological Seminary is also associated with the University. As such, much of the neighborhood thrives on the business created by having 8,000 students right in the center. In fact, many of the businesses in the area participate in a Safe Haven program designed to ensure that the students stay safe, and continue to spend their money. Partially as a result of Columbia University's prescence, Morningside Heights has the second lowest crime rate in New York City.
The eastern and southern sections of the neighborhood are dominated by a hispanic community, in contrast with the predominately white population of the rest of the area. This mixing of cultures provides a wide variety of choices for eating out. But despite all of these choices, the most popular restaurants serve those things which have always been popular with college students
, and beer
Three of the most popular restaurants in this area are The West End, Koronet's Pizza, and Tom's Restaurant, all located on Broadway between 110th Street and 116th Street. The West End was one of Jack Kerouac's haunts, although it has changed a lot since then, and become decidedly more upscale. Nonetheless, it is still the most popular destination for Columbia's freshman to go and get trashed. Koronet's Pizza sells cheap but tasty slices of pizza, reportedly "as big as Columbia's endowment." They'll even put on any topping that you bring them. And Tom's Restaurant on 112th Street is famous for being the restaurant used as the establishing shot for the coffee shop from Seinfeld. They have excellent milkshakes. Columbia Bagels is also quite good, or so I am told.
There are also a lot of bookstores in this area, both used and new. Many times these stores will carry textbooks cheaper than the Columbia Bookstore. But, the Columbia Bookstore is more than just a store for buying textbooks, they have an extensive selection of novels and nonfiction books, clothing, school supplies, and more. The used bookstores in Morningside Heights have a wide variety of rare and interesting books.
But, there are other things to see here as well. Grant's Tomb is located in Riverside Park. The massive church on 110th street, which has yet to be completed, is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. And if you're looking for a nice place to sit, just sitting on the steps of Columbia's library with all of the students is an enjoyable way to spend your time.
A nice neighborhood overall. And, as with anyplace in New York, there is even more just waiting for someone who decides to walk around the streets for a while.