Child-free literates and impoverished hipsters began populating the northernmost neighborhood of Manhattan a little over a decade ago, though little has changed in roughly fifty years. Recent progress can be found, however, with the yet-to-be-bombed gay bar on Dyckman Street, and a smattering of new coffee shops, and wine bars. The main draws for this neighborhood are more or less the same as they’ve been for over a century: low rents for sprawling prewar apartments and two enormous parks — one of which is the sole remaining primeval forest left in Manhattan.
1.Dyckman Farmhouse Museum
This quaint museum has been painstakingly restored and is an interesting window to the bucolic yesteryears of northern New Amsterdam. When Dutchman William Dyckman built his family’s farmhouse in 1784 it stood amidst 250 acres of flourishing farmland — now it stands across from a Salvation Army drop-off box crawling with bed bugs, a C-Town grocery store that sells an impressive array of expired diary products, and a shuttered Irish bar that still reeks so hideously of urine it’ll make your eyes water. (Broadway at 204th Street — dyckmanfarmhouse.org)
2.G’s Coffee Shop
Just steps away from Inwood Hill Park is a refreshingly rundown throw-back to the neighborhood’s past as a former Irish and Jewish working-class enclave. Five years ago a new family took over the forty-year-old charming diner-esque bodega, adding the flavors of their hometown, Pueblo, Mexico, as well as still carefully crafting the perfect New York chocolate egg cream.
(634 207th Street and Cooper Street 212-942-0679)
3.The Piper’s Kilt
The proliferation of watering holes and liquor stores in Inwood are proof positive that all Inwooders are alcoholics, and if you should spend more than five hours in this neighborhood, you too will end up blind drunk and crying in your own sick. There is no better bar in northern Manhattan to begin your alcoholic slide into oblivion than The Piper’s Kilt. For over fifty years, this location has served the neighborhood under the same chandeliers procured from the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, as well as the original carved backbar and paneling. The standard pub fare is served by a pleasant staff. Most new hangouts in the neighborhood try too hard to impress with phony “upscale” coolness; this place is warm, storied, and authentic.
(4946 Broadway — near 207th Street piperskiltofinwood)
4.PJ Liquors and Wines
There is simply no cheaper wine/liquor store in all of Manhattan. A bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut sells for $24.97, as opposed to $29.99 at Columbus Wines and $34.99 at SoHo Wines & Spirits. In addition to the smart selection of Champagnes, Châteauneuf-du-Papes, and ports, PJ’s also offers such curious vini as a Moscato called Sweet Bitch, and a Merlot featuring bastardized Botero backsides appropriately called Culitos (asses in Spanish).
(4898 Broadway —between 204th Street and 207th Street — pjwine)
5.The A Train and the 1 Train
Let face it: this neighborhood is a shithole, and beside the aforementioned “hot spots,” it’s best to get out of here while you still have your wallet and your wits about you. The upside is that you’re guaranteed a seat on the A train (it’s a terminus), and if you need a paper for the ride, 30-year-old Optimo Cigars on 207th Street still carries The Irish Voice. Also, the 1 train is elevated at stretches and affords terrific urban views, the likes of which most people haven’t seen since The French Connection and Welcome Back, Kotter.
Indian Road Café
This corner hangout packs in the natives, especially on weekends, with piano-banging brunches, free WiFi and cozily rustic décor. The staff is friendly and attentive and on a recent visit, a guest sidled up to the upright and belted out a standard. The unimaginative fare is perfectly adequate, which is fine since the real draws here are the convivial vibes and atmosphere.
More On Inwood:
For more on Inwood, there isn’t a more comprehensive site than myinwood.net. The website’s owner is Inwood’s native armchair historian, an author, and a real estate agent. And before you start poo-pooing the idea of living in Inwood too vociferously, the neighborhood has actually boasted a few famous folks, such as Jim Carroll (The Basketball Diaries), Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), and most recently, four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald.