Ian MacGregor's parents moved into a brownstone on Convent Avenue in the 80's, long before any signs of gentrification reached Hamilton Heights. Not much has actually changed. While MacGregor, the owner and chief fishmonger of The Lobster Place, still lives in the house he grew up in with his wife and two children, there are a few restaurants that have popped up. It's still a challenging task to find decent places to eat in Hamilton Heights, but here are some tips from MacGregor.
Pizza: Coccola is a great Italian pizza restaurant that opened recently. They've got really awesome individual sized artisanal pizzas, everything from prosciutto to fresh basil. You have to understand the context. They're truly trailblazers. There haven't been places like this in 30 years. I wouldn't call them super innovative, but they're the solid neighborhood place we just never had. They do typical Italian fare, too, fried calamari and good salads.
Bar: About one-and-a-half years ago on Broadway, Harlem Public opened. This was a seminal moment in my life. All of sudden there's a great bar, with a great bar list, televisions, and it was walking distance of my house. There's great pub food and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup hamburger you can't miss. It sounds gross, but it's good—it's a burger with Swiss cheese and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup pieces melted on top. They also have a super beer list. I'm a pretty simple guy, but they have anywhere from 15 to 20 beers on tap, mostly craft.
Cocktails: Truthfully, I haven't had dinner at the Grange but their menu looks great. My wife and I like to go there for cocktails. It has a good, solid atmosphere and good vibe. The Grange refers to the Hamilton grange, where Alexander Hamilton's home is. That house is right up the street from this restaurant. In the winter time, I like a nice Manhattan. My wife drinks gimlets all year round.
Sandwich: I'll get take out at Subconscious. I think they originally opened in the middle of Columbia University. It appeals to the student in all of us. There are 50 hot and cold deli sandwiches. It's good for Sunday afternoon football games. I get the Al's Advantage. It's a cheese steak style-sandwich with onions, bacon, and barbecue sauce.
Latin: Cocinita Latina has an awesome chicken soup. You get whole pieces of chicken in there, and it's not unusual to find a whole drumstick. It's a tiny place in between two apartment buildings.