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Columbia “Off”-Campus Eateries

Being in New York means that Columbians never run out of food options. Literally never. That being said, Columbia kids have got the restriction (or privilege, depending on how you look at it) of being in the Morningside bubble with restaurants nearby that are so convenient, it’s hard to convince us to go out into the city to eat more adventurously.

So brought to you here is as cumulative of a list of Columbia restaurants as I dare post at once. Besides the obvious factor of quality of food, I’ll try to include affordability, aesthetic, distance/convenience, and popularity (both among Columbia kids and the general public; that is to say, sheer crowdedness) in the list below. Take these with a grain of salt if you want: obviously nothing beats going there yourself. But if you’re in a rush, or if you don’t want to wait an hour just to ask me in person at the end of one of my tours, this post is for you.

ON AMSTERDAM AVENUE

Strokos

This is always the first place that comes to mind for me. Located right across the street from John Jay (right on Frat Row), Strokos is great for any of your take-away food needs or even brunch (many a hungover morning has been spent in Strokos, reviving myself with their omelette platter). Their aesthetic is actually very brunchy, with ample sitting space and a nice couloir of two-person (really just one-person) seating for if you just want to study alone. Lots of options, and their homemade lemonade it great. They stopped selling sushi, though. Don’t know when/if they’ll start again.

Expense: 2/5, where a 5/5 indicates most expensive.

Aesthetic: 3/5. The back couloir is cute; I Instagrammed a pic of a donut there.

Convenience: 5/5. The closest place to John Jay, and one of the closest to main campus.

Popularity: 1/5. I have literally never seen another Columbia soul here, and no one ever seems to know it exists. I would give this a zero if it weren’t for the fact that no, Strokos isn’t bankrupt, so yes, people go there. Seems to be pretty popular among the general NYC crowd, actually.

Food: 4/5. For the price, it’s really good food, and a lot of it.

Overall: 4/5. One of my favorite places around campus.

Friedman’s

This brunch place is small but kind of upscale, so come here alone for a treat-yourself brunch or take a date here for a literal candle-lit dinner. Very cozy, and certainly Instagrammable, but I get the feeling that dressing up is an unspoken rule here. It is, therefore, hopefully expected that this is one of the pricier places around campus. The wait (for food, but also sometimes for seats) can also be kind of long. If you’re willing to put up with this, though, the food is truly exceptionally good.

Expense: 4/5. The most expensive place I, personally, frequent around campus.

Aesthetic: 4/5.

Convenience: 4/5, it’s on like 118th or something. A nice and non-bothersome walk, but a walk nonetheless.

Popularity: 3/5. It’s moderately popular among Columbia kids, but the size of Friedman’s prevents you from seeing people you know there too often.

Food: 4/5. Again, for the price, it’s really good. Could be better, but so can everything.

Overall: 3/5. It’s a good place to go for food, but not something that college kids are going to be making a habit out of. Unless you’re stacked (which, ok yeah, most of us are. I’m not, unfortunately).

Hamilton Deli

HamDel’s pretty well known around campus for being super convenient for take-away food as well. It’s almost exactly like Strokos but with fewer options and no sit-down place; it’s literally your quintessential deli. I honestly cannot believe that people go to HamDel when Strokos is right there. But that’s a personal opinion for ya.

Expense: N/A. I’ll be updating this post as I frequent more places. The one time I went here, a single (whole) pickle cost almost $2.

Aesthetic: 1/5. Not ugly, per se, but it’s not meant to be a place people spend time in, and you can tell.

Convenience: 5/5, because I’m guessing the main reason people come here is because it’s so close to main campus, on 116th. (Again, Strokos is right there though.)

Popularity: 4/5. Columbia kids like to mention this place all the time, and the crowd in the store is almost always fully Columbian.

Food: N/A. It didn’t seem particularly scrumptious though.

Overall: 2/5. I might be biased because I’m a sucker for Strokos, but honestly if you visit the two you can see that they’re exactly the same. But Strokos is better. I don’t plan to ever step foot in HamDel again, tbh.

Insomnia Cookies

If you’ve never heard of Insomnia, you are either very unfortunate or very lucky. Unfortunate because you’ve never had any of these morsels of heaven, or lucky because you have therefore never been up late enough to require such a godsend. Insomnia is known nationwide for being the college staple in terms of cookie supply (ice cream sandwiches too, but they’re known for their cookies), and Columbia University is blessed with one of their stores between 111th and 110th. To those of you who are familiar with Insomnia, I can affirm that ours is reliable and upholds Insomnia’s nationally recognized standards. Yes, you can have Insomnia delivered, but I have found that the walk to 111th is a welcome break from late night studying.

Expense: 2/5, absolutely worth it, unless it’s 1:30 PM and you’re just in the mood for a single cookie, in which case go somewhere else. Insomnia’s a special occasion. (Not actually, but you get my drift.)

Aesthetic: 5/5. The cookies always look great, the brand itself means it’s always Instagrammable, and the store is pretty cute, too.

Convenience: 3/5. It’s one of the farther places on this list, but definitely worth it (and honestly, the distance is almost negligible most of the time).

Popularity: 5/5. Everyone knows about it. I don’t know if many people are in the store during the day, but then again I only ever go when normal people sleep. You catching why it’s called “Insomnia”?

Food: 5/5.

Overall: 4/5. It’s only missing one point because it’s not really “food,” so if you’re looking for a meal, this isn’t it. It’s a pretty niche place.

Hungarian Pastry Shop

A staple cafe around here. I can’t say their coffee is great, but it’s not bad, and pretty cheap. A crowded place most of the time. Their flourless chocolate cake slices are legendary. I only got coffee twice from here, and I wasn’t a fan. It’s right next to Insomnia. Fun fact: they only take cash, no card.

Expense: 2/5. Oren’s might be cheaper. And better.

Aesthetic: 3/5.

Convenience: 3/5. It’s also a bit of a walk, and the cash-only thing blows.

Popularity: 5/5. Among Columbians, also a big one. It’s got inconvenient traffic hours.

Food: 4/5. I haven’t tried anything other than the flourless chocolate cake so i’m not gonna give this a 5 but what I had was pretty good.

Overall: 2/5. It’s got some inconveniences but good reason to be so popular. If you’re visiting campus, stop by here and bother some students (make sure they’re not cramming some Lit Hum reading in first!) and ask them how they like Columbia.

Artopolis

This cafe/bakery holds a soft spot in my heart as one of the first “off-campus” eateries that I ever stepped foot in, when I visited Columbia for the first time. Right across from Strokos, Artopolis is an extremely cute shop, with a sit-down section if you’re staying to order. Their crepes are legendary, and very cute to boot. The wait can be extremely long, in my experience, either due to forgetful waiters or some interesting method of cooking idk.

Expense: 4/5. Pretty expensive tbh.

Aesthetic: 5/5. I have the cutest snap of one of my friends here on Valentine’s Day. Also, being greeted with a lineup of macarons never hurt.

Convenience: 5/5. See Strokos.

Popularity: 3/5. This seems to be a place for the bougie hipsters, or hipster bougies. I have seen people that I not only know but am friends with here, and people do certainly know about it, but just like Friedman’s, its size regulates how many people you see here at once.

Food: 3/5. Their crepes are certainly good, but I haven’t tried any of the other food. I’m prepared to say, however, that for that quality of food you could probably find better prices.

Overall: 3/5. Not one of those places I’d frequent, or many people would, tbh. Although that might change if I only remembered that they don’t card for mimosas during brunch (or any drinks, I don’t think).

ON BROADWAY AVENUE

Sweetgreen, Chipotle, Joe’s, Starbucks, McDonalds, and allll the halal/food carts

We obviously have the usuals, between 1 and 5 blocks north and south of campus on Broadway. It is, after all, New York. But if your first instinct is to head to something familiar, a big city might not be the best place to spend four years, buddy. (PS: a Shake Shack is supposed to be moving in on 116th in time for next year.)

Nussbaum & Wu Bagels

Nussbaum & Wu (called Nuss or Nussbaum, usually, for short–someone tried to write a Spectator article about how shortening the name like that is problematic, but my response to that will have to be in another post for length’s sake) is a bakery that’s famous for its black-and-white cookies, invented by Wu himself. Most sophomores come here for breakfast, for the main reason that a sophomore residence hall is located directly above it. Their coffee is not bad, if a bit strong. Come here to fit the aesthetic and read the paper at 9 AM, if you can find somewhere to sit.

Expense: 4/5. Kind of painful to come here? I’m gonna try not to make it an everyday thing as a sophomore.

Aesthetic: 4/5. Nice marble theme going on, paired with the cookies.

Convenience: 5/5, especially for anyone living in that res hall.

Popularity: 5/5. Almost always very crowded.

Food: N/A. I almost got an everything bagel last time i was here but remembered i just had lunch. Again, the coffee is pretty average.

Overall: 2/5. I’m not a huge fan of this place, and as a first-timer it can be a bit confusing to navigate (pro tip: order at the far end of the counter, pay at the door). It’s convenience, however, cannot be overstated.

Community Food & Juice

Community’s a restaurant, essentially. It’s got a very brunchy aesthetic, but I would argue it’s even more bougie than Friedman’s. It’s also incredibly expensive, and I’ve had nothing but bad experiences here, so I don’t recommend this place. I once ordered half an avocado that cost me six bucks, and when it arrived, part of it was grey.

Expense: 5/5.

Aesthetic: 2/5. Exceptionally average.

Convenience: 3/5. I can’t remember where it is, but I remember it was a walk.

Popularity: 3/5. I can’t imagine Columbia kids come here often, given the prices, but some of the wealthy kids here come for no other reason than to prove they can afford it. Like, they know they’re doing that, too.

Food: 3/5. Ya know, it’s not bad food, besides that one avocado.

Overall: 1/5. Again, I might have just had a lot of bad experiences with Community, but I think objectively it’s still not a great place to go. Save yourself the trouble and head to Friedman’s for me.

Famiglia

This is a chain, like Starbucks and Sweetgreen, but people don’t seem to know about it as much. It is literally a pizzeria and has the pizzeria vibe. Its hours are also very conducive to late-night snacking.

Expense: 2/5. Not dirt cheap, but very affordable.

Aesthetic: 4/5. I love Famiglia’s aesthetic. It’s also very clean, despite its vibe.

Convenience: 4/5. I can’t tell you off the top of my head what street it’s on, but I pass it all the time, and it makes for a nice midnight run. I actually literally ran there once, with my friend, at midnight, to pick up pizza for our floor. Cute Columbia experiences, amiright?

Popularity: 3/5. It’s relatively popular, both among Columbians and among the general public, but for some reason I never see anyone I know here and it’s usually not busy at all.

Food: 3/5. Average grade only because the pizza here pleases some people, and it just isn’t my style. I prefer Koronet’s.

Overall: 3/5. I’m rather indifferent to this place, if you couldn’t tell by my writing. I think it’s a cute place and I do highly recommend it and most people love it, but I personally don’t really care for what they offer. I know it’s very reliable, but for such a niche restaurant, I’d pick somewhere else first.

Koronet’s

Koronet’s (pronounced “Cornets”) is open until like 3 AM or something so they see a lot of drunk people stumbling in. And who can blame them: Koronet’s is king of comfort food. Their massive slices of pizza are of just the right thickness for me, even if I can’t finish one myself. I love everything about Koronet’s, but it’s really a place to be at past nightfall, if only for the aesthetic. There’s nothing quite like sitting at the booth at midnight, working on a slice with your friend, with everyone else ordering and chatting and walking by. That’s a rarity though, because there isn’t a whole lot of sitting space. Otherwise, Koronet’s is a great place for pizza.

Expense: 2/5. It’s not too expensive.

Aesthetic: 4/5. There’s a very specific aesthetic to Koronet’s, and you’d better have a really good reason if you’re going to go at any other time (don’t worry, hunger’s a good enough reason).

Convenience: 4/5. It’s right next to Mel’s and Westside Market. Obviously it’s not too much of an inconvenience to drunk freshmen in heels.

Popularity: 4/5. You know, I’m not sure if anyone frequents Koronet’s past freshman year. I guess I’ll have to find out.

Food: 5/5. 

Overall: 4/5. It holds up under high pizzeria standards, and I’ve got fond memories attached to the place.

Dig Inn

Finishing my Broadway list is Dig Inn, which is also a chain restaurant but also deserved its own mention. It’s like Sweetgreen, which is like Chipotle for those of you unfamiliar with both, in that you build your own bowl down the line. Dig Inn is my fave among the three because you can get an assortment of hot and cold sides, and you can just get half an avo if you want (in case you can’t tell, I fucking love avocados). They prepare that avo really well, too. Sorry. (Pro tip: ask for all three: salt, pepper, and olive oil.)

Expense: 3/5. It’s a fair price, if a bit expensive. (The half avo costs $1.50).

Aesthetic: 4/5. The Dig Inn near Columbia has a very interesting aesthetic: white walls, crumbling columns, wood chairs and seats. All in all I’m a huge fan; it’s very clean, and people look cute eating together.

Convenience: 4/5. It’s right on Broadway, but can be easy to miss for first-timers. Have someone point it out or take you there.

Popularity: 4/5. Pretty common to see someone walk into an evening lecture with Dig Inn in hand here, or schedule a quick dinner date there. Often there isn’t a whole lot of room to sit.

Food: 4/5. Sometimes the vegetables don’t all taste too good, but it’s pretty healthy for fast food, and the mac and cheese is killer. And again, avos.

Overall: 4/5. I’m not docking a point because anything’s wrong, but because it’s just not ~stellar~. I frequent Dig Inn, Strokos, and Friedman’s the most, if that gives you an idea of how much I love Dig Inn.

BARS AROUND CAMPUS

I thought bars deserved a different category because 1. people have got different motives in going to these, and 2. I’m much less familiar with the Columbia bars, mostly because I never go to them, so this section kind of conglomerates all the places I know less well. The bars all require fakes, and while I do have a fake, it’s still kind of a hassle having to be carded every time. I also in general don’t go to bars because I never have to pay for alcohol: all the wealthy people at this school usually cover me when it comes to liquor for pre-games and parties.

Suite

This one comes first because I remember it most clearly, it being the bar I’ve been to most recently. Suite is the local gay bar that I ended up in thanks to Accent dragging Wisconsin and I there. It’s a great place for doing your own thing with a couple of friends, or finding a one night stand. They also have drag shows every Friday and Saturday nights. The place is very lively, with little room to dance but plenty of people dancing anyways.

Expense: 4/5. I ended up paying $18 for a drink, which had 2-3 shots of whiskey. That’s crazy for 2 shots, okay for 3. The whiskey was good though, so I didn’t give it a 5.

Aesthetic: 3/5. I liked the aesthetic in the end, but some people can find it offputting. The lights are rather dim, the music is pretty loud, and it can be hard to carry on a conversation. But that also means you get nice and close with the people you are trying to talk to.

Convenience: 4/5. It’s like 2 blocks past 1020. It got a 4 because it’s the farthest, but I don’t think any place on this whole list really deserves a 5 because Columbians are spoiled in that everything we need is close by.

Popularity: 3/5. Among Columbians I don’t think it’s too popular, but it does get pretty crowded.

Food/Drinks: 3/5. The whiskey was awfully good. I saw a few of the drinks they offer, and it’s the standard Absolut, etc. Idk if it’s worth the money. They don’t offer food here.

Overall: 3/5. I don’t think this place is ideal for a lot of people’s weekly hangouts, but it’s certainly fun to come, and the vibe is great.

1020

One of our three “campus bars.” 1020 (pronounced “ten-twenty,” not “one oh two oh” or “a thousand twenty” like the pre-frosh you are) is nice because there are hours that it doesn’t card, although I can’t remember for the life of me when those are. As someone who 1. doesn’t go out much, 2. goes to frats when I do, and 3. only ends up at 1020 (or other bars) when I’m too drunk to protest, I can’t say I remember a whole lot about 1020.

Expense: N/A. Never bought any drinks here.

Aesthetic: 2/5. Nothing notable, and always awfully crowded.

Convenience: 3/5. Not too bad, closer than Suite.

Popularity: 5/5. All the Columbia bars are super popular all the time (on the weekends, that is).

Food/Drinks: N/A. I don’t know if they even serve food here.

Overall: N/A.

The Heights

Another one of Columbia’s main bars. Again, I don’t know a whole lot about the Heights.

Mel’s

Rounding out the big three Columbia bar’s is Mel’s, which is technically called “Mel’s Burger Bar” and does serve real food. (I mean, technically so does The Heights, but no one cares). I’ve heard their milkshakes are to die for, and they’re served in those cute 50’s glasses. While I’ve been inside 1020 and The Heights, I’ve never actually been inside Mel’s.

All three bars are frequented for their own reasons, and if you’re looking for the Columbia bar scene, there’s nowhere else to look but in these three. Suite isn’t really included because it’s a gay bar, which people think you need to be gay to go to. I do recommend coming here for a very accurate depiction of Columbia nightlife, but fair warning: they all card.

OTHER

These gems are not technically on either Broadway or Amsterdam Avenues, so they’ve got their own list. Check these places out if you’re looking to impress someone, or you just really want to go all out on food.

Pisticci

I really want to visit this place. I’ve heard it’s the best Italian food around, although it’s kind of out of the way, between Broadway and Claremont around 123rd. Supposed to be a really nice place to eat.

Symposium

Hidden almost underground amongst frat after frat on 113th, Symposium is easy to miss. It’s a Greek restaurant, one that I first visited due to my Lit Hum teacher, who made it a class field trip because we were reading Symposium by Plato. Hardly anyone (from Columbia) ever goes here, so if you make your face show up more than once, and within a fortnight, the owner/main server (I’m not positive of his title) will probably recognize you. That being said, the place definitely has regulars, the classic “generic pub” dynamic. The whole place is Instagrammable, with the welcome change of no other people in your feed having already Instagrammed it. Symposium is by far my favorite restaurant that I’ve been to in New York.

Expense: 3/5, because the prices are respectable but the food more than makes up for it.

Aesthetic: 5/5. With dim lights, cute booths, vines and intriguing art on the walls, Symposium has it all.

Convenience: 4/5. It’s just kinda hard to access by car; chances are, there won’t be parking space on the street and you’ll have to park around the block. Not a huge problem though.

Popularity: 1/5. Similar to Strokos, almost no one from Columbia knows about this place or cares enough to visit it more than once.

Food: 5/5. Absolutely impeccable. With a light taste of lemon on everything, the food is drool-worthy. Anything from their simple spinach rice to their stuffed grape leaves (dolmadakia) is cooked to the highest level of cuisine. If you visit here, be sure to order the flaming cheese as an appetizer (along with the dolmadakia)! It is literally on fire, making for a truly unique eating experience.

Overall: Quite rightly so, Symposium is the only restaurant on my list to get a perfect score of 5/5.

thank you to the cinnamon snail (vegan nyc-based food truck, catering company & more) for the amazing vegan thanksgiving dinner ❤️ herb crusted seitan, rosemary root vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy & i also had the truffle mac n cheese and mini pumpkin pie !!! they’re amazing ✨✨✨

instagram: @witchy_vegan

I would throw my pie for Alex Vause any day 😏🍰