Every neighborhood has its best-kept secrets — spots outsiders walk by thinking there’s nothing special inside. Here are three on the Upper West Side, all within walking distance of the subway station at 96th St. and Central Park West.
Fresh, front and center
If you don’t live or work Uptown, you may not have heard of 13-year-old Effy’s Cafe , but owner Efi Jacoby is fine with that. “I’m not into marketing,” he says. “If the food is good, people will come back.”
His approach has worked so far. Jacoby runs another Effy on the Upper East Side, plus an outpost in the 92nd Street Y cultural institution. It’s no surprise, when you consider that the Effy’s menu was way ahead of its time when Jacoby created it in 2004. Leaning toward the Middle East and the Mediterranean, it’s exactly the type of meat-free, from-scratch, produce-centric, flavor-forward, healthy food that people want to eat right now.
A prime example is the best-selling breakfast of green shakshuka ($12), or two eggs poached in chunky tomato sauce bolstered with spinach and feta cheese. Like many entrees here, it comes with thick chewy pita sourced from Brooklyn; an Israeli salad; and house made hummus dressed with a blend of tahini that’s tinted pale green with pureed parsley.
Other favorites are plates with falafel or smoked fish ($14), the latter big enough for two with its array of eggs, bagels, house-pickled vegetables, and three dips: scallion cream cheese, baked salmon and whitefish. And don’t write off the avocado toasts ($11) as the same-old thing you see everywhere. Here, they’re served Israeli-style crushed with chilies or other flavors atop a fluffy fresh pita.
Effy’s Cafe: 104 W. 96th St., near Columbus Ave., (212) 280-6200
5 delicious meals and snacks under $5 on the Upper West Side
A good grocery can make a neighborhood, and such is the case with Mani Market Place , opened by brothers Anastasio and Panagiotis Mastakouris 27 years ago. What other corner store in Manhattan sells bottles of golden olive oil (hand-picked, pressed on stone mills) direct from the owner’s family groves in Greece? A 750-milliliter bottle is $14.99, and a bargain when you consider the journey.
The brothers — everyone calls them Taso and Taki, respectively — learned the art of food-selling from their father, who ran many markets in Queens as they were growing up. In addition to everything else you’d expect to find in a little Manhattan market, they also stock fresh produce from farms in Pennsylvania Dutch country and on Long Island, pack their own dried fruits and nuts, sell fresh meats and fish, and stock Greek specialties in the sandwich counter.
The latter includes dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves; spinach-stuffed spanakopita ($4); and the lasagne-like moussaka ($7.95 a pound), layered with eggplant, potatoes and ground meat.
Mani Market Place: 697 Columbus Ave., at W. 94th St., (212) 662-4392
Eating along the B line: Tasty, cheap eats on the Upper West Side
There are thousands of hot dog vendors in this city, but few have the following of Billy’s Hot Dog Cart , which has been a fixture near the corner of W. 93rd St. and Central Park for the past 17 years.
The appeal is not just the $1 dogs, but Billy himself, a Greek immigrant originally from Kalamata, whose real first name is Vasillios. The regulars at Billy’s are so dedicated that they give him five-star Yelp reviews and Christmas cards, coming so often that Vasillios says they’re his “shareholders.”
Vasillios, who declined to give his last name, loves his job both for them and for the perks. “When you work on the street there are pluses and minuses,” he says. Rain and cold are tough, in other words, but the view of Central Park across the street “is the best.”
Flawless flatbread, donuts make this subway stop a dining hotspot
Billy’s Hot Dog Cart: Northwest corner of 93rd St. and Central Park W., no phone
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