Is It Worth Riding the 1 Train Uptown for Craft Beer at Hogshead Tavern?

Craft beer is more commonly associated with hipster-laden pockets of the LES and Williamsburg than with the triple-digited streets of Upper Manhattan. Hogshead Tavern (126 Hamilton Place, 212-234-5411) hopes to change that perception, staking out the vastly untapped region of Hamilton Heights in the name of high-minded suds. The streamlined bar and restaurant — with warm, black-bricked, plaid-floored interior — has already charmed its way into something of a neighborhood staple. But for the faraway folks, is it worth the trek? I hopped on the 1 train to find out.

On its well-maintained website, Hogshead is quick to point out that it’s just a ten-minute ride from midtown. I found that to be wishful thinking, at best. But it is surprisingly accessible from the lower depths of the borough by way of several subway lines. Once inside, I was greeted by a slew of welcome sights, namely: twenty tap handles straddling a concise yet thoughtful platform of craft whiskeys, gins, and vodkas, all bound within a sleek, modish space.

The draft selections are sensibly displayed in large, white marker on transparent glass behind the bar. They’re impossible to miss, which is important, as the taplist frequently fluctuates, sometimes throughout the course of a single evening. Selections range from $6 to $8, mainly for sixteen-ounce pours, and include exclusive craft entities like Great Divide’s unapologetically viscous Yeti Imperial Stout, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale — a masterfully balanced American IPA. Covering regions as divergent as Newport, Oregon, and Bavaria, Germany, the menu is surprisingly light on local brews — or it was when I visited.

But as geographically and stylistically expansive as the list is, it isn’t a radical departure from many other fine watering holes in more traveled sections of the city. To set itself apart, Hogshead offers unique beer cocktails, a notable weekend brunch, and — living up to its name — an efficient food menu dominated by pork.

Of the eight dishes, built to share and priced at around $10 a plate, only the kale and artichoke dip is devoid of meat — and it could hardly be considered light fare. Although the chipotle BBQ pig wings are notable for the unique delivery of pork attached to a Buffalo wing–like riblet, the bites were somewhat lacking in flavor when compared to the spicy Moroccan meatballs and the crispy pork belly grilled cheese, the former molded from braised lamb and chorizo, the latter enhanced by a sweet onion relish and three separate varieties of melted cheese. Together they were reason enough to rationalize the subway ride.

And that was before the Hogshead Buck, a bourbon and beer cocktail that relies on ginger and blood orange to round out wooded notes of Kentucky whiskey. It’s the standout from a list of four drinks, which should soon expand to feature more beers in cocktail form. The current selections, priced between $10 and $11, are built solely upon either Crabbies Ginger Beer or Crispin Pear Cider.

Well-fed and sufficiently served, I left the Hogshead unable to stomach food or drink for the foreseeable future. I did, however, find myself with a newfound hunger to further explore Hamilton Heights. The new tavern was by no means the first to tap into this neighborhood’s unrealized potential, but by feeding an increasing demand for craft here, it certainly won’t be the last.



Where to Brunch This Weekend: Asellina, Riverbank Grill, Cousin John’s Bakery & Cafe, Baoburg

Sticking around the city this weekend? Join other folks who decided to opt out of pumpkin picking and check out one of this weekend’s brunch offers. Whether you’re into cheap deals, great views, or endless drinks, carve out your own favorite brunch place from a selection of this weekend’s top haunts.

Asellina, 420 Park Avenue, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m..

This Gramercy Park hot spot in the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel offers a two-hour unlimited brunch for $18 that is popular with travelers looking for an epic NYC brunch story. That price includes unlimited mimosas, bloody marys, sangria, and prosecco with or without the purchase of an entree. However, with all that time to enjoy those cocktails, you may need to opt in for one of the restaurant’s brunch pizzas or pasta selections.

Bottomless With A View
Riverbank Grill, 679 Riverside Drive, Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m.

Riverbank offers up a ridiculously serene view of the Hudson, and the picture only gets prettier with an hour and a half of bottomless mimosas, red sangria, and pints of select beers for $12. Brunch items include chicken and waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, and a hangover omelette, and the restaurant also features a deal for food porn fanatics: Take a photo of yourself brunching it up with the Hudson River backdrop and post it to Riverbank Grill’s Facebook page to receive a complimentary dessert.

Popular and Cheap
Cousin John’s Bakery & Cafe, 70 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, Sunday, 10 a.m.

When you put the words “includes chocolate bread” on a brunch menu, your place becomes a popular Sunday stop. This family-owned bakery and cafe features items like country omelettes, fruit and cheese blintzes, and challah french toast, all at reasonable (read: sub-$10) prices. There’s also a selection of cakes and pastries to go in case you want to extend brunch into an all day sweet-eating affair.

Baoburg, 126 North Sixth Street, Brooklyn, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.

While you may be use to eating baos as a late night snack, this tiny kitchen next to Ramen Yebisu offers up a selection of steamed buns for brunch service. Combinations like the sober bao (eggs benedict with slow cooked pork and spinach) supplement a selection of sandwiches that round out the menu. Beer, wine, and cocktails are also available for purchase at this cash-only, no-reservations walk-in.


Hamilton Heights Rallies Around Chipped Cup After Marriage Equality Dispute

Last week, the owners of Chipped Cup, a popular coffee shop in Hamilton Heights, put a simple chalkboard sign outside. They drew a red equals sign in support of marriage equality, and posted a picture of it on Facebook with the phrase, “Peace, love, equality. #hamiltonheights.”

“We put up the equality sign without too much thought behind it,” owner Karen Cantor told Fork in the Road. “It seemed like the natural reaction for us. People had this issue on their mind.” But one angry customer took her rants to Twitter and Yelp (some of which are now immortalized on Reditt).

This prompted an outpouring of support from the Harlem (and national) community, which rallied around the Chipped Cup:

Cantor said one man who lived a few avenues over heard about the nasty comments and came into the shop to express his support. He gave them $100 anonymously. Cantor and Ding used the money to give away 50 free cups of coffee that morning. Harlem Public, a Hamilton Heights bar, tweeted, “Shouts to @ChippedCupNY. Doing the right thing as always. We can’t believe this is even a discussion. #equality.” Mark Otto, an openly gay candidate for City Council in Harlem’s District 7, also responded to the coffee shop on Twitter: “I am so grateful for your support.”

Commenters from across the country took to the cafe’s Facebook page. “We can’t WAIT to travel to the the Chipped Cup to sip java and laugh at all the bigots next time we visit!” wrote Justin Normand from Dallas. Even folks from other countries found their way to the Chipped Cup’s social-media presence. “Heard you in The Netherlands … thanks for standing for human rights and equality,” signed Lindsay Smith-Aronson.

“Politics and coffee shops go hand in hand,” Cantor said. She cited cafes from the ’50s and ’60s as being the center of artistic, political, and ideological debates in Paris and New York. To Cantor, the sign was just about being part of the conversation — on the day the chalkboard went up, March 28, 2.7 million people showed their support of marriage equality by changing their Facebook profile pictures to include an equals sign.


Close-Up on Hamilton Grange

Portions of this article have been updated.

Out of the strange intermingling of Alexander Hamilton’s tumultuous military career and Ralph Ellison’s controversial literary journey breathes Harlem’s mini-district Hamilton Grange. Named for Hamilton’s 19th-century estate, located in adjacent Hamilton Heights, the Grange is one of the few neighborhoods in New York that is at once chock full of historic sites, breathtaking green space, stark brownstones, and a swirl of cultures that spans the continents. The Grange can be considered the less-expensive, less-siddity, but just-as-magnetic area next to the monied Sugar Hill and Striver’s Row. Indeed, many literary and jazz greats made their home in the affordable neighborhood (including Ellison, who penned Invisible Man here).

Neighborhood Boundaries: The lines blur, but most draw the bounds at 152nd Street to the north, Amsterdam Avenue to the east, 140th Street to the south, and Riverside Drive to the west. Crafty real estate brokers renamed the upper part of the area Heritage Heights Village, which could bring the Grange up to 160th Street, where George Washington did his strategizing during the battle of Harlem Heights. One resident jokes, “Since they started calling us Heritage Heights, the city has been cleaning around here a lot more.”

Population: African American, West Indian, Latino, Eastern European, and African families have webbed a tight-knit community. Walk down Broadway in the 140s and lower 150s and it’s hard not to be swept up by the dizzying mix of merengue, salsa, pachata, Jamaican dance hall, and hip-hop that bumps from open doors and passing vehicles.

Main Drags: Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue between 140th and 150th streets are alive with ethnic restaurants, great shopping, and old men playing dominos on milk crates. Players Sportswear, on 145th Street and Broadway, hawks the latest hip-hop gear.

Transportation: Take the 1 train to 145th Street and Broadway or the A, B, C, or D train to 145th Street and walk east to Amsterdam and Broadway. The 5 bus offers a very green trip up Riverside Drive.

Average Price to Rent: Pre-war buildings boast house-sized apartments overlooking Riverside Park. One-bedroom, $1,000 to $1,500 ($1,200 to $1,500); two-bedroom, $1,300 to $1,400 ($1,500 to $1,700); three-bedroom, $1,500 and up ($1,800 to $2,200); four-bedroom, $1,800 and up ($2,200 to $2,900). Rent stabilization still exists in this neighborhood and can bring a one-bedroom down to the $900 range.

Average Price to Buy: Stunning brownstones line the streets between 145th and 150th; they range from $1.5 million to $1.8 million ($600,000 to $800,000, says long-time real estate man R. Kenyatta Punter. That’s a deal, Punter points out, considering that just two blocks away in Hamilton Heights, brownstones go for between $1.5 million to $2 million ($850,000 and $1.6 million).

Green Space: Riverbank State Park, built in the ’90s over a controversial sewer plant at 145th Street and Riverside Drive, contains amazingly clean indoor and outdoor pools, a skating rink, a gym, and a theater. “It’s like a freakin’ country club,” says one area newcomer. Riverside Park runs all the way up Hamilton Grange, offering jungle gyms for children, picnic spaces, and makeshift jogging trails. The Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleum (770 Riverside Drive) is a mass of green surrounding delicate, century-old gravestones.

Cultural Institutions: There are at least two dozen historic churches, including the 1901-built Our Lady of Lourdes (463 West 142nd Street), a Roman Catholic, African American congregation. At the Hamilton Grange Branch of the New York Public Library, on the corner of 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, you can find a superior collection of books and research by people of color. Harlem School of the Arts (645 St. Nicholas Avenue) gives reasonably priced art lessons, while the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem (466 West 152nd Street) offers dance classes and hosts a mean annual block party.

Hot Spots: For those seeking the time-tested, check out Copeland’s (547 West 145th Street) for soul food; their live-jazz Sunday brunch draws an older church crowd (fierce hats included) as well as a younger, artsy set. Chain shmain: Caridad Restaurant can still turn out Dominican standards with flare—especially at the 145th and Broadway spot.

Politicians: City Councilman Robert Jackson, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, State Senator David A. Paterson, and Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright—all Democrats.

Crime Statistics: The 30th precinct includes Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Grange, Sugar Hill, and West Harlem. As of September 4, 2005, there were 4 murders, 19 rapes, 234 robberies, 177 felony assaults, and 99 burglaries. (The 30th precinct includes Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Grange, Sugar Hill, and West Harlem. As of June 29, it reported four murders, down three; 17 rapes, up seven; 141 felonious assaults, down 17; and 167 robberies, up nine).


From Guerrero

The influx of Mexican immigrants in the last decade—mostly from the mountainous southern states of Puebla, Guerrero, and Oaxaca—has yet to produce any great restaurants, though the hardworking émigrés are often spotted in New York’s most illustrious kitchens. Most Mexican cafés are just taquerías, places fit for a beer or two and a good taco, torta, or plate of chicken mole poblano, but not for the kind of ambitious meals that regional cooks are capable of. But gradually, the quality and scope of Mexican cooking in town have been inching up.

A case in point is a new café in mountainous Hamilton Heights, known on its awning as Mexico Dos. I wondered why a restaurant would name itself after an archaic piece of computer software, but that wasn’t why I went inside. A good earthy smell issued from the doorway, and the small room was suffused with an appealing warmth, partly a result of the pink walls. The menu touts Tex-Mex, perhaps in an attempt to emulate Fresco Tortilla Grill and its ilk, and indeed features decent burritos, fajitas, and chimichangas. But the real action is in the daily specials and especially the comidas diarias, which the menu characterizes as “authentic regional dishes from south Mexico.”

The essence of this cuisine is in the moles (“mole-ays”), ancient traditional sauces of astonishing complexity, rivaling French sauces in subtlety and in the skill required to produce them. While many taquerías simply pour moles out of cans, Mexico Dos creates them from scratch. The mole verde, for example, derives its bright color from a lively combination of green chiles, cilantro, and fresh tomatillos, further flavored with herbs largely unfamiliar to gringos, including epazote, which tastes something like creosote, and hoja santo, which imparts hints of anise and mint. You can have it with poached chicken or crisply fried pork rib; either way, the vast quantity of sauce will convince you that the mole is the meal.

My favorite use of green mole is in chilaquiles topped with two sunny-side-up eggs ($7). Chilaquiles are the Mexican answer to French toast, transforming stale tortillas into something wonderful by scrambling them with sauce and tossing on plenty of crema, crumbled queso fresco, and greenery. In a similar vein but soupier is machaca ($6.50), a breakfast favorite that’s named after its principal ingredient, a dried beef jerky. The shredded meat is jumbled with green salsa, onions, and bits of egg.

Just as formidable is the mole rojo, whose roster of ingredients includes sesame seeds, raisins, almonds, and several kinds of chiles, breezier and less ponderous than the chocolate mole poblano that has become almost too familiar at Mexican cafés. Mole pipian is another triumph, made with pumpkin seeds that have not been coarsely crushed as in the canned version, but ground to a fine powder, thickening the sauce only slightly while preserving its smooth texture. If you insist on tomatoes in your sauce, go right for pollo en chipotle ($7), which bathes the bird in a mild red fluid with little clumps of smoky brown chipotle chile, or adobo de pollo, which employs a vinegary red paste to coat the chicken before braising. This thick marinade (technically, it’s not a mole) inspired the national dish of the Philippines when both countries were Spanish colonies.

Tragically, the most obscure mole on the menu has never been available on my visits: huashimole, intriguingly described as “Traditional among Mexicans. Made with wild seed, salted huaje & dry pepper & sauce.” The waitress shook her head discouragingly the last time we ordered it, but when we asked her where it came from, she nodded enthusiastically and responded, “From Guerrero.”


Close-Up On: Sugar Hill

Portions of this article have been updated.

Forever earmarked as home to many Harlem Renaissance artists, Sugar Hill, steeped in rich folklore, continues to draw both young and old. The neighborhood has generally avoided gentrification, holding tightly to its plethora of picturesque churches and row houses. It derived its name in 1919 as the area where affluent artists and businessmen with money (“sugar”) settled. However, it wasn’t until the early 1930s that established African Americans moved en masse to the Hill, including many who would become notable in 20th-century arts and letters. Today the faces of aspiring college students mesh with briefcase-carrying, upper-middle-class African American and Dominican American residents.

Boundaries: Between 155th and 154th streets in the north, and approximately 138th Street in the south. To the west, Amsterdam and Eighth avenues; to the east, Edgecombe Avenue.

Mass Transit: A 15-minute ride from midtown on the A, B, C, or D trains to 145th Street; B or C trains to 135th; or the C to 155th. There are also numerous bus possibilities.

Average Price to Rent: Studio: $1,000 and up ($800); one-bedroom: $1,200 and up ($1,000); two-bedroom: $1,900 and up ($1,250).

Average Price to Buy: One-bedroom condos start at about $400,000 ($85,000), while two- and three-bedroom condos range from $450,000 to $650,000 ($105,000 to $180,000). Pricey brownstones are hot in Sugar Hill and average $2.1 million ($450,000 to $750,000 and up for a four-floor walk-up).

Cultural Institutions: Opened in 1963 by opera diva Dorothy Maynor, Harlem School of the Arts offers underprivileged students the chance to study fine arts. Maynor taught and was executive director of the school until 1979. That same year Aaron Davis Hall opened on the main campus of CUNY. It has showcased new works by Ron K. Brown and the Alvin Ailey dance troupe. The Hamilton Grange branch library on 145th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway features guest speakers and movies, usually for free.

Landmarks: Hamilton Terrace, filled with three-story row houses built mostly around the late 1890s, is one of the most impressive streets in Manhattan. The ornate details of the iron and brickwork amaze newcomers. One of the last freestanding mansions in Harlem is the Nicholas and Agnes Benziger House on Edgecombe Avenue. Today it is owned by the Broadway Housing Development Fund Company, which finds permanent housing for the homeless. Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 463 West 142nd Street is a bizarre collage of three famous 19th-century structures. Lastly, 409 Edgecombe Avenue must not be forgotten for lodging in its 12 stories many of the black elite between the 1930s and 1950s. Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Du Bois are two of the esteemed who made 409 their home.

Famous Residents: In addition to Du Bois and Marshall, there are too many to list, but Ruby Dee, Ralph Ellison, Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, Butterfly McQueen, and even George Gershwin once called the Hill home. Current residents include Reverend Calvin Butts, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, and
John Kerry’s Deputy Campaign Manager, former deputy mayor Bill Lynch.

Notable Event: The Entertainers Basketball Classic happens annually between June and August. It was first held between two celebrity rap groups in 1982 at Holcombe Rucker Memorial Park. Today, top college and NBA players battle it out along with rappin’ gurus in front of thousands.

Best Bar: St. Nick’s Pub, 149 St. Nicholas Avenue, has sweet jazz tunes and mixes a mean after-work drink.

Best Restaurants: Soul food choices Copeland’s, 547 West 145th Street, and Ethel’s Southern Quarters, 747 St. Nicholas, will hit the spot, but for something unique try Famous Fish Market at 684 West 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. You can’t pick out your own trout, but the fish-and-chips are a standout. For a Caribbean feel try Sunshine Kitchen right across the street.

Local Politicians: Congressman Charles Rangel, Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, State Senator David A. Paterson, and City Councilman Robert Jackson—all Democrats.

Crime: For the 30th Precinct, which includes the Hill as well as Hamilton Heights and West Harlem, as of September 2005, there were 4 murders, 19 rapes, 234 robberies, 177 felony assaults, and 99 burglaries. (As of May, crime rates for the 30th Precinct, which includes the Hill as well as Hamilton Heights and West Harlem, had decreased in five of the NYPD’s listed categories. There were two homicides, compared to five at this time last year; seven rapes, down from nine; 98 robberies, down from 103; 103 felony assaults, compared to 116 last year; 62 burglaries, down from 85; and 59 reports of grand larceny, up from 49 last year).