A favorite haunt of Columbia students, the food has never been particularly good or bad at Tom's. It has simply existed, and for college students that is a good thing. (We'll leave it to the philosophy majors to further ponder its existence.) Suzanne... more
A favorite haunt of Columbia students, the food has never been particularly good or bad at Tom's. It has simply existed, and for college students that is a good thing. (We'll leave it to the philosophy majors to further ponder its existence.) Suzanne Vega, herself a former Barnard student, immortalized the place in her 1981 song "Tom's Diner". Tom's gained additional fame after being featured on the TV series "Seinfeld"; its garish neon sign is a hallmark of the Morningside Heights neighborhood, and while its pink light might draw you in, you might be better off eating elsewhere if you're not on a budget and/or don't have a cast-iron stomach.
Tom's Restaurant is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.
New Yorkers have several nicknames for Morningside Heights: the "Academic Acropolis," "Bloomingdale Village," or as the late George Carlin (who grew up here) once cynically put it, "White Harlem." Stretching from West 106th to 125th Streets, Morningside Heights is primarily known as the home of highly revered institutions such as Barnard College, Columbia University, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Manhattan School of Music, St. Luke's Hospital, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and Riverside Church.
The term Morningside came from the park on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, which each morning was the first area to be lit up by the sun and thus called Morningside Park by the residents at the time. Riverside Park, an enormous 266-acre waterfront park maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, was created in 1870s. While obviously overshadowed by New York's Central Park, both of these parks are much beloved by New Yorkers and tourists alike—especially those with an affinity for jogging.
The neighborhood was the stage the Battle of Harlem Heights, a Revolutionary War skirmish that pitted 2,000 Americans against a British division of 5,000 soldiers. At the end of the nineteenth century construction began on both the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and Columbia University's uptown campus, and the neighborhood, previously farmland, became urbanized over the ensuing decades. Generally an affluent neighborhood, many of the beautiful apartment buildings and row houses in Morningside Heights were amongst the first residences to use elevators and were built for New York's prosperous middle class in the first two decades of the twentieth century. During the middle of the century, however, largely due to the increasing numbers of Single Room Occupancy hotels (SROs), the neighborhood experienced socioeconomic troubles and fell for a time into decline, with some residents opting to move to affluent suburbs surrounding New York City. In the meantime, the neighborhood has rebounded and reestablished its former grandeur with the significant help of major investments and real estate acquisitions by Columbia University to the north of its existing campus.
Definitely the most famous restaurant in Morningside Heights is Tom's Restaurant, featured in the song of the same name by Suzanne Vega and perhaps most recognizable as "Monk's Café" in Seinfeld. Havana Central, on Broadway near 114th street, was once a legendary haunt filled with Beat Generation poets and activists, but afteryears of languishing as burger-n-beer joint with jazz, they spicing things up, Cuban-style. Popular college bars in the area are 1020 and the nearby Lion's Head Tavern, where youngsters and oldsters knock back pints and shots and get routinely weirded out by each other's respective ages. There's also the slightly less divey Village Pourhouse and
US Civil War history buffs will be interested to know that Grant's Tomb is located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, situated in a prominent location in Riverside Park with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River. And to answer the famous question, no one is technically "buried" in Grant's Tomb, as that's not how tombs work: both Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia are entombed there.
Given the fact that the neighborhood here is primarily residential, the closest accommodations you find in the nearby vicinity would be Morningside Inn on West 107th Street, which is housed in a pre war building with the old world charm of that era. The nearby Marrakech Hotel on the Upper West Side at Broadway and 103rd Street offers enticing Moroccan style accommodations in one of Manhattan's quieter residential neighborhoods.