Writer-Actor Lin-Manuel Miranda Tells Where to Go In the Heights

lin-manuel miranda

Looking uptown.Photo: Joan Marcus

The writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda didn't actually grow up in Washington Heights, the milieu of his highly nostalgic Broadway smash, In the Heights. "I missed the cutoff by about ten blocks," the outed Inwood native revealed to us. But that meansas evidenced by his favorite neighborhood hangs, belowhe's just got even more of upper Manhattan figured out.

Brunch, upper-Manhattan style:

Theres a great Dominican place in Inwood, La Casa Del Mofongo. They have a breakfast dish, mangu, which I eat every time Im uptown. Its like plantain paste, mashed plantain. You eat it and you feel like you dont have to eat two meals afterward. Thats where my grandmother would order food from when she didnt feel like cooking.

Best examples of the new Washington Heights:

One of the first really upscale places was Hispaniola, on 181st and Cabrini. Its still wonderful. I think my favorite place, we went there for my cousins baptism, we sort of do a lot of special events there, is the New Leaf Caf. It's literally in the middle of the woods, they have sort of a beautiful patio in the summer. And its a nonprofit as well. Its shmancy food for a good cause. I remember when it was a greasy diner; wed get hot dogs and fries and walk around the Cloisters.

For the folks:

I go with my parents to Mamajuana on Dyckman Street. There are a lot of really nice restaurants; one of my favorite places is the Garden Caf, adjacent to the church I went to, Good Shepherd. The best part of going to [that] church [is when] we would get sugar doughnuts from the bakery and oatmeal in coffee cups.

For inspiration hunting:

My favorite record store in upper Manhattan is Quisqueya, on 207th Street. They have albums that are out of print. I dont know how they get them, to be honest. Ruth Fernandez, Celia Cruzthey have an incredible collection up there, and theyre very knowledgeable. When I was writing the score, Id walk in and say, "I need the best reggaeton albums of three years ago," and [the clerk] would put them on the counter. And hed be right.

Brunch, traditional:

I dont know where I live now. Im surrounded by car dealerships. Im sort of between Upper West Side and Hells Kitchen. I live in Upper West Hell. Occasionally well go to Landmarc, up at the Time Warner Center. They have this thing called pain perdue thats sort of this French toast on steroids. It doesnt beat oatmeal in a coffee cup, though. As told to Amos Barshad