Some neighborhoods will surprise you. Take Manhattan Valley, the name of the northeastern strip of the Upper West Side that lies between Central Park West and Broadway. Exit the subway at 110th St./Central Park West, where fabulous dining options appear minimal. But within two blocks you can score Turkish home cooking, $ 8 Pakistani lunch combos, and handmade Colombian arepas served with Kobrick Coffee Co. cold brew.
They do have a proper menu at five-year-old Pak Shahi Biryani & Grill, but during the daytime (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), you’ll find most diners tucking into their quick-service combo meals priced at $ 8 or $ 9.
For about the same price as a deli hero, you can sit down to a hearty, reasonably healthy Indo-Pakistani meal that includes an entree (like a spice-rubbed fish filet, a curry or chicken tikka masala), a vegetable of the day (like stewed black-eyed peas), a side salad (with chunky cucumbers and carrots), a mountain of basmati rice and a naan bread large enough to cover a dinner plate.
Plus, there are discounts for students, and plenty of snacky additions (chicken patties, kebabs, the veggie fritters called pakora) for $ 1.
Pak Shahi Biryani & Grill: 71 W. 109th St., at Columbus Ave., (212) 222-8820
Not just Joe
You can get coffee made via pour over, Chemex, French press or espresso machine at Demitasse Coffee & Tea, but that’s not even the most impressive list of options. This four-month-old cafe — no bigger than a hallway — has serious food game, influenced by the Latin American backgrounds of its three owners. (Two are Colombian, one is from the Dominican Republic).
The menu begins with omelets ($ 12), jalapeño-biscuit egg and sausage sandwiches ($ 9.50), or the $ 7.50 “Colombian breakfast,” a house-made white corn pancake called an arepa topped with a runny-yolked fried egg and a melty South American version of mozzarella. For lunch, a short list of sophisticated items includes a turmeric-marinated chicken sandwich with spinach, pickled onions and oranges ($ 10.75), or sesame-lemon dressed zucchini “noodles” bolstered with cilantro, cabbage, avocado, tomatoes and golden raisins.
On the side, try a $ 2 swirl of the soft Colombian cheese bread called pan de quejo, or a $ 3 mug of the traditional Argentinean herbal drink yerba mate, served with a bombilla, or special metal straw.
Demitasse Coffee & Tea: 973 Columbus Ave., near W. 108th St., (646) 861-2667
Hidden Turkish delight
From the outside, you might assume that Park West Cafe & Deli is just another bodega whose name promises more than can be delivered. But you’d be wrong. This long-standing deli just across the street from Central Park features house-made Turkish food, plus several cozy little tables at which to eat it.
There are sandwiches with cured Turkish meats and cheese, Turkish tea, baklava, and savory stuffed pastries like borek, but the standouts are all the items sold by the pound. (They’re $ 5.99 to $ 9.99, depending on what you order).
To name just a few choices, there are beef or vegetable stuffed peppers; the Turkish version of meatballs called kofta served with potatoes in tomato sauce; roasted eggplant; chicken kebabs; rice pilaf; and the grain salad called kisir made with cracked wheat, scallions, tomato, minced parsley and a touch of sweet pomegranate syrup.
Just be sure to call before you go in the next week or so: It’s temporarily closing for minor renovations.
Park West Cafe & Deli: 477 Central Park W., at W. 108th St., (212) 663-5690