Haute and hot in the Heights
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Uptown, there will be no whining, just WHIN-ing.
Restaurant Week uptown, better known as #WHIN & DINE, is in full swing.
It’s no secret that uptown is the place for great eats. Locals have long known there is no better place to find the best street chimichurri as readily as the finest cocktail. Celebrities have begun to catch on, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jay-Z and Beyonce have come north for good eats.
Now, #WHIN & DINE offers even more reason to visit as many uptown restaurants as possible. A continuation of the culinary promotion that began last year with the “Explora” campaign, this year’s Restaurant Week has added at least ten more participating restaurants, and even boasts its own app. Patrons can select to dine out for less than $30 dollars from a wide array of cuisines.
The official launch was held on Mon., May 12th at District 12 on 4892 Broadway, and foodies will get to enjoy the promotion until May 23rd.
“It’s very good for the neighborhood,” said Mitchell Arias, General Manager of District 12. “It’s showing people we’ve got what it takes. We don’t have to leave anymore. People are coming to our part of town.”
District 12 has had its share of celebrity sightings; among others, baseballers Derek Jeter and Pedro Martínez have both dined at the restaurant.
On Monday, it was packed with many enjoying tasty finger foods and beer samples from Dyckman Beer.
“The great part about this is that the people running this are community-oriented,” said Dyckman Beer Company principal Juan Camilo, who was a first-time visitor to District 12.
Residents said they were looking forward to exploring the culinary landscape.
“It’s pretty exciting to learn about new places,” said Liz Ritter. “There’s a lot of really good food up here. Last week a friend of mine was in from way out of town and we were trying to figure out where to go, so we came up town. We had all of New York from which to choose, and we went to a restaurant uptown.”
“They really got some excellent restaurants,” said Led Black, Editor in Chief of the Uptown Collective blog. “This is a good entryway to get into a lot of those spots.”
There were others pleased to get a good deal.
“I’m really happy that they got a second Restaurant Week around here, because I can take people on dates and save money,” said actor and producer Michael Diaz, who spoke as his alter ego “Juan Bago.”
“And hopefully, they don’t see the (#WHIN&DINE) decal on the front.”
Juana Abreu, a longtime Washington Heights resident, is no stranger to the restaurant scene, but was looking forward to checking out some unexplored restaurants, like Mamasushi, Tobacco y Ron and Vacca.
“Now, especially in the summer, it’s packed, it’s lively, so I think it’s awesome,” she said.
Juan Carlos Medrano, like Abreu, was raised in Washington Heights.
“Ten years ago, I wasn’t really going out in the neighborhood. It wasn’t really a place to hang out.”
But he was committed to getting out and experiencing how much things had changed.
Ritter expressed nonchalance at most celebrity sightings, but she makes an occasional exception.
She was excited about seeing world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson behind Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem dining at Malecon Restaurant, known for its pollo al carbon.
“I was rendered speechless, and for those who know me, that doesn’t happen very often,” she reported. “Marcus Samuelsson and all sorts of foodies coming up to Washington Heights? That’s something I want to see.”
Washington Heights Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Angelina Ramírez, who helped organize 2013’s Restaurant Week under Explora, an uptown tourism initiative, said last year’s restaurant week was a good springboard.
“Last year was great, and we learned a lot.”
Some of the lessons have already influenced this year’s promotion.
While last year, restaurants customized their own menus and deals, each restaurant will offer a pre-fixed menu with a flat cost of $27 for three courses. The menus are also already printed out ahead of time, streamlining the process and facilitating the process of serving more customers.
Ramírez looks forward to seeing how the changes will pan out.
“I’m really super-excited,” she said.
One of the biggest changes too is that #WHIN & DINE now has its own app.
“We’re in 2014; everything is based on technology. We wanted every type of information at their fingertips under an app,” said Ariel Ferreira, the founder and CEO of marketing and project management firm UpStep, which organized #WHIN & DINE.
Next year is already in the organizers’ sights. In 2015, there are sure to be more restaurants, said Ivanna Taveras, an UpStep Account Manager.
“I have had [many] people saying that they’re opening something next year and that they want to participate. The expansion is definitely there,” she said.
“The best is yet to come,” promised Ferreira.
Some might argue that the best is already here.
“This is also about showcasing what Washington Heights and Inwood as a whole have to offer,” said Ferreira. “It’s a lot more than the restaurants. We want everyone to know that Washington Heights and Inwood are on the map.”
For more information on #WHIN & DINE, please visit http://www.whindine.com.