What the hell is Manhattan Valley?
The name might be a confusing mess, but I can at least tell you where it is: it's the neighborhood sandwiched between W 96th Street and 110th Street in Manhattan west of Central Park West. It's not the Upper West Side, even though it is frequently generalized as being part of it; it's not Morningside Heights (which starts at 110th Street), even though most people might reasonably assume so due to its proximity to Columbia University. It was once known as the Bloomingdale District, but apparently some real estate people thought that wasn't catchy enough to sell condos. They really should have gone with Upper Upper West Side, or something related to Straus Park (after the small park in the heart of the neighborhood), or maybe even Morningside West.
Whatever it's called, the neighborhood is generally a sleepier one than anything north or south of it—it has a far more diverse population and far fewer mediocre brunch spots compared to the UWS, nor is it jam-packed with undergrads like everything immediately around Columbia University. It's charming, quiet, unassuming, and has more parks (at least four!) within walking distance than any other part of the city.
And its culinary and drinks scene has recently started to make a name for itself as well: Mama's Too! became a pizza sensation last year and Sal & Carmine's remains the longtime slice mainstay; Grain House, Atlas Kitchen, Xi'an Famous Foods and 108 Food Dried Hot Pot have brought amazing Asian cuisine to the area in recent years; Thai Market is considered one of the best Thai places in all of Manhattan; Fumo, which opened just a few months ago, is a fantastic red sauce joint; Cascabel Taqueria's outdoor seating is filled up every summer night; Manhattan Valley, Aangan and Awadhi are all excellent Indian restaurants; and Dive 106 and Bob's Your Uncle are locally-beloved neighborhood dives.
Another marker of just how well the neighborhood's culinary renaissance is going is that it finally has its first unique, chef-driven cocktail bar: Nobody Told Me. It's the result of a collaboration between co-owners Nick Pfanerstill, former chef de cuisine of now-shuttered Michelin-starred Dovetail, and longtime friend Alberto Miranda, ex-beverage director of Brooklyn's Belle Shoals.
(Nobody Told Me)
The bar's decor signals that Nobody Told Me is different from other bars in the area: A brick wall features a striking white neon sign of the bar’s cursive logo on one side. Floral wallpaper with seashells, flowers and trees are elsewhere around the bar, which has several table tops and booths, in addition to bar seats, enough to fit around 50-60 people. It feels like a Brooklyn Heights bar was disassembled and reassembled in northern Manhattan.
"There are some great bars in Manhattan Valley, just not any specializing in cocktails or chef-driven food. That's what sets us apart," the two said in a joint statement to Gothamist. Miranda and his fiance live a few blocks away away from the bar, and two say they have been charmed by the neighborhood: "The area is growing and we're thrilled to play a part." (You can see photos from an opening night party up above.)
The drinks are all between $12-$15, and have several standouts: the Heart So White is a Mezcal and coconut milk concoction that is like a fancier piña colada. The Red Handed Sleight Of Hand is a more floral Negroni, the Pepper Jelly Julep is a spicy mint bourbon mix served in a can with lots of ice, and Assemble The Empire is an italicus and sherry mix that has a light blackberry tart aftertaste. The Sidecar Killer is a mix of citrus and cognac, and tastes like your first date after your divorce papers have gone through. The Carbonated Cosmo is like a Shirley Temple that's been snorting sour straws all night. My favorite may have been the Dia De Los Zombies, a great tequila summer drink that came in a glass prayer candle holder (and also has a decorative Mexican skull cocktail stirrer).
The drinks were all pretty good, but the food is where I was really sold: they have a mix of small shareable snack plates (most are under $10) and then larger mains in the $12-17 range. Among the standouts are the Truffle Queso, a creamy snack plate perfect for noshing; Pea Chevre Arancini, delicious fried cheese balls which taste extra fresh and springy; Shrimp Rolls, which come in a sweet Hawaiian roll; and Bacon-Wrapped Dates.
(Nobody Told Me)
As for mains, the thing you have to try is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, which is perfectly crispy on the outside, and also comes in those delicious Hawaiian rolls. The Tamarind Lamb Rinds are so soft, they practically fall off the bone; the 4 Hour BBQ Cabbage has great kale and yogurt combo going for it; and the Nobody's Burger is a solid addition to the double patties craze overtaking the city.
"We really want to keep the vibe and offerings current while super approachable, with a little something for everyone," Miranda and Pfanerstill said. "We’re hoping frequent menu changes and guest collaborations will prevent us from getting bored and keep people coming back for more."
Nobody Told Me is located at 951 Amsterdam Avenue between 106th and 107th Street. Open daily from 5 p.m. - 2 a.m. For more information, check out their website.