Photo Credit: Camilo Jose Vergara
Today’s Harlem City Guide update is from original writer Melinda Lewis, a born, bred and buttered Harlemite and founder of the lifestyle blog Get Togetha and the visual blog Harlem Collective. Today Melinda shares her suggestions on where to eat, shop and drink in Harlem, so have your MetroCards ready. Thanks for such a great update, Melinda! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
You can’t have a conversation about the cultural diversity of Manhattan without including the village of Harlem. Harlem, simply put, is music, food and more food and the repository of a rich historical legacy. It’s been three years since my last Harlem City Guide, and needless to say, Harlem has exploded in OMG culinary talent, and I dare say it’s developed a formidable nightlife. The best part of Harlem is simply taking in its energetic atmosphere and landscape. You will see and experience people from all walks of life, and there’s never a dull moment; you will have a time.
Image above via Chic Travelor
Sylvia’s: Sylvia’s is Harlem Food Royalty. Their traditional Soul Food Cuisine is solid, but I highly recommend their brunch: homemade biscuits, salmon cakes, fresh-squeezed orange juice and buttery grits. Happiness!
Red Rooster: Chef Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster is the hot-ticket on Harlem’s Lenox Avenue. The Red Rooster is upscale American comfort food influenced by local and international food traditions around the world. The Red Rooster’s strength is its vibrant atmosphere and bar scene: live music, eclectic cocktails and people from all walks of life. Make reservations. Now.
Mobay Uptown: Mobay features casual chic Caribbean Soul Food dining. Recommended: Jerk Salmon, Oxtails, Coconut Shrimp, Smoked Collards (some of the best in town) and their Caribbean Rum Punch.
Chez Lucienne: I come to Chez Lucienne when I’m craving mussels in white wine sauce and fries. Chez Lucienne is quality neighborhood French bistro fare, and their attentive service makes you feel super special.
Amy Ruth’s: Amy Ruth’s is a hands-down old-school soul-food joint with lip-smacking variations of Harlem’s signature dish: chicken and waffles. Their Smothered Pork Chops & Fried Okra is killer, as well.
Bier International: If you love beer, this is the place to be. Bier has mouth-watering casual plates and more than reasonable prices. Recommended: strawberry beer, parmesan truffle fries and their pineapple smoked chipotle guacamole.
Covo Trattoria: Fuss free and hands down the freshest Italian food in Harlem. Recommended: The Grilled Calamari over Arugula and the Lobster Ravioli.
Image above via NYCGO
Zoma: Two Words: Honey Wine. Oh. And the traditional Ethiopian cuisine? Flavor beyond your imagination.
5 and Diamond: American Nouveau and a rotating menu of Spanish-inflected comfort food. Their brunch menu is perfection. Recommended: short ribs, mac & cheese and the lamb ragout.
Melba’s: Melba is the niece of the Godmother of Soul Food Sylvia, so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Eggnog waffles, smatterings of strawberry butter, cheese grits and mango sangria = Heaven.
Dinosaur Barbecue: Dinosaur barbecue is smoky-meat heaven and has consistently good barbecue. There is almost always a wait, but it is always — and I mean always — worth your time. Get a drink and come hungry.
Sette Panni: A perfect light brunch and latte spot for lazy Sunday afternoons of lounging on Lenox Avenue.
Uptown Juice Bar: We are meat lovers here in Harlem, but the Caribbean-flavor-inspired Uptown Juice Bar gives the vegetarian life. Recommended: vegetable stir-fry, stew chic peas and a shot of fresh pressed wheatgrass.
Make My Cake: The owner of Make My Cake reigns as New York’s Red Velvet Cupcake Queen. Nuff said.
Tonni’s Minis: A make-it-your-way specialty cupcake shop full of yummy, sugary goodness.
Levain Bakery: I was initially skeptical about a $4 cookie, but I have only one word: Bliss. See for yourself.
Image via New York Times
Bars & Wine
Auberge Laurent: Fabulous Moroccan decor nestled on the ground floor of a Lenox Avenue brownstone, this wine bar is quaint, cozy and comfy with equally great cheese pairings and awesome spinach dip.
67 Orange Street: This Prohibition-era-inspired gem offers specialty cocktails and gets its cool name from a forgotten and unexplored part of African American history. Great ambience and perfect for an intimate night out.
Harlem Tavern: This is the place to be if you are a lover of beer and sport. The Tavern is spacious, so bring lots of friends to root on the Knicks. Recommended: the Lamb Pesto Burger & Sweet Potato Fries.
XYZ Bar/Hotel Aloft: If you want to avoid crowds, come to the chill, sexy and modern XYZ lounge. The decor is chic, the cocktails spike your interest and there’s lots of elbow room. Bonus: A most awesome pool table.
The Schomberg: The Schomberg is not a museum; it’s actually a branch of the New York City Public Library dedicated to all things African American history and black culture. Its halls are historic, and there’s always a great exhibit on display.
Abyssinian Baptist Church: Founded in 1808, Abyssinian is Harlem’s most historical church and is rooted in the center of Harlem’s gospel tradition.
Apollo Theater: The Legendary Apollo Theater is a part of black music’s legacy and is the original American Idol. There is also a black music walk of fame in front of the Apollo on Harlem’s main vein, 125th Street.
Studio Museum in Harlem: Contrary to popular belief, the Studio Museum is not a black history museum; it is a modern art museum that features modern art interpretation by artists of color. The museum also features a wonderful permanent collection of celebrated black artists including Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence.
Image via Flickriver
Swing a Concept Shop: An inspiring luxury boutique with whimsical eye candy and decor/lifestyle knickknacks.
B Oyama: Featuring tailoring and ties, B Oyama is a Harlem haberdashery for the well-dressed man.
Carol’s Daughter: A dizzying array of fragrant natural beauty products. I die for their Lemon Ginger Mint Manicure in a Jar and their Rose Honey Body Cleanser. Hidden Gem: the Backroom Spa for a drool-inducing mani-pedi.
Harlem Flo Boutique: Floral ateliers and divine floral arrangements.
HueMan BookStore: It’s not Barnes & Noble, nor should it be. Here you will find a wide selection of diverse African American authors, as well as an awesome collection of diverse children’s books.
Atmos: If you’re a sneaker freak, this “kicks” boutique is the place for you.
HarlemUnderGround: Hands down some of the most fashionable custom tees in New York City.
Harlem Vintage: A knowledgeable and helpful wine staff that KNOWS their wine. Bonus: A great selection of $10 and under wines and weekly tastings.
Malcolm Shabazz Outdoor Market: Here you will find predominately West African textiles: fabrics, sculpture, decor and jewelry. Located at 116th and Malcolm X Boulevard/Lenox Avenue.
Image above via Adventures in NYC
Lenox Lounge: The Lenox Lounge is literally about stepping into Harlem’s music history. Think Miles, Coltrane and Billie Holiday — all hung out and performed here. The historic zebra-striped vintage art deco booths are worth the trip alone.
Harlem GateHouse: It looks like a haunted castle, but the interior will knock you over in its design and stage presence. An awesome venue for film, plays, stage performance and, of course, live music.
Parlor Entertainment: For almost 20 years, every Sunday, rain or shine, pianist and Harlemite Marjorie Eliot hosts live parlor-style jazz in her living room. The weekly concerts are free and make you feel right at home.
First Corinthians Baptist Church: At FCBC, you will experience an inspired word by Executive Pastor Micheal A. Walrond and witness a soulful praise and worship experience that you will never forget. Ever.
The Maysles Cinema: Harlem’s sole independent film house features throwback arthouse films, cinematic shorts, documentaries and exquisite filmmaker discussions.
Noteworthy — Off the Beaten Path
Shrine: The Shrine is one of my favorite go-to funky, cool-vibe places in Harlem and features a kaleidoscope of eclectic live music. You come here to vibe and drink, but the food is surprisingly good. Recommended: the grilled lamb or fish with couscous.
Gran Piatto D’Oro: This restaurant is Harlem’s cozy Italian food secret. I’ve had the tilapia stuffed with crabmeat and shrimp. Pssht. The tiramisu and the chocolate mousse will make you weak in the knees.
Harlem Lanes: A lounge-y bowling alley that serves strong drinks for parents and a great place to make the kids tired.
Strictly Roots: Rotating cruelty-free vegan fare with a knockout veggie burger. Hat Tip: You will wait more than a while for the burger. Get a “Bad Man” smoothie or their spilt-pea soup to calm your appetite.
A Taste of Seafood: Harlem is known for its fried whiting sandwiches, and A Taste of Seafood has by far one of the best. Recommended: their down-home mac & cheese, fried shrimp and catfish sandwiches.
Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace: If you’re a Harlemite, you’ve had a custom made-to-go Jimbo’s burger. They are equally comparable to the Shake Shack in taste, if I do say so myself.
Lenox Coffee: Harlem needed an independent local sit down coffee shop, and Lenox Coffee fits the bill. A calm, chill place for laptop lovers. Blog lurk, write a great short story and sip espresso.
Image above via Lenox Coffee