Across 110th Street
Zena Martin’s guide to Harlem, from our print Issue #1
The Strategist’s Zena Martin heads north from Central Park to report on one of Manhattan’s most vibrant, eclectic neighbourhoods, one that many visitors never see. A brief excerpt from print Issue #1′s 20-page New York guide for business leaders. Links to venues appear at the bottom of this article.
When people visit New York, few venture north of the 97th Street Transverse in Central Park, let alone as far as 110th Street, the first cross-town street above the park. It’s as if they believe that the city ends just after the Reservoir (or, for academics, at Columbia University, just six blocks north of the park). But ever since The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, a mecca for multicultural arts, food, entertainment and living has stood proud above the park, drawing people north and far across 110th Street.
Harlem has become more gentrified in the last decade, with property prices continuing their upward trajectory. For example, President Clinton’s personal office sits in the heart of Harlem, at 125th Street. But although that gentrification continues, Harlem hasn’t lost its edge. Harlem isn’t just African-American and Hispanic culture. It’s American culture.
Neighbourhood icons include: Sylvia’s Restaurant (at 328 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue, between 126th and 127th), which opened in 1962 and serves some of the best soul food in the country; and Patsy’s Pizzeria (2287 First Avenue between 117th and 118th), which opened in 1933.
Newcomers include: Harlem Shake (124th Street and Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue), for burgers and shakes; Astor Row Café (404 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue at 130th), for coffee and conversation; and Il Caffe Latte restaurant (189 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue between 119th and 120th). Try the sweet potato fries. The venue’s Brick Wall Gallery showcases the work of local Harlem artists.
Manna’s Restaurant (486 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue at 134th Street) has a spectacular hot and cold buffet – not to mention the domain soulfood.com. Visit Maison Harlem (341 St Nicholas Avenue at 127th) for oysters, burgers and jazz. Shell’s Bistro (2150 Fifth Avenue between 131st and 132nd) is another jazz venue, with to-die-for red velvet waffles. Red Rooster Harlem (310 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue) makes a delicious jerk catfish sandwich (follow the restaurant’s blog at roosterharlem.tumblr.com). Directly beneath ‘the Roo’ is reincarnated speakeasy, Ginny’s Supper Club, offering private dining and live entertainment – such as a gospel brunch on Sundays.
Start or end your evening with a drink at Harlem Tavern (2153 Frederick Douglass Blvd, between 116th and 117th). Try the award-winning beer garden there, or sit outside at Bier International (2099 Frederick Douglass Blvd at 113th). Alternatively, lounge indoors with a cocktail in cozy 19th century style at 67 Orange Street (2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd between 112th and 113th).
You shouldn’t see Harlem without hearing some gospel music. The Abyssinian Baptist Church, founded in 1808, has an amazing gospel choir, but it’s a living church and so shouldn’t be regarded as a tourist spot. Anyone who just wants to hear the music should consider joining the gospel tour, on Wednesday and Sunday mornings, which manages a proper balance between visitors and places of worship. www.viator.com/tours/New-York-City/Harlem-Wednesday-Morning-Gospel-Tour/d687-3453TG3.
The Apollo Theater (253 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Blvds), opened to black patrons in 1934 and has seen the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Janelle Monáe perform there. But its Amateur Night is equally legendary.
Other mainstays of the electric local arts scene include the Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded in 1969 (its community outreach programme is excellent), and modern dance company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, founded in 1958.
Event spaces for hire
The Studio Museum in Harlem (144 W125th Street, between Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd) was founded in 1968. It’s devoted to the work of African-American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries – the first such museum in the United States.
It also offers a number of rental spaces for events, if you’re considering hosting a business function in this part of town. On the first floor and mezzanine, there are the Sculpture Garden (4,000 square feet), the 1,900-square-foot Lobby, the Atrium, and Exhibition Galleries, while the Lower Level has a variety of spaces for rent, including the Theater (1,160 square feet) and the smaller Education Room.
The Shomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located on Harlem’s historic crossroads (at Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue and 135th Street). This research library (part of the New York Public Library) opened in 1905 and is an archive of information on people of African descent worldwide, and home to some stunning exhibitions.
The Shomburg Center also hosts event spaces, including the 340-seat Langston Hughes Auditorium, the 1,150 square foot Langston Hughes Lobby – an elegant glass atrium overlooking the Schomburg courtyard – and the American Negro Theater, which offers both stage and auditorium spaces. TS
• If you’re feeling energetic during the day, then try exploring the Harlem River Greenway by bike. Go here for useful advice and maps.
LinksSUGGESTED LISTENING: Across 110th Street
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