NFT New York Harlem (Lower)

Harlem (Lower)

New Yorkers below 96th Street rarely venture above the park for more than a chicken-and-waffles feast or an amateur night ticket. Well, the joke's on them. Harlem is a thriving neighborhood in every sense of the word--great community spirit, great street life, great architecture, great arts and culture...pretty much great everything. The lifeline of this neighborhood is 125th Street, a thoroughfare known for the Apollo Theater, a zillion stores, and players strutting their stuff.

That said, Harlem has been evolving for some time now--brownstones sell for upward of a million dollars, but row-houses with shattered windows and planked doors remain; the Upper West Side it's not. Bill Clinton made national headlines when he found some reasonably priced office space up on 125th Street; he still maintains his personal office there. But even as American Apparel wrangles itself a spot across from the Apollo, the nabe retains a sense of gritty pride. 125th Street is packed with vendors selling everything from fur vests to coco helado. A random TV in the wall next door to the Apollo plays Soul Train on repeat. Storefront churches fill Sunday mornings with Gospel ballads. Just journey uptown to check it out, and hit the ATM--125th can still be a cash-only kind of street.See more.

Over the years, a mind-boggling number of writers, artists, and civil rights leaders made names for themselves in Harlem, and the community is proud of its past. At the northeast corner of Central Park, a statue of jazz great Duke Ellington sitting at his piano welcomes you to the neighborhood. Dedicated in 1997, this relatively recent memorial was surprisingly the first to be dedicated to an African American in New York City. Within the Morris Historical District lies Marcus Garvey Park, renamed for the famous black nationalist leader in 1973. If you're into literary history, visit Langston Hughes Place, the street where the poet lived; look for the ivy-covered building halfway down the block. Then check out his first residence at the still-operating Harlem YMCA. The facilities became an oasis for black visitors and artists during the Harlem Renaissance, when many of New York's hotels, theaters and restaurants were segregated. The list of short-term residents is impressive, with Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Claude McKay, and James Baldwin all once calling the 135th Street location home.

Food, music, and entertainment happily collide in Harlem. The Apollo Theater is easily the area's most notable landmark, with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to the Jackson Five kicking off their careers on that stage. The Amateur Night show has been running since 1934 and still happens on Wednesdays--just prepare for a line. Even more musical greats--Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith--haunted the Alhambra Theatre and Ballroom. If it had been around, we like to think they all would have chowed at Sylvia's, a soul food institution that has dished out piping hot fried chicken, waffles and mashed potatoes since 1962.

Dive bars, underground jazz, and live music spectacles mesh for a diverse scene. Catch a show at the landmark Apollo Theater (Harlem residents, bring proof of address for a discount); sip fancy cocktails at 67 Orange Street; or watch indie movies (many about Harlem) at Maysles Cinema, part of the documentary film center founded by filmmaker Albert Maysles.

Harlem dining is increasingly global and Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster has brought a lot of foot traffic to 125th Street, but don't stop there. Kick off the morning at Il Caffe Latte with steaming lattes and breakfast wraps. Settle in at Patisserie des Ambassades for French-Senegalese entrees. And head to Amy Ruth's or Sylvia's when home-style cooking beckons.

With everything from Champs to M.A.C. Makeup, 125th Street anchors Harlem shopping. H&M stocks the same trendy threads as everywhere else, without the long lines. Street vendors fill any other gaps. Everything you want is here, guaranteed. And when you want to take the plunge and indulge any and all dashiki-wearing fantasies, check out the open-air Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Guide to Entertaining Tourists

By Jane Pirone
Someone's gotta do it.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Leigh Raynor
Photo:  Leigh Raynor

This family-run business welcomes you to their restaurant as if you were a long-lost relative; even the décor makes you feel like one of the family as pictures of the dynamo Sylvia, her husband, and family adorn the walls in gilded frames. Quite the inspiration, Sylvia, the "Queen of Soul Food," was a mainstay of the Harlem community and New York City at large (she even rang the opening bell at the Stock Exchange). As a friend who works in Harlem assures me, her influence was obvious after the community-wide festivities held in her honor after her passing in 2012. Along with fabulous fried chicken, out of this world collard greens, and a perfect hot sauce, this restaurant proves that its mission is more than filling people's bellies. Sylvia's is out to have a positive and integral impact on its community. Quite the definition of "soul food."

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

You might not want to come for the food (sandwiches and salsa mainly), and somehow the 11-piece funk band I saw last Friday still managed to put me to sleep (although I was only 20 feet away), but the uptown vibe is alive and well at Shrine. Schedule confusion with the bands, haphazard service, stiff cheap drinks, crazy people, and general disorganization coupled with absolutely no pretension or bullshit whatsover—this is what going north of 110th Street in Manhattan is all about. Check the schedule for bands—mainly world music-slanted but with plenty of local Harlem/Columbia acts interspersed—but really, it’s all about the experience. Show up with no preconceived notions and you’ll be fine; it’s a good recipe for life, and for Shrine in particular. Forewarned is forearmed.

Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

Amy Ruth’s in lower Harlem bills its establishment as a “Home-Style Southern Cuisine Restaurant” but we know what that really means: fried chicken! Choose light meat or dark plus two side dishes (go for the greens and the macaroni and cheese) and enjoy the drippy, juicy, not-too-crusty chicken that comes out hot and fast. You can get fried chicken (or fried shrimp or fried catfish or even a ribeye steak) atop waffles if you like. Maybe you’d prefer to order by the names of the dishes which are given in honor of some of the many celebrities that come through the door: The Ludicris, perhaps (four fried chicken wings)? Or the Africa Bambaataa (fried whiting)? Expect generous portions, great service, and a deep urge to go back as soon as possible.

Powered By Subgurim( Maps ASP.NET

See Harlem (Lower)...
Restaurants (35)
Nightlife (10)
Shopping (50)
Landmarks (12)