Harlem (Lower) - Not For Tourists Guide to New York City - Not For Tourists

Not For Tourists Guide to New York City - Not For Tourists (2016)

Map 19. Harlem (Lower)



Neighborhood Overview


Map 19

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.

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 (Lower)


Map 19

image Landmarks

✵ Alhambra Ballroom ✵

2116 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd [W 121st St]


Last Harlem dance hall.

✵ Apollo Theater ✵

253 W 125th St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]


The one and the only.

✵ Duke Ellington Circle ✵

5th Ave & Central Park N

Nice monument to a jazz great.

✵ Harlem Fire Watchtower ✵

Marcus Garvey Park

It’s tall.

✵ Harlem YMCA ✵ 180 W 135th St [7th Ave]


Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, and Eartha Kitt have performed in this Y’s “Little Theatre.”

✵ Langston Hughes Place ✵

20 E 127th St [5th Ave]


Where the prolific poet lived and worked 1947-1967.

✵ Marcus Garvey Park ✵

E 120th St & Madison Ave

Appealingly mountainous park.

✵ Speaker’s Corner ✵ Lenox Ave & W 135th St

Famous soapbox for civil rights leaders, including Marcus Garvey.

✵ Sylvia’s ✵ 328 Malcolm X Blvd [W 127th St]


This restaurant is worth the trip.

image Coffee

✵ Astor Row Cafe ✵ 404 Lenox Ave [130th St]


Charming independent with menu options.

✵ Lenox Coffee ✵ 60 W 129th St [Lenox Ave]


Classy café with lots of lattes and laptops.

✵ Starbucks ✵ 77 W 125th St [Lenox Ave]


Use the bathroom. Then head to the closest indie shop.

image Farmers Markets

✵ Harlem Harvest Madison Ave Farmers’ Market ✵ Madison Ave & E 112th St


Sat 8 am-4 pm, Jul-Nov

✵ Harlem State Office Building Farmers’ Market ✵

163 W 125th St [Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd]


Tues 8 am-5:30 pm & Sat 8 am-4 pm, Jul-Nov.

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.

image Nightlife

✵ 67 Orange Street ✵

2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 113th St]


Classy cocktail bar with speakeasy style.

✵ Apollo Theater ✵

253 W 125th St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]


The one and the only.

✵ Bier International ✵

2099 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 113th St]


Tons of top foreign brews on tap, so bring freunds.

✵ Ginny’s Supper Club ✵

310 Lenox Ave [W 126th St]


Hopping jazz club under Red Rooster.

✵ Harlem Tavern ✵

2153 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 116th St]


Hybrid duties: Beer garden, sport bar, and pub food.

✵ Just Lorraine’s Place ✵

2247 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd [W 132nd St]


Friendly watering hole that locals love.

✵ Moca Bar & Lounge ✵

2210 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 119th St]


Serving up hip hop, classics, and R&B.

✵ Paris Blues ✵

2021 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd [W 121st St]


Nothing fancy, just a solid bar.

✵ Shrine ✵

2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd [W 134th St]


Drink for cheap while Harlem and Columbia bands play.

✵ W XYZ Bar ✵

2296 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 124th St]


Drinkin’ and mixin’ inside the Harlem Aloft Hotel.

image Restaurants

✵ The 5 & Diamond ✵

2072 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 112th St]

917-860-4444 $$$

Cozy, comfy comfort food.

✵ Africa Kine Restaurant ✵

2267 7th Ave [133rd St]

212-666-9400 $$

Highly regarded Senegalese restaurant.

✵ Amy Ruth’s ✵ 113 W 116th St [Lenox Ave]

212-280-8779 $$

Soul food, incredible fried chicken.

✵ Bad Horse Pizza ✵

2224 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 120th St]

212-749-1258 $$

Thin crust pizza, pasta, and booze.

✵ Billie’s Black ✵

271 W 119th St [St Nicholas Ave]

212-280-2248 $$

Good food + live entertainment.

✵ Boulevard Bistro ✵

239 Lenox Ave [W 122nd St]

212-678-6200 $$$

Modern Southern food for modern Harlem.

✵ The Cecil ✵

210 W 118th St [Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd]

212-866-1262 $$$$

Upscale mash up of modern Asian fare and soul food.

✵ Chez Lucienne ✵

308 Malcolm X Blvd [W 125th St]

212-289-5555 $$

Cozy little French bistro. Authentic and affordable!

✵ Corner Social ✵ 321 Lenox Ave [W 126th St]

212-510-8552 $$$

A solid backup when the Rooster is packed across the street.

✵ Harlem BBQ ✵

2367 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 127th St]

212-222-1922 $$

Football-sized frozen cocktails and entire $6 chickens to-go.

✵ Harlem on Fifth ✵ 2150 5th Ave [132nd St]

212-234-5600 $$$

Comfort food bistro with hookah option.

✵ Harlem Shake ✵ 100 W 124th St [Lenox Ave]

646-508-5657 $$

Shakes and burger joint with throwback look.

✵ IHOP ✵

2294 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd [W 135th St]

212-234-4747 $$

Pancakes with unlimited swill coffee, just like in college.

✵ Il Caffe Latte ✵

189 Malcolm X Blvd [W 119th St]

212-222-2241 $

Fresh sandwiches, massive $3 lattes and a stellar Latin wrap.

✵ Island Salad ✵ 22 E 125th St [5th Ave]

212-860-3000 $

A healthy food oasis.

✵ Jacob Restaurant ✵

373 Malcolm X Blvd [W 129th St]

212-866-3663 $

Soul food and salad by the pound for cheap.

✵ Le Baobab ✵ 120 W 116th St [Lenox Ave]

212-864-4700 $

Satisfying Senegalese complete with TV in French.

✵ Lido ✵

2168 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 117th St]

646-490-8575 $$$

Sophisticated Northern Italian with requisite exposed brick atmosphere.

✵ LoLo’s Seafood Shack ✵

303 W 116th St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]

646-649-3356 $$

Spicy Caribbean steampots and fritters in a ramshackle backyard.

✵ Manna’s ✵

2331 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 125th St]

212-749-9084 $$

Pile a buffet plate with everything from oxtail to collard greens.

✵ Melba’s ✵

300 W 114th St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]

212-864-7777 $$$

Upscale soul food.

✵ Minton’s ✵

206 W 118th St [Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd]

212-243-2222 $$$$

The famous jazz club reborn with haute-soul food.

✵ Ottomanelli Brothers ✵

1325 5th Ave [W 111th St]

212-828-8900 $$

Solid Italian food comes to Harlem.

✵ Patisserie Des Ambassades ✵

2200 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 119th St]

212-666-0078 $

Great breakfast pastries. Senegalese food too.

✵ Red Rooster ✵

310 Malcolm X Blvd [W 125th St]

212-792-9001 $$$

The latest uptown craze from chef star Marcus Samuelsson.

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.

✵ Seasoned Vegan ✵

55 St Nicholas Ave [W 113th St]

212-222-0092 $$

”Chicken nuggets”, “po’ boys”, and “crawfish.” Plus raw food.

✵ Shrine ✵

2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd [W 134th St]

212-690-7807 $$

Atmosphere first, foodstuffs second. Local bands play.

✵ Streetbird ✵

2149 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 116th St]

212-206-2557 $$$

Hipster-friendly Uptown chicken shack specializing in rotisserie.

✵ Sylvia’s ✵ 328 Malcolm X Blvd [W 127th St]

212-996-0660 $$$

An institution. Not overrated.

✵ Tonnie’s Minis ✵ 264 Lenox Ave [W 123rd St]

212-831-5292 $

New York’s cupcake obsession pushes uptown.

✵ Zoma ✵

2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 113th St]

212-662-0620 $$

Tasty Ethiopian in a tasteful setting.

image Shopping

✵ 467 Lenox Liquors ✵

467 Lenox Ave [W 133rd St]


Standard liquor store, sans bullet-proof glass.

✵ Adja Khady Food ✵

243 W 116th St [Frederick Douglass]


Friendly West African culinary supplies and community hang out.

✵ Atmos ✵

203 W 125th St [Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd]


Palace of popular urban streetwear.

✵ B.O.R.N. Boutique ✵

52 W 125th St [Malcolm X Blvd]


Upscale vintage for stylish Harlemites.

✵ The Brownstone ✵

24 E 125th St [Madison Ave]


Clothing boutique featuring local designers.

✵ Carol’s Daughter ✵ 24 W 125th St [5th Ave]


Nature-inspired skin care presented with love.

✵ Champs ✵ 208 W 125th St [7th Ave]


Sports, street shoes, and wear. For losers too.

✵ Dr. Jay’s ✵

256 W 125th St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]


Urban fashions is just what the doctor ordered.

✵ Grandma’s Place ✵ 84 W 120th St [Lenox Ave]


Harlem toy store. Your grandkid will probably love it.

✵ H&M ✵ 125 W 125th St [Lenox Ave]


Sort-of-hip, disposable fashion.

✵ Harlem Underground ✵

20 E 125th St [5th Ave]


Embroidered Harlem t-shirts.

✵ Hats by Bunn ✵ 2283 7th Ave [W 134th St]


Cool caps.

✵ Jimmy Jazz ✵ 132 W 125th St [Lenox Ave]


Urban designers with a range of sizes.

✵ MAC ✵ 202 W 125th St [7th Ave]


Beauty products in many colors and shades.

✵ Make My Cake ✵

121 St Nicholas Ave [W 116th St]


Red. Velvet. Cheesecake. Bonus: In-store Wi-Fi.

✵ Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market ✵

58 W 116th St [Lenox Ave]


An open-air market for all your daishiki needs.

✵ Paragon Department Store ✵

488 Lenox Ave [W 135th St]


It’s like a compulsive hoarder decided to sell everything.

✵ Settepani ✵ 196 Lenox Ave [W 120th St]


Lovely baked goods.

✵ Trunk Show Consignment ✵

275 W 113th St [8th Ave]


Cool designer fashions recycled, but just bring a fat wad of cash.

✵ United Hardware ✵

2160 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 117th St]


Good for basic tools; that’s about all.