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

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

Map 22. Harlem (Upper)



Neighborhood Overview


Map 22

At first glance, upper Harlem lacks character. Generic buffets and 99-cent stores line Lenox, one of the nabe’s anchor streets. 145th Street sprawls with suburban gas stations and an entrance to the 145th Street Bridge. High rises dot the uptown skyline. But this 20-block triangle sandwiched between St. Nicholas to the west and the Harlem River to the east is the lifeline of black culture in New York. Everyone from starving artists to self-made millionaires have called upper Harlem home, and a visit to the Schomburg Center for Research reveals the neighborhood’s significant impact. Not surprisingly, gentrification is a sensitive point of controversy. But for now, the culture remains intact. Old churches maintain a sense of community. Heavenly soul food attracts locals and tourists. Historic districts preserve the look and feel. Upper Harlem has it all—you just have to dig a little.

Start at 135th Street and Lenox, or “Speaker’s Corner,” an intersection where back in the day anyone shouted their concerns and critiques of current events. Most famously, Marcus Garvey presented his views on race at this corner. The Harlem Hellfighters, an all-black military unit that fought in World War I and World War II, housed their headquarters at the imposing 369th Regiment Armory. The building still operates as a sustainment brigade, but an obelisk outside honors the soldiers. Long before the Hellfighters, Ethiopian traders protested segregation policies by founding the Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1808. After 203 years, the congregation only moved once, in 1923, to its striking Neo-Gothic building.

The Rockefeller family built the Dunbar Houses in 1926 to provide affordable housing in Harlem. The complex attracted writers, artists, musicians, and poets, including W.E.B. DuBois, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard. Similarly ambitious residents moved in to the St. Nicholas Historic District. Sometimes called “Strivers’ Row,” Stanford White designed the houses, where many upwardly mobile residents lived. Note the original “Walk your Horses” signs (there aren’t any carriage rides in the neighborhood).

Rucker Park is home to famously intense pickup games. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, and hundreds of exceedingly talented locals have dribbled on those courts. Swing by to try your hand or just enjoy the show. The Schomburg Center focuses on preserving the history of people of African descent worldwide. The center’s dizzying array of artifacts, prints, images and manuscripts includes more than 100,000 items. The Countee Cullen Regional Branch Library also has an excellent African American reference section; at the turn of the century, Madame C.J. Walker lived at this same address—the “richest woman in Harlem” earned her fortune by selling hair care products specifically for African-American women.

There isn’t a lot of nightlife above 135th Street but stalwart Londel’s Supper Club has classic jazz on Fridays and Saturdays with no cover.

The parade of routine delis on Lenox hides some of Manhattan’s tastiest eats. Miss Maude’s Spoonbread dishes out calorically foolish comfort food. Do not miss Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken to chow down on mindblowing hot birds. If you want a taste of the sea, hit up the window service at O’Fishole Seafood for fried fishy take-out goodness.

Harlem (Upper)


Map 22

image Landmarks

✵ The 369th Regiment Armory ✵

2366 5th Ave [W 142nd St]

Home of the Harlem Hellfighters.

✵ Abyssinian Baptist Church ✵

132 Odell Clark Pl [Lenox Ave]


NY’s oldest black congregation.

✵ The Dunbar Houses ✵

W 149th St & Frederick Douglass Blvd

Historic, multi-family apartment buildings from the 1920s.

✵ Holcombe Rucker Park ✵

Frederick Douglass Blvd & W 155th St

Famous basketball court that birthed the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and more.

✵ St. Nicholas Historic District ✵

202 W 138th St [7th Ave]

Beautiful neo-Georgian townhouses.

image Coffee

✵ Dunkin’ Donuts ✵ 110 W 145th St [Lenox Ave]


Decent coffee served in gigantic Styrofoam cups.

✵ Dunkin’ Donuts ✵

2730 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 145th St]


Decent coffee served in gigantic Styrofoam cups.

✵ Starbucks ✵

301 W 145th St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]


One of the few coffee spots around here.

image Farmers Markets

✵ Harlem Hospital Greenmarket ✵

Lenox Ave & W 136th St

Thu 8 am-5 pm Jul-Nov

Wandering Lenox and 145th Streets will unearth everything from cheap, expansive supermarkets like Pathmark to niche sneaker shops like Sneaker Q. Make My Cake has sugary cupcakes, cheesecakes and regular cakes.

image Nightlife

✵ Londel’s ✵

2620 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 140th St]


Great live music on Friday & Saturdays.

image Restaurants

✵ Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken ✵

2839 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 151st St]

212-281-1800 $

The fried chicken they serve in heaven.

✵ Grini’s Grill ✵ 100 W 143rd St [Lenox Ave]

212-694-6274 $

This “tapas bar” actually serves heaping plates of meat and rice.

✵ Londel’s ✵

2620 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 140th St]

212-234-6114 $$$

Good Southern with live music on the weekend.

✵ Mama Tina’s Pizza ✵

2649 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 141st St]

212-368-2820 $

Decent pizza for late-night pangs.

✵ O’Fishole Seafood ✵ 274 W 145th St [8th Ave]

212-234-2601 $$

Jimbo’s, the burger place, does fish; equally greasy and delicious.

✵ People’s Choice ✵

2733 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 145th St]

212-281-3830 $$

Jerk chicken and oxtail stews worth a taste.

image Shopping

✵ B. Oyama ✵ 2330 7th Ave [W 137th St]


Fashion for men.

✵ Baskin-Robbins ✵

2730 Frederick Douglass Blvd [W 145th St]


Do they still have 31 flavors?

✵ Jolie Patisserie ✵ 2453 7th Ave [W 142nd St]

Ask about the sriracha-topped doughnuts.

✵ Luis Liquor ✵ 108 W 145th St [Lenox Ave]


Perfect grab-and-go shop near the subway.

✵ Make My Cake ✵

2380 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd [W 139th St]


Freshly baked cakes from a Southern family recipe.

✵ The Schomburg Shop ✵

515 Malcolm X Blvd [W 135th St]


Shop specializing in Black history and culture.

✵ Sneaker Q ✵ 693 Lenox Ave [142nd St]


Get your kicks at this Lenox storefront.