226 W 150th st.
45 W 139th St
40 Pinehurst Ave.
Photo By: Mathew Henry
By Bohemia Agent Kelly Higgins
I have lived in various parts of Harlem for 5 years now and I can’t stop, won’t stop eating my way through this glorious Crown of Manhattan.
Let me explain to you my obsession with good food. I am the girl who listens to The Food Network whilst cleaning her house, like your Grandfather listens to a baseball game on the radio. I host parties for the thrill of recipe experimenting. I would rather buy myself a Kitchen Aide and a new Mandolin Slicer than a new outfit. It is a small problem, but a delicious one, that I can’t seem to quit!
In my time in Harlem I have experienced some STELLAR food, and I am frequently the “Go-To” friend to ask for a suggestion uptown. And since my taste-buds (and wallet) have done so much research, I figured I needed to share my findings.
LoLo’s Seafood Shack: This is the definition of a great “hole-in-the-wall.” They feature something called a Johnny Cake, a decadent corn bread fritter fried with a layer of sweet butter in the middle. Not to mention the INSANELY succulent crawfish, shrimp, and crab legs all served with medical gloves to protect your manicure as you tear into these delicacies! The food is paired with a fun ambiance and décor that will transport you straight to the islands.
El Paso: I started my time uptown in Spanish Harlem and became quite the connoisseur of tacos. El Paso is one of my favorite authentic Mexican spots in the city. Nestled on 103rd and Lexington this place has mouth watering ceviche, and some of the best oysters around. I also can’t recommend the octopus tacos enough (but I am a sucker for octopus)! Don’t forget to add a few margaritas in the mix, that makes everything even better! PRO TIP: They have more Top Shelf Tequilas then you have ever seen!
The Hand-Pulled Noodle: Lets talk fresh noodles! This place offers FOUR, count ‘em FOUR, types of fresh hand-pulled noodles with various proteins and delicious, sticky brown sauces ranging from sort of spicy to “Dear God, where is the milk?” Pair your entrée with the dumplings, Voted Best Dumplings in ALL OF NYC, and you are set for the night. Pro-Tip: Get 2 orders of dumplings.
Chez Lucienne: When you are on 125th St and Lenox Ave, The Red Rooster tends to garner most of the attention (and it’s deserved as the place is ridiculously good!) but don’t let the subtler neighbor next door go unnoticed. This French style bistro boasts my absolute favorite Moules Frites in the city (I love the Moules Dijonaise, for that white wine and mustard flair) that will make everything okay if enjoyed on a spring day in their outdoor seating. My other favorites here are the Foie Gras when I am feeling ESPECIALLY fancy, and the ooey- gooey goodness of their traditional French Onion Soup. Most of the staff here also speaks French, so it makes the experience that much more authentic!
Levain Bakery: This place is about 8 square feet total but punches out the best fresh baked, slap-your-mama good cookies this side of the Mississippi. These cookies have taken down Bobby Flay when featured on The Food Network and turn the daintiest of ladies into The Cookie Monster. The Walnut Chocolate Chip is THE flavor to get for first timers, but the Dark Chocolate is my go to happy place on particularly bad days. Biting into the crisp exterior of rich, sweet chocolate that bursts into a molten, melty and warm decadence is the closest thing to a religious experience my years have shown me. I can no longer write about these cookies, because now I have to go get one.
Jin Ramen: This place has RUINED any other Ramen for me. It was the first place I indulged in the savory-salty-miso creaminess that was pork ramen and now everything else pales in comparison. It is a small place, where you can watch the steam come from the kitchen as these magical chefs prepare an aromatic bowl of heaven for you to slurp till your heart’s content. The ramen is unparalleled but the Steamed Pork Buns are an ABSOLUTE MUST. If you skip them, I will be forced to unfriend you on Facebook. GO. Slurp. Cry salty tears of joy into your salty bowl of deliciousness.
Astor Café: You walk into a graffiti covered, urban funky vibe that instantly raises your cool factor 10 points and take in the menu board that both overwhelms and excites. This place is the quintessential local coffee bar/café featuring an array of delicious coffees and teas (my favorite is the Chai latte!) But the food is also stellar, and SO fresh. You can’t beat the shwarma, or the heaping salads for a light lunch (pair it with a smoothie when summer hits!). Word on the street is that they have Tapas After Dark coming very soon, and it has me giddy!
Little Ochie Jamaican Cuisine: Before I moved to Harlem I had never had Oxtail…and sometimes those wasted years haunt me in my sleep. Get thee to this small, local and festive joint and try some oxtail. If that isn’t your thing, the jerk chicken is unparalleled and don’t even START me on the plantains or rice and beans…I do love my carbs! This local favorite is so “mom and pop” they don’t even have a website, but when you need a quick plate of scrumptious this is the place to go! You can find this place, (and usually me, elbow deep in jerk) on the south west corner of 145th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
The hardest part of sharing this, was narrowing down the places to feature. Harlem is a wealth of culture in all regards, but the food is one of my favorite things about my neighborhood! It brings people together, allows you to escape to different places and experience a vital piece of culture you may never have known before.
Now the question is, where are the places I haven’t been? What gems haven’t I discovered? Let me know! And, if you ever need a recommendation, just reach out!
As a native New Yorker, and Harlem resident, Kelly has a true passion for Uptown Manhattan and has made it her home for the past several years.