One of the greatest parts of living in New York City is that on any given block you can stumble upon a community that embraces a multitude of different cultures, no matter how specific. This provides subsections of the city that go beyond the five boroughs that people proudly claim as their home turf. A community that has become synonymous with New York City (I'm jacking this should really be the fifth borough 😪, Staten Island see your way out) is the vibrant and beautifully black neighborhood known as Harlem. Spanning over 50 blocks on both the East and West side of Manhattan, Harlem has been a historical mecca for black culture, art, music, and delicious food that has been appreciated and imitated all over the world. Many iconic people in pop culture history have called Harlem their home (see Dipset, A$AP Rocky & Ferg, Dapper Dan, Duke Ellington, Tupac, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Puff, I mean even Harry fucking Houdini had a crib on 125th...the list is elite) but you cannot truly understand the beauty of Harlem unless you actually immerse yourself in the neighborhood.
Quick Hits: 110th-155th Street in Manhattan, NY; Population: 116, 345
Good Eats: Jimbo’s; Famous Fish Market; Red Rooster
Famous Fish Market is the definition of a hole in the wall (deadass I think 10 people can fit in there max😂). Located on 648 St. Nicholas Avenue right next to the 145th Street-A,B,C,D subway station this is indisputably the best place to get fried fish and fix-ins in Harlem. I'm fully convinced that they put crack in the batter and sprinkle whatever is left in their Mac n Cheese because one taste of their fried whiting paired with white bread, hot sauce, and a nutcracker on a hot summer day will have you coming back for life!
Jimbo's is truly a NYC, uptown delicacy. Although there are locations throughout the city, you can expect to see a Jimbo's on just about every other block in Harlem. Jimbo's prices have definitely increased in the past 10 years (s/o A$AP for giving them additional but unnecessary clout), but still at under $10 you can't beat a Cheese Burger Deluxe from Jimbo's. I really have no idea when they close either, it seems like any time I really need Jimbo's its always there for me, almost like a guardian angel or AA sponsor. Don't get me started on their breakfast...
Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, Hot Honey Yardbird, and Creamy Stone Ground Grits are just a few menu items you can get at Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster located on 310 Lenox Ave. Coming from Ethopian-Swedish descent (how Sway?) Samuelsson prides himself on blending tons of different cultures in his cuisine. As a result, Red Rooster is almost always booked from open to close during their weekend brunch hours, well deservingly so. Definitely expect to blow a bag here though 😓
Blow a Bag (Shopping): 125th Street
(Image via Sneaker Lab)
The best way to picture shopping on 125th Street is to think the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul but stretching about a mile long. 125th Street is your one stop shop to get just about anything and anywhere you want in Harlem. Stores such as atmos, Capsule NYC, two separate Jimmy Jazz locations directly across the street from each other, and the strong fleet of street vendors that never take a day off make 125th its own mini-community. In addition to these more known stores, there are black-owned businesses flooded throughout the block that really strengthen the essence of Harlem amidst rapid gentrification.
Vibe Check🕺🏾 : Harlem Tavern
Although Harlem does not have the traditional night life scene that is evident in other parts of Manhattan, there are still some hidden gems that will definitely satisfy anybody trying to catch a vibe, drink good drank, and party with friends all around. Opening back in 2011, Harlem Tavern has established itself as a welcoming and energetic atmosphere for anyone trying to have a good time. Selling Hennessy Punch by the pitcher and over 20 beer options, there are not many places like this in NYC in general. To any sports fans in the area this is a must-go place if you're trying to kick back in their immense patio area, watch games on movie theater-sized screens, and demolish wings and other classic bar food that never misses.
Munchies (Late Night Eats): Hajji’s
Located on 110th and 1st Ave, Hajji's is the birthplace of the chopped cheese. If you're a New Yorker you probably already knew that, but let us all take a moment of silence for this culinary masterpiece...A chopped cheese can be found at almost any bodega uptown, and it is the perfect way to end a long night or satisfy cravings for greasy but gracious cuisine. Now although I don't think Hajji's has the best chopped cheese in the city (look out for Bodega Reviews coming your way soon 👀), mans was the originator of the iconic sandwich and definitely knows what he's doing.
Who Got Next? (Best Pickup BBall): Rucker Park;
I'm not even really sure where to begin with the famous Holcombe Rucker Park. Located on 155th Street and Frederick Douglass, the Rucker Park is the epitome of streetball. If you're a hooper from anywhere in the world, you have heard the stories of basketball legends breaking out ridiculous moves and leaving it all on the court whether it be Dr. J, Kobe Bryant, Bone Collector, or Kevin Durant to name a few. Unfortunately, this summer does not look promising for any classic Rucker Park tournaments, but at full strength the Rucker Park is one of the most electric and lively places to watch sports on this planet.
Taking A Walk? 🍄😎 (Nature Views): Harlem Meer; Graffiti Hall of Fame
Marcus Garvey Park spans from 120th-124th Street and Madison Avenue , and offers attraction for all age ranges. From the outdoor pool and water fountains on hot summer days to the Richard Rogers Amphitheater where live performances take place throughout the year, you can honestly spend a whole day in this park.
(Image via Spray Planet)
The Graffiti Hall of Fame is a great depiction of NYC's unique "nature" of being a concrete jungle. Graff legends like: POSE2, TONY 164, JERMZ, JESUS SAVES, the Bronx's TATS CRU, REVOLT, and many more have painted colorful landscapes upon the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex on 106th and Park Ave. This a great place to take pictures and soak in the cultural essence of NYC street art.
The Arts🎨 : Schomburg, the Apollo Theatre,
Apollo Theater speaks for itself. Standing for over a century, the Apollo's motto "Where Stars Are Made & Legends Are Born" is nothing far from the truth. Some of the greatest performers and entertainers in the past 100 years got their start at the Apollo Theater including but not limited to The Jackson 5, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Chappelle, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and so many more. During normal operating hours, you can pop into the Apollo every Wednesday for Amateur Night and get a chance to see the potential next biggest star in so many different facets of pop culture.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the largest databases of African and African-American history in the world. An extension of the NYPL system, there are over millions of original documents that tell the extensive history of Black culture and life. Located on 515 Malcom X Blvd., the Schomburg is a must see in Harlem to truly understand why the neighborhood is so essential to understanding black lives in America. Admission to the Schomburg is free but all donations are welcome and encouraged to help preserve the importance of black history as they have been since 1925.
Look out for City Profiles every other Wednesday and comment below where you would like to see the next one 😎