You may not automatically think of Harlem as a “foodie” neighborhood but it’s proving to become just that. A Top Chef is dishing out traditional soul food with a twist, a little piece of France can be found on Lenox Ave., and plenty of unconventional cocktails and flavorful wines are being served up by some of the best restaurateurs in the city. So make your reservation now because these seats are getting hot. By Carly Petrone.
Grab a seat along the brick-lined wall inside quaint and cozy Lido, the restaurant led by executive chef Serena Bass. She is serving up some seriously delicious comfort food like savory spaghetti and roasted veal meatballs and crispy short ribs with parmesan polenta. If you’re in the mood for brunch, take advantage of their bottomless mimosa (with purchase of an entrée) until 3:30 p.m. and pair it with their decadent blueberry pancakes or the egg panini with goat cheese and bacon. Looking for something light? Snack on the grilled Tuscan bread crostini with burrata, roasted peppers, and currants agrodolce. Sip on one of their tasty cocktails at the bar – may we suggest the Floozie (Hendricks Gin, St. Germain, Rose, and Orange Zest) or a Mattina di Fuoco (Jalapeno & Cilantro Infused Gin, Lime, Sriracha, Ginger Beer)? Lunch service available from 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., dinner from 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Fri/Sat), and brunch from 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Sat/Sun).
By now you’ve probably heard about celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s hot restaurant Red Rooster. He and co-creator Andrew Chapman celebrate all that Harlem has to offer, including hanging original work by local artists and naming the restaurant after the legendary speakeasy once located at 138th Street and 7th Ave. Here, you can dine on traditional dishes with a twist like the blackened catfish with curried black eyed peas, red chili cauliflower, and pear-spinach chutney or the chicken & waffles with chicken liver butter and bourbon maple syrup. Wear your Sunday best because Sunday brunch comes with a side of Gospel (and signature Bloody Marys). Boncellia Lewis brings down the house with songs and spiritual favorites from 11:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m. Is there anything better than bringing a community together with great food and music? We think not. Check website for restaurant hours and events.
Head over to Amy Ruth’s for a plate of their classic waffles. With fourteen different combinations to choose from, it’s a good thing there’s normally a wait time. This will give you time to ponder over whether to order The Rev. Al Sharpton (chicken & waffles), The Jennifer Holiday (waffles & fried catfish), or The Guy Woods & Shay Barnett (waffles with cinnamon, fresh bananas, and pecans). Either way, you’ll devour every fluffy bite. Wash it down with some sweet iced tea or the Kool-Aid of the day and you’ve got yourself a meal that will keep you full until your next waffle craving. Check website for restaurant hours.
Vinateria is the perfect date spot with its cool vibe and even cooler cocktails and wine list. The space is stylish, open, and dimly lit with church pew banquettes in the waiting area and milk glass pendant lights hanging from the ceiling. When you’re not busy talking about the décor you’re faced with a decadent Spanish and Italian–inspired menu ranging from homemade black spaghetti with octopus and breadcrumbs to hand-cut beef tartare with cornichons, capers, horseradish, and raw quail egg yolk. You’ll definitely want to start your night out at the zinc-topped bar – try one of the special cocktails dedicated entirely to Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar or the pear cilantro margarita. Either way, your date will be impressed. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. and brunch begins at 11 a.m.
If you want a delicious French meal but don’t feel like flying to France to get it, make a reservation at Maison Harlem. This bistro oozes a Parisian atmosphere with lots of exposed brick and French windows allowing plenty of light into the rustic interior. Bite into a decadent croquet monsieur with fries or salad, try the tasty P.E.I. mussels provencale, or enjoy a classic dish of coq au vin. There’s a reason why everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Barbara Walters has stopped through to check out the menu. It’s a little piece of France in the middle of Harlem! Doors are open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Mon-Thur); 11 a.m. – 12 a.m. (Fri-Sun).