174 Lenox Ave., nr. 119th St. 212-987-2500
This high-ceilinged, wood-floored store was the first to stake a claim on Lenox Avenue, long before it became the happening commercial strip it is today. Long-sleeve, all-cotton tees (with Harlemade’s distinctive, swoosh-like logo designed by president Murphy Heyliger) go for $30; a denim tote silkscreened with an afro-d profile is $30.
2. Posh Paws of Manhattan
2121 Frederick Douglass Blvd., nr. 115th St.; 212-662-7674
The local pet shop stocks high-end dog shampoos and conditioners (Cain & Abel, $10.99 apiece), eau de toilette (by Woof Cosmetiques), and jewelry (cubic zirconia–studded necklaces and name collars) for its fancier clients, but the friendly and knowledgeable staff will happily discuss the various merits of gourmet pet foods, including Newman’s Own and Merich, at length.
3. Amy Ruth’s Restaurant
113 W. 116th St., at Lenox Ave.; 212-280-8779
Southern-style comfort food in all its so-good-yet-so-bad-for-you glory. Dishes are named after prominent African-Americans, including the Ludacris (fried chicken wings), the Roger Toussaint (smothered turkey wings), the Doug E. Fresh (waffles with fried whiting) and the C. Virginia Fields (country bread pudding). Try the Al Sharpton (chicken, fried or smothered, with waffles, pictured). All entrées are under $20.
4. Turning Heads Beauty Salon and Day Spa
218 Lenox Ave., at 121st St.; 212-828-4600
Weaves, braids, coils—this salon has hair add-ons galore, as well as manicures, pedicures, and massages. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, students who bring in their “A” report cards get 10 percent off services.
5. Harry Houdini’s home
278 W. 113th St., nr. Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Between wriggling out of straitjackets and padlocked trunks, the master escape artist came home here, where he lived from 1904 until he died in 1926.
6. Organic Forever
2053 Frederick Douglass Blvd., nr. 111th St.; 212-666-3012
It’s not Whole Foods, but Organic Forever brings a much-needed selection of quality produce, environmentally conscious cleaning products, and other health-food-store accoutrements to a neighborhood still lacking decent groceries.
2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd., at 113th St.; 212-662-0620
Good, cheap Ethiopian food is widely available in this neighborhood; newly opened Zoma imbues the experience with more sophistication, but keeps the generous portions and low prices. Have a plate of assa tibs (tilapia fillet seasoned with herbs and spices, grilled or pan-fried) for $15. The house special, zoma tibs, is cubed filet mignon steeped in tej (Ethiopian honey wine).
7. Make My Cake
121 W. 116th St., nr. Lenox Ave.; 212-932-0833
The newest cake here is half red velvet, half buttercream. One moist, rich slice, at $4, will put you in sugar heaven for half a day.
9. Harlem Vintage
2235 Frederick Douglass Blvd., nr. 121st St; 212-866-9463
This brick-walled store, which opened in late 2004, is so inviting, locals make it a hangout. Saturday-afternoon tastings help, as do the $100 cases, an assembly of owners Eric Woods and Jai Jai Greenfield’s twelve favorite inexpensive whites and reds.
10. Settepani Bakery & Café
196 Lenox Ave., nr. 120th St.; 917-492-4806
Put your order in now for the fruit-encrusted panettone; they’re made only once a year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day ($12 for a kilo; $16 for two kilos). Pick up some house-baked grissini and a seeded semolina loaf while you’re there.
11. Emperor’s Roe
200 Lenox Ave., at 120th St.; 212-866-3700
Order a “caviartini” (layers of salmon, caviar, crème fraîche, and capers with a blini) at this fish-egg and Champagne emporium before buying some smooth-textured American sturgeon caviar ($27 for an ounce) to go.
114 W. 116th St., nr. Lenox Ave.; 212-961-1036
The most upscale store to open north of 96th Street, N carries Jonathan Adler home accessories, plus clothing from Calvin Klein, Marimekko, Bebenoir, and Juicy Couture.
13. Minton’s Uptown Playhouse
208 W. 118th St., at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.; 212-864-8346
The birthplace of bebop made a comeback last May after lying fallow since the seventies. Stop by on a Sunday night when the cover’s comped, the buffet’s free, and alto saxophonist Eli Fountain—he of the opening riff on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”—takes the stage.
14. Patisserie des Ambassades
2200 Frederick Douglass Blvd., nr. 118th St.; 212-666-0078
The café au lait is perfection, particularly when accompanied by a chocolate croissant. The lunch prix fixe has limited choices (including lamb shank and chicken kebab), but portions are huge, and it’s $10 a plate; weekend brunch is a madhouse.
300 W. 114th St., at Frederick Douglass Blvd.; 212-864-7777
An ordinary martini doesn’t seem right here; the fruitier cocktails (have a Malibu Melba, made from Malibu rum, banana liqueur, and peach schnapps) are surprisingly delicious. The soul food is decent (the wine-braised beef short ribs, $15.95, are worth a try), and everyone looks glamorous against the deep reds and blacks of designer Harry Schnaper’s interiors.
16. Purple Reign
171 Lenox Ave., nr. 119th St.; 212-222-7221
Harlem kids get their pricey kicks by Primigi, Naturino, and Umi at this whimsically ornamented shoe store.
17. Society Coffee Lounge
2104 Frederick Douglass Blvd., nr. 114th St.; 212-222-3323
Waffles are the signature dish at this popular destination, where, for $8.50, you pick from basic Belgian, dark-chocolate mocha, peach cobbler, or (the best) cinnamon apple. Eat at banquettes lining the wall or at the large, square wooden tables in the center. Macchiatos and lattes are cheaper and better than Starbucks.
18. Fine Fare
2330 First Ave., at 118th St.; 212-410-1640
The only major supermarket in the immediate vicinity has a freezer section so wide it rivals that of a suburban store, and a selection that ranges from guava juice to novena candles.
19. Tribal Spears Gallery & Cafe
2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd., at 117th St.; 212-666-6550
Part gallery, part café, part community living room. You can watch movies on the flat-screen TV, see emerging and established artists such as Tony Nigel and Ousmane Gueye in the basement gallery, and drink coffee brewed solely from African-grown beans in the main-floor café.
20. MCMB Cleaners
2071 Frederick Douglass Blvd., nr. 112th St;. 212-749-1730
If only all dry cleaners could be this friendly. Owner Marcelo Orbe owns a plant nearby, so quick turnarounds are no problem, and he’s discreet, declining to name the celebrities who are said to rely on him.
22. Euro Corner Restaurant
2090 Frederick Douglass Blvd., at 113th St.; 212-222-3540
Divey, just like you want your perfect basic neighborhood coffee shop to be. The menu plays all the greatest hits—eggs, gyros, burgers, shakes, and fries—but the proprietors change things up by serving Ethiopian food, too. Try the beg alecha—tender lamb chunks braised in herbs ($12).
22. Saurin Parke Café
301 W. 110th St., at Frederick Douglass Blvd.; 212-222-0683
Free wi-fi and reliably robust coffee—try the house brand. A small cup of hot chocolate, made from scratch, will warm you up for $3. At 4 p.m., the laid-back vibe switches to happy-hour mode.
23. Harlem Heritage Tourism
104 Lenox Ave., nr. 116th St;. 212-280-7888
Did you know Harlem once was the country’s third-largest Jewish neighborhood? Get schooled on the area’s arcana through one of Harlem Heritage’s walking tours, which start at this spot, usually at 1 p.m. ($25 per person). Reservations recommended.
24. Uptown Renaissance Restaurant
108 W. 116th St., nr. Lenox Ave.; 212-280-2224
The formidable Amy Ruth’s is across the street, but this BYOB restaurant holds its own with its healthy approach to cooking (no MSG, nitrites, or artificial seasonings allowed). Fish, grits, and eggs ($5.95) are an excellent starter. Another bonus: It’s open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
25. Sokhna Restaurant
225 W. 116th St., nr. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.; 212-864-0081
Low-key, with seriously delicious Senegalese comfort food. The ceebu (pronounced “chay-boo”) jen—stewed rice served with cassava, cabbage, carrots, and fish ($9)—is outstanding. It’s open until 2 a.m., making it a good stop post-Minton’s.
Like everywhere else in the city, renovations and new buildings are ubiquitous—but bargains are plentiful, too.
111 Central Park North
Sales: Jeffrey Burger, 917-846-3975
All 47 apartments take advantage of top-of-the-park views, so they’ve sold quickly, even at $1,200 per square foot. Rumor has it the penthouse is in negotiations for $12 million.
301 W. 118th St.
Broker: Michelle Mizrahi, Prudential Douglas Elliman
Once it’s built, SoHa 118 (above) will likely be the tallest building in the immediate vicinity. Most of the 93 units, from one-bedrooms to three-bedrooms, will go for market rate, but a third are slated for middle-income housing, priced in the mid-$200,000s.
245 W. 115th St.
Sales: Shelley O’Keefe, Corcoran, 212-634-6515
This twenty-unit brownstone condo has only studios and one-bedrooms. It’s fairly no-frills—there’s no doorman or gym—but the units are outfitted with name-brand fixtures (Kohler) and finishes (Durango limestone), all for under $300,000 apiece.
100 W. 119th St.
Sales: Norman Horowitz, Halstead, 212-381-4214
A prewar conversion made up primarily of sprawling four-bedrooms with the usual finishes (central air, granite kitchens, designer baths) and the occasional wood-burning fireplace. Prices of units available now range from $975,000 to $1,195,000.
SOUTH HARLEM REAL ESTATE
Renovations and new buildings are ubiquitous—but bargains are plentiful, too.