Harlem covers such a huge swath of upper Manhattan that it would be impossible to create a complete guide to its offerings. The borders of that huge swath are also debated. Does East Harlem count? How far north do we go? But suggestions can be made, nonetheless—especially with help from Harlem residents who know their food.
Common Good Harlem
2801 Frederick Douglass Blvd.
“It’s a community coffee shop that got its start via a GoFundMe page,” says Analisa Cantu, a freelance creative strategist. “I love going there because there’s solid coffee and food, duh, but also because it’s truly a community coffee shop. You see folks walk in who know the baristas, hand them their baby to hold for a sec. You see old and young. It’s so lovely, and I go anytime I’m in the area.”
101 Edgecombe Ave.
Natalie Pattillo, a food writer, loves this restaurant near St. Nicholas Park. “It is run and owned by sisters Juliet and Justine Masters, offers a cozy ambience and a vibrant menu of Jamaican-English cuisine,” she says. “My favorite—I seriously am salivating just thinking about this now!—are the codfish fritters served with a jerky lime dip. I also love the jumbo shrimp plate, which includes a pineapple curry sauce and is served with moist, fluffy coconut rice and sweet plantains. Oh, the coconut fish burger is amazing, too. I could go on and on. Point is, I’ve never been disappointed. Whether it’s date night, brunch with the kids, happy hour with friends or lunch solo, the Edge is a bespoke spot that feels welcoming to everyone.”
2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
The go-to spot in the area for craft beers, but they also have spirits and very beer-friendly food, like pretzels and spicy guma pies served with plantain chips.
The Honey Well
This ’70s speakeasy could be hokey but serves some of the best cocktails in town, along with a menu of bites that’s true to the bar’s time period but still taste fresh.
185 St. Nicholas Ave.
“I’ve yet to actually eat here, but I don’t come for the fare, I come for the selection of agave spirits,” says food writer, publicist and Harlem resident Shanika Hillocks. “The bartenders are knowledgeable, the tequila and mezcal selections are impressive, and I’ve always met an interesting person while sitting at the bar.”
332 116th St.
The other go-to cocktail spot in the area. Go for the “Marathon Daiquiri,” which combines Jamaican rum, sherry, cane syrup, orange and lime. Or try the “Bartender’s Special,” which is on the menu but offers no details.
Lucille’s Coffee & Cocktails
26 Macombs Pl.
For Hillocks, this is a go-to. “As the name implies, there’s coffee and tea in the a.m. and cocktails and tasty bar bites from 4:30 p.m. on,” she says. “The vibe is cozy, there’s great natural light and you’ve got to venture uptown (150th St., just off Frederick Douglass Blvd.) to experience it all, which I love. Fun fact: It’s co-owned by Matthew Trebek, Alex Trebek’s son.”
47 E. 124th St.
Leah Kirts, a food writer and nutrition educator in Harlem, highly recommends Sisters or their “divine” curried chickpeas.
1280 5th Ave.
According to Hillocks, Teranga, from chef Pierre Tham, is a new classic. “More than a fast-casual restaurant, Teranga embodies is an outpost that embodies culture and community,” she says. “In the morning, they serve ethically sourced Ethiopian coffee, moringa and turmeric latte alongside pastries and other breakfast bites. In the afternoon, authentic African ingredients are available for lunch; even if you don’t plan on it, you’ll enjoy an Instagrammable plate that not only aesthetically pleasing but delicious. Lastly, it’s a respite from other busy cafés in the area (freelancers and entrepreneurs rejoice), and they’ve got a number of cultural programs happening on a regular basis.
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763 St. Nicholas Ave.
Tsion serves both Ethiopian cuisine and Mediterranean-influenced dishes, usually accompanied by Chilean wine for a truly global affair. This is also a place where one can try Sheba Tej, Ethiopian honey wine, made with locally sourced honey.
52 E. 125th St.
According to Kirts, this is “a tasty little juice bar and comfort food vegan spot.” Get juice to go or check out the buffet.