I made it up to Harlem twice whilst while I was living in New York which was definitely not enough. I hate the phrase but it is ‘totally up and coming’ – brilliant bars, restaurants, live music and rental prices are all on the rise.
The first time we took the subway up to 103rd street to see the Graffiti wall of fame. It was disappointingly small and in a gated playground so you can’t go right up to it. The best graffiti I’ve seen is definitely to be found in Bushwick or LES. From there we walked across 110th Street past the statue of Duke Ellington for a great view from the top of Central Park. We had brunch at the Harlem Tavern – great atmosphere, delicious food and live jazz. We ended up in Shrine Bar on 134th Street. It was cheap, cheerful and slightly odd. Voo-doo dolls and African tribal statues were everywhere but the live music was excellent. Unfortunately The Studio Museum of Harlem up on 125th was closed for refurbishment both times I made it up there. The museum houses exhibitions of local and international artists of African descent and is free on a Sunday. One of my biggest regrets is never catching amateur night at the Apollo Theater where up coming stars take to the stage to sing to a rowdy audience. I’ve heard the crowd is ruthless but there is a chance you could see something pretty awesome. Di Angelo, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin were all discovered there.
My second visit up town started on the Upper West Side. Our aim was to check out Columbia University and then end up at Dinosaur BBQ for some proper southern cooking. The weather was perfect, so we had a walk through Morningside Heights and the University. Morningside Heights is charming with ponds full of turtles, sunflowers and fountains line the paths. The University campus is also stunning and the surrounding area is a great place for cafes, restaurants and bars. As seems to always happen in New York we got slightly waylaid at a bar in the UWS. By the time we reached Dinosaur BBQ we were not in the right frame of mind to enjoy our food. I can tell that the prices were excellent. For $30 we ordered a family size portion of meats (ribs, chicken and brisket) and sides which included, corn bread, mac n’ cheese and coleslaw. Four hungry (and slightly swozzled) girls could barely finish it. I believe there was also live music playing, but I couldn’t be certain.