Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mapping the Harlem Drinking and Dining Renaissance

I love my neighborhood and simply adore when others find the same draw to it that I do.  So, I was pretty excited when posted a great, albeit not entirely complete, drinking and dining guide for the area a few weeks ago.  Although there was only one surprise in the article for me, I love their take on the hot new spots, and appreciate the authors usage of the term "renaissance" over "gentrification."  So, without further ado, here's a few picks from their list of the top new spots in the neighborhood and my take on each one (in italics):

Bier International, 2099 Frederick Douglass Blvd - "Opened earlier this year, Bier International is a giant restaurant and beer garden popular with both the big drinkers and the stroller set." Their beer selection is pretty impressive, their food is surprisingly stellar and their unique vision is pretty intriguing.  It isn't big enough to be a true beer garden so they minimised the design to make you feel like you're in a bigger, more jovial space.  It's unique to the hood and earns a solid thumbs up from me.

67 Orange Street, 2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd - "One of the oldest entries on this map, 67 Orange is approaching its second birthday. The cocktail den became a fast favorite in the area for offering a speakeasy vibe … and high end cocktails."  This is one of the only mixology bars in the neighborhood and is perfect for a nice cocktail on weeknights.  The space gets a bit too cramped on the weekends but the high-energy, friendly bartenders make up for it.
My favorite statue in the neighborhood,
Harriet Tubman on 122 and Fredrick Douglas Ave.

The Red Rooster, 310 Lenox Ave- "Chef Marcus Samuelsson's anxiously anticipated and ceaselessly promoted new Harlem venture. It will be a restaurant/jazz club/speakeasy/market/community center we … think? He has been working very hard doing collaborations with Target and Kraft to prepare."  This restaurant hasn't opened yet, and somehow I wasn't on the invite list for the guest night :).  So, I can't offer a review yet but I'm certainly excited that Samuelsson choose the location he did for his new digs.

Levain Bakery, 2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd - "The famed UWS bakery is making its move to Harlem because "it's a community they believe in."  This tiny, loving, decadent smelling cookie shop used to be my favorite when we lived in the UWS.  I couldn't be more excited about its move to my hood.  Although, I'm not sure I need more cookies in my life I'llbe sure to write a review when it opens.

Too soon to tell....

Two of the on Eater's list may be taking things a bit too far, too fast for the neighborhood.  Both the ALoft Hotel, which is a Starwood property and part of the W Hotel brand and the Harlem Tavern look like they should be set in midtown or the UWS.  I understand why these spots are buying the property and launching into construction now from a business perspective, but I don't think they will get the crowd they are expecting once they open.  The hotel is particularly terrifying to me, as it was originally rendered to be built around a historic carriage house that exemplified the area and ended up taking it out (aka knocking it down by accident) during construction.   If a business has no interest in preserving any of the history and character of the neighborhood then it's sure to fail (hence my appreciation for the word renaissance vs. gentrification).

Check out the map and full article here.  Eater hasn't quite figured out that adding a blogger share button to their website would increase their distribution but I'm sure they'll get it one day.
You can't take the Harlem out of Harlem Globe Trotters!

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