Neighborhood Spotlight: Harlem


Thelonious Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, and Teddy Hill at Minton’s Playhouse. Photo by William P. Gottlieb

Kendal Neel

Located in the northern section of Manhattan between 110th Street and 155th street, Harlem, New York has a reputation for being one of the most vibrant and eclectic neighborhoods in the Big Apple. Originally a Dutch village founded in 1658, the neighborhood gained cultural notoriety during an early 20th-century boom in music, arts, dance, and literature widely known as the Harlem Renaissance. With a diverse crowd of locals and tourists, Harlem represents New York at its core. From intimate jazz clubs to soul food eateries, and a thriving African American heritage, Harlem is sure to create a lasting impression on anyone exploring these uptown streets.
With a deep-rooted history in jazz and soul music, Harlem continues to pay homage to it’s past with well-preserved jazz clubs like Minton’s Playhouse located at the Cecil Hotel on 118th Street. Known as the birthplace of Bepop, Minton’s Playhouse has long since been recognized as the setting for a major jazz revolution in the 1940s and ’50s. Anyone who is anyone in the jazz world has performed on the Milton stage along with former bigwigs like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Goodman. Although the music is the real star of the show at Minton’s Playhouse, the perfect night at the club is not complete without a delicious plate of soul food to go along with it. Minton’s regulars suggest that visitors try their signature Ella and Louis Chicken dish complete with garlic mashed potatoes, french beans, and topped off with white wine caper sauce. A night at Minton’s Playhouse is sure to be the highlight of anyone’s visit to Harlem.
For those hoping to experience the New York theater scene without the overwhelming bustle of Times Square, look no further than the Apollo Theater. Located on West 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, the Apollo Theater is at the center of Harlem’s artistic heritage. Often referred to as The Soul of American Culture, the Apollo is known for its wildly popular Amateur Nights every Wednesday at 7:30. As one of New York’s most popular live entertainment experiences, audience members will get to participate in the competition and decide who will “be good or be gone” and win the grand prize. After a night at the theater, visitors can take a stroll to the Northern end of Central Park and visit the Harlem Meer for a quiet end to the evening by the water.
Those hoping to check off a few more boxes on their New York City food bucket list can find all they’ve ever wanted in Harlem. Harlem’s rich and diverse neighborhood offers up a wide culinary palette and is guaranteed to give visitors the food experience they’ve been hoping for. Neighborhood locals recommend the Red Rooster as the first stop on their Harlem food tour. Situated on Lenox Avenue, Chef Marcus Samuelsson has created a restaurant that specializes in American comfort food and promises a backdrop of warm colors, thought-provoking art, and soulful music to complement every dish on the menu. For the full Red Rooster experience, Chef Samuelsson encourages customers to try their mouth-watering lobster mac’n’cheese that is sure to make every visitor feel at home.

Photo by Wendy Longo
Photo by Wendy Longo
Thelonious Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, and Teddy Hill at Minton's Playhouse. Photo by William P. Gottlieb
Thelonious Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, and Teddy Hill at Minton’s Playhouse. Photo by William P. Gottlieb

Those with a more refined palette should try the blackened catfish pairs with pickled mango. Tourists and seasoned locals alike will agree that a trip to Red Rooster will leave you with a full belly and a happy heart.
From jazz clubs to soul food eateries, theaters, and everything in between, there is no shortage of things to be inspired by in Harlem. For anyone planning a trip into the city be sure to put Harlem at the top of your list – you certainly won’t be disappointed.