Saturday, December 29, 2012

☞ INTRODUCING: Best New Restaurant 2012

Maison Harlem opened late in the year on St. Nicholas and 127th Street but has surpassed what we would have expected from a new French restaurant in this part of town.  A classic bistro interior can be found within which is accented by wide plank floors, the requisite subway tiles, industrial pendant lights and a pressed tin ceiling.  The service and offerings are also a standout here especially for such a new establishment.

This corner location just on the cusp of West and Central Harlem had absolutely nothing going on in the immediate area as far as finer dining was concerned.  Maison Harlem has now proven that there is a need for such establishments even in areas removed from FDB or Lenox.  Check out the Prix Fixe New Year's Eve menu on the bistro's official website:

☞ QUESTION: Local Brownstone Facade Repair?

A Bespoke brownstone owner has inquired if anyone knew of a contractor local to Harlem to repair and paint their building's facade. Any recommendations out there amongst the home renovators?

Friday, December 28, 2012

☞ EAT: Best Sushi in Harlem 2012

Harlem now has a few Japanese places to choose from but Jado Sushi on FDB and 114th Street is the clear standout amongst the other.  Sarku Japan on 125th Street, Charlie's on Fifth Avenue and Nikko on Amsterdam provide standard takeout sushi fare but Jado is the only one in Harlem that is on the higher end, Japanese owned and has an updated, modern look.  The owner opened up The Winery in the area several years back and has since found further success with this new South Harlem gem.

☞ SHOP: Best Harlem Coffee Shop 2012

There have been quite a few coffee shops opening up in Harlem in the past couple of years but Lenox Coffee at 129th and Lenox Avenue is still one of the best ones to be found. Granted all the uptown shops are equal in the sense that good coffee is generally served up and thus the the smaller aesthetic details are the things that win us over when sitting down for the a hot cup.

On the exterior, Lenox Coffee has that old shop look that matches up nicely with the historic building it inhabits.  The striped, scalloped-edge awning is one of a kind uptown and the windows have gold leaf signage which adds to a more authentic period sensibility.  Inside, one will find aged wood floors, a dramatically dark tin ceiling, warm exposed bricks and pendant lights.  All of these elements provide a warmth to the java joint that makes it stand out above the rest.

☞ REVIVE: New Activity at 2272 FDB

The lot at 2272 FDB/8th Avenue had new permits up earlier on in December and now it looks like some progress is at hand for the stalled site.  A Bespoke reader mentioned that they saw men working at this corner of West 122nd Street so we swung by to take a look this week.  The new plywood fence with windows built in provides a view of the foundation which has been there all along but now apparently a digger is on site.  This lot has been stalled for several years now with absolutely no activity so it appears that things will start up once again.  Check out the final building rendering in our past post: LINK

☞ CELEBRATE: New Year's Eve in Harlem

Monday, December 31st, New Year's Eve Dinner at Lido, 2168 FDB/8th Avenue at 117th Street.  Lido offers up an extensive four course tasting menu which will include a champagne toast for $70 per person plus tax and service. There will also be a three course (minus course two) for $55 that will also include a champagne toast.  To Reserve call 646.490.8575.  Check out the Lido site for the full menu list of the evening's offerings: LINK

Monday, December 31st, 4:00 PM - Midnight, New Year’s Eve at Harlem Tavern, 2153 FDB/8th Avenue at 116th Street. No cover with live DJ music all night, optional Prix Fix menu $55 Four Course Prix Fix Menu, Champagne Toast, DJ All Night, Live Ball Drop from Times Square, Discounted Wine and Champagne Specials and more! Call today for reservations 212.866.4500: LINK

Monday, December 31st, 4:00 PM-Midnight, New Year's Eve House Party at Bier International, 2099 FDB/8th Avenue at 113th Street.  No cover or Prix Fixe menu.  Live music for the evening and dinner specials makes Bier one of the best places to celebrate the new years.  Make reservations today 212.280.0944: LINK

Monday, December 31st, starting at 6:00 PM, New Year's Eve at Shrine, 2271 ACP/7th Avenue at 134th Street.  Celebrate New Year's Eve at Shrine with drink specials, live DJ music and a large screen projecting the event at Time Square. $20 Cover charge.  More details can be found at the Shrine site: LINK

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bepoke Tip?

Send any tips and especially photos over our way if you have stories on your section of Harlem:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

☞ DRINK: Best Harlem Bar 2012

We have written a lot about the new Harlem Public in the past few months so it should be no surprise that the West Harlem establishment is our choice for the best Harlem bar for for 2012.  The local hangout at 149th and Broadway instantly became a hit with the neighborhood this year when it opened in September and has since been constantly packed each night.  Old rustic woodwork brings an inviting charm to the exterior and interior while the a wide selection of artisanal beers brings in the crowd.  Food service appeared later in the fall and Harlem Public has some of the better bar fare to be found uptown with hip renditions of classic favorites.

Some might find the HP to be a bit on the hipster side but it really just shows the diversity of the neighborhood.  This newcomer also attracts a wide range of locals from the area on any given night and is definitely the game changer since it shows that a well planned, better business can have instant success in Hamilton Heights.

☞ BESPOKE: Best New Storefront 2012

Harlem Bespoke will be reviewing the best of the best in Harlem for 2012 starting with our pick for top storefront. The Corner Social in Central Harlem took an old derelict retail corner on 129th Street at Lenox and transformed it into a classic dining spot that looks to have existed there all along. Harlem's century old buildings have rarely seen this sort of contextual design of their commercial facades in the past few decades and the Corner Social has achieved a look that most trendy downtown establishments are going for.  Dark wood paneling along with classic windows frame the lower part of the restaurant while the upper portion has a classic awning with the appropriate signage mounted at top.  All the locals seem to agree with the inviting nature of the eatery since it has been packed daily since it opened this past March and proves that going a little retro goes a long way.

☞ INTRODUCING: Prime One 16 in East Harlem

The old Orbit cafe space at 116th at 1st Avenue shut down a few years back and it now seem like a new eatery is ready to open soon on that particular corner.  Bespoke readers have been sending in tips that new signage is up at the renovated storefront in East Harlem and Prime One 16 apparently is ready to open.  With that said, we still can not tell if this will be a takeout place or a fancier establishment based on the look of it.  Does anyone have any tips out there about Prim One 16?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

☞ DWELL: 540 West 148th Street in Contract

A townhouse at number 540 West 148th Street in Hamilton Heights went up for sale at the asking price of $1.2 million back in October and is now in contract.  This 2-family home has been fully restored in a modest, renter grade finishes which looks a bit better than most. Brick walls and natural wood add to the warmth of the interior so everything is pretty much straightforward in a non-offensive way.

The townhouse is located just east of Broadway and just around the corner from the new Harlem Public which has become the local neighborhood hangout.  There is also the Chipped Cup coffeehouse at this location and the area is starting to finally develop with better local businesses.  Check out more details for this home on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ SHOP: Blue Monk Replaces Mobay on 125th

Mobay closed its doors back in October of this year and now it appears that a new business will be arriving at the old storefront on 125th Street.  A public hearing notice for a liquor license was posted out front of the restaurant space located just west of Fifth Avenue and it now appears that an establishment called Blue Monk will arrive soon.  The name sounds a bit more original than most so maybe this will one of the more notable openings arriving in Harlem for 2013.

☞ FOLLOW: Harlem Bespoke Via Twitter

Harlem Bespoke also has a Twitter account for those who want daily updates about stuff that's happening in the neighborhood. If you Twitter, check out our Harlem tweets and join here: LINK.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: Santa Claus by Thomas Nast

One of the most famous illustrators of the 19th century was based in Harlem and is consider the creator of the modern version of Santa Claus. Thomas Nast worked for Harper's Weekly during a time in history when photos were not common so cartoon illustrations provided a key role in major publications. During a time period ranging from 1863 to 1886, Mr. Nast came up with a Santa Clause that went against the usually thin depiction of the Christmas character.  Other Santa specific illustrations by Thomas Nast also suggested that the jolly fellow lived at the North Pole and had his toy workshop set up there.

In Jonathan Gill's book on Harlem, the author mentioned that the young Nast at age 24 moved his family uptown and lived close to 125th street and 5th avenue. He had his studio out in the back yard and produced all of his artwork within.  Thomas Nast lived uptown from 1864 up until 1872.  Images via Fine Art America and The Old Print Gallery

☞ BESPOKE: Festive Holiday Brownstones

Harlem brownstone owners are just as festive as everyone else when it comes to decorating for the holiday.  Wreaths, ribbons and trees can be seen on many stoops of the brownstone blocks uptown and we always take a moment each year to take a look at what folks have come up with for the season.  A little flora out front always provides such a great accent for a townhouse and Christmas is the perfect season to add just a little greenery to one's home.

Monday, December 24, 2012

☞ INTRODUCING: Signage Up at Vinateria

Vinateria at FDB/8th Avenue and 119th Street is seeing more action these days since a great painted sign has now been placed at the  corner shop's facade.  News of this new eatery arrived about a year ago but work did not start at the South Harlem space until this past September.  We noticed a few interesting light fixtures installed within the interior and expect a January opening if this rate of progress continues.  The signage of an establishment really set the tone of the new business  and this one looks very promising from what we can see so far.

☞ SUBSCRIBE: Harlem Bespoke via Email

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Friday, December 21, 2012

☞ REVIVE: The Lost Mt. Morris Turkish Baths

The Mount Morris Turkish Baths at the south corner of Madison and 125th Street was up for lease a couple of years ago and it now appears either something new is moving in or the landlord just decided to erradicate any trace of the historic spot. All signage has now been removed that pointed out the arched sub-level space with painted lettering over the doorway. This cellar commercial space was a sauna opened by doctors in the area during the early 1890's which means this establishment might have been in full operation for about century.  An article in the New York Times from 2003 reports that the baths became a gay establishment in the 1930's but had in recent years became just "a meeting place" for men before it shut down: LINK.

The owner, who's wife has had the establishment in the family since the early 1900's, lives upstate and is apparently trying to lease out the 5,000 square foot iconic gay Harlem institution based on the said article.  In our opinion, this would really be a great place for an actual gay bar or speakeasy in this part of town since they all disappeared a long time ago. Now all the decorative woodwork has been removed from the doorway which has now been replaced by a non descript steel and glass portal.

☞ QUESTION: Heating and Plumbing Experts?

A couple of brownstone owners inquired if anyone knew some good heating and plumbing people.  Any suggestions from the homeowners out their?

☞ SHOP: SWING for the Holidays

Uptowners who want to spend a little on designer gifts this holiday season should head over to SWING at ACP/7th Avenue and 118th Street. Design guru Helena Greene's Harlem store feels like a Soho boutique and one can find designer men's and women's sportswear along with an eclectic home line that includes soft furnishings from Italy, scented candles, and exotic teas. An absolute must for anyone seeking luxury goods uptown that go beyond basic denim and tees. SWING is located at 1960 ACP/7th Avenue which is the corner of West 118th Street.Tel.(212) 222-5802‎. The store is open Monday from 11:00AM-6:00PM, Thursday -Sunday 11:00AM-6:00PM, by appointment only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays: LINK

☞ SEE: Comedy at Covo Sunday

Sunday, December 30th, 7:30PM, COMEDY COVO at COVO's upstair lounge, 701 West 135th Street at 12th Avenue. Come check out the monthly comedy show with some of NYC's best comedians in one of Harlem's most unique lounges at the top of a former railroad station. Sunday night's show will be hosted by NYC comedian William Mullin and features comics Kendra Cunningham, Reid Faylor, Jeffrey Joseph and Nick Griffin, alongside DJ Chris Washington.

This FREE comedy event will also offer half price panini, $3 beer and $5 drink specials.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

☞ READ: Lenox Lounge Becomes Notar Jazz Club

The Daily News confirms that Lenox Lounge will not keep its name but will become Notar Jazz Club. Restauranteur Richard Notar will be taking over the iconic space just south of 125th Street on Lenox Avenue and apparently will be naming it after himself but keeping everything as originally designed.  Apparently the former owner had reached out to partner with Notar but did not receive any response. So basically the jazz club will serve up South Carolina fare and will remain intact in all aspects except name.

In our opinion, just calling it Lenox might have been more appealing since it is just the name of the boulevard and provides a connection to the history of the neighborhood.   More details in the Daily News: LINK

☞ SHOP: An Old Neon Liquor Sign on Lenox

Harlem Shake will be opening a better burger joint on the corner retail space at Lenox and 124th Street which was apparently a liquor store at one point.  These old signs add a bit of historic charm to the neighborhood and many establishments in the city have kept them as part of the facade even though the types of businesses have changed over.  It is not clear what Harlem Shake will eventually look like when it finally opens but having this sign stick around would be a plus if one were to ask our opinion.  More on Harlem Shake in our past post: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Harlem Flo for the Holidays

Harlem Flo at 2276 FDB/8th Avenue and 122nd Street is not only a florists but also a home shop.  Items such as books, vases, cards and accessories from local artists can be found at the South Harlem boutique.  Last minute shoppers can order floral arrangements for the holidays and also shop for gifts.

☞ REVIVE: 261-267 West 125th Street Rises

The new $14 million commercial building at 261-267 West 125th Street is making some major progress at the end of the year.  A Bespoke reader mentioned that the first floor could now be seen rising at the former empty lot next to the Apollo Theater.  This 28,000-square-foot development just east of FDB/8th Avenue will have Red Lobster as the anchor tenant and is one of the major new buildings to arrive on the corridor in the past few years.  Check out the final sketch in our past post: LINK

☞ QUESTION: Ask Harlem Bespoke

If any readers out there have a question they would like to throw out to the Bespoke audience on neighborhood organizations, restoration services, property search or history, just send them over and we can possibly have it written up as a future post:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: 117th and 8th Avenue circa 1957

A photo of FDB/8th Avenue taken in 1957 shows the blocks north of 116th street which have changed dramatically in the last 3 decades.  During the rough yearss of the 70 and 80s, many of these building were abandoned by landlords and demolished because they were left to decay.  In the past decade, developers have come in and built new structures on these blocks and the landscape has now changed quite dramatically.

Building styles might have changed with the times but it appears from the old photo that fashion does come back in cycles. We especially like the top image because some of the menswear has returned in recent years and these gentlemen could be walking down the boulevard today with the same look.

Archival photo courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

☞ DWELL: Best Contextual Renovation 2012

Number 420 Convent Avenue is by far the most contextual and expensive house renovation that is still on the market at the end of 2012.  The wallpaper might not be for everyone (which can easily be painted over) but the more costly elements such as the fixtures and finishing are definitely better than the typical uptown brownstone restoration.  

After debuting back in March at $3.5 million (one of the highest asking prices uptown), Number 420  Convent Avenue made a large price reduction and now has been listed for $2.99 million. For those who want a fully restored townhouse in one of Harlem's historic districts,  this corner building at 148th Street in Hamilton Heights might be the way to go since it has some high end, period appropriate finishes. The 19-foot-wide, single-family home has reportedly over 5,400 square foot of space altogether and everything from the infrastructure to the original details have all gone through an extreme renovation in the past two years: LINK

A smaller, gut-renovated house with less details in South Harlem has hit the $3 million mark this year but apparently the location also aided in the record sale: LINK

☞ EAT: Sarku Japan Opens on 125th Street

Sarku Japan has opened on 125th Street between ACP/7th Avenue and Lenox.  Construction started back in September and the nations largest fast food sushi chain has now arrived in Harlem.  There were already lines inside during lunch time today so the 125th Street corridor appears to be a good fit for this affordable Japanese option.

☞ SEE: Christmas at Red Rooster

We noticed a lovely Christmas tree outside the Red Rooster while walking on Lenox Avenue this week.  Marcus Samuelsson's popular eatery just north of 125th Street has apparently gotten into the spirit of the season and it is a nice gesture for the restaurant to decorate the outdoor space in such a festive manner.  Does anyone know if this is the first restaurant in Harlem to have an outdoor Christmas tree?

☞ REVIVE: Construction Resumes on 129th Street

There had been a couple of stalled construction sites just west of Lenox on 129th Street and it appears things are picking up again.  A new residential building on the block seemed to have been abandoned for few years but workers have been active on the site in the past couple of weeks and the facade is currently being covered in stonework.  There is a brownstone also next door that had a sidewalk shed on it at one point and it appears that another level has been added on top.  Does anyone have any details on these developments?

☞ INTRODUCING: HSA Spring After-School

HSA Registration for Spring After-School programs begin now. Harlem School of the Arts After-School in Harlem offers hundreds of classes in five arts disciplines: music, dance, theatre, visual arts & musical theatre.  Popular classes fill up quickly so register before February 2nd. Go to the official site or more details: LINK

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bepoke Tip?

Send any tips and especially photos over our way if you have stories on your section of Harlem:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

☞ DWELL: 357 West 121st Sets Record for 2012

Number 357 West 121st Street went on the market this past spring and closed in August at the highest record sale of 2012 for Harlem. The 16-foot-wide, 2-family home has a solid South Harlem location that is right around the corner from Morningside Park, close to the FDB retail corridor and a short walk distance to the express trains at 125th Street. Renovated interiors that update the infrastructure but keep the character of the original home probably helped find the right buyer also. According to public records, the house sold over the asking price of $2.85 million and finally closed for a cool $3 million. Unless another brownstone sale closes in the next couple of weeks, number 357 West 121st Street will keep the title as the highest selling townhouse for the year.