Friday, February 1, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Other Lounges to Revive?

The Red Rooster proved that Harlem's historic hot spots can be revived in a big way if the right backing comes along.  Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson took a long forgotten lounge on the upper reaches of ACP/7th Avenue and opened a destination spot for all of New York on Lenox Avenue at 125th Street.  Notable restauranteur Richard Notar will now try to copy this success just a block south but still does not have a name for the space that was formerly Lenox Lounge.  If the revival course is chosen, what names could possibly fit?

Central Harlem had so many clubs above 125th Street but most only remember the Cotton Club which was established once more in the seventies in a moderate way on far west 125th.  The Savoy was located in the 140s but was demolished for housing and probably has the best ring to it.  Small's Paradise had a location on ACP/7th Avenue at 135th Street but Spike Lee used Lenox Lounge to represent Small's in his Malcolm X movie since it was the only intact establishment uptown.

Other famous clubs include Connie's Inn which was located within the former Lafayette Theatre complex over at 131st Street or the Nest Club on 133rd which has been demolished in the past year.  Up on Sugar Hill, St. Nick's Pub was originally called the Lucky's Rendezous and the Pink Angel.  Then there is the  400 Tavern on 148th or Lundy's on St. Nicholas.  All could be great option to add back a little history into a new establishment trying to bring back the spirit of Harlem when it was known as the part of town to go to for entertainment.

The above photo shows the Palm Cafe which was located on 125th Street.


  1. St. Nick Pub is terribly missed...

  2. Would love if Sugar Hill regained these 3 gems. But alas, the owners of the buildings have to be willing to rent and in St. Nick's case - give the rights to the name. I am sure if there were a few Jazz options, it would be quickly become a popular destination! $$$$

  3. Red Rooster has shown that a revival Harlem name can not just work but be a runaway success, however it is not just the name that makes Red Rooster successful but the execution. Also, a name from the distant past is a better choice. I like that upper Lenox has maintained a Harlem character and a revival name would continue that.

  4. I think Hal Jackson use to broadcast his show from the Palm Cafe the front window was the broadcast booth.

    1. I worked in the Palm Cafe years ago. I have a photo of me in uniform holding a menu from the Palm. When I locate it I will send it to Bespoke. The Palm was an exciting place to work. just doors from
      the Apollo Theater. I was always around
      celebrities. Jocko. the disc Jockey from
      Philadelphia played music from a high booth every Wednesday night. Of course I was more than willing to work a double shift on Wednesday just to be near these famous and wonderful actors, novelists and musicians. Stars like Sidney Poitier, Jackie Wilson were always at the Palm Cafe when in town.

      The experience was a wonderful prelude that helped prepare me for future positions I held that required dealing successfully with many different and difficult people.

      I retired as a property administrator
      for a major city agency but my memories of the Palm Cafe will remain with me forever.

  5. At the risk of being contrarian, I think the owners of new establishments should be careful about buying into a trend of revival names. Red Rooster works in part because it was one of the less-publicized Harlem establishments, and Marcus Samuelsson's choice of the name is a respectful homage. Simply glomming onto the names of well-known Harlem iconic establishments might not be at all well-received by the community. Too much of this and Harlem becomes an amusement park of "replica' destinations.

  6. Blue Monk is a great example of an original name that captures the spirit of Harlem's jazz era.