Tuesday, April 30, 2013

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Balconies at Hotel Theresa

Hotel Theresa at ACP/7th Avenue and 125th Street is still one of the grandest structures in Harlem and looking up from the sidewalk will always provide the average passerby with a glimpse of some new detail not noticed previously.  We happened to notice the charming row of small balconies that line the lower levels on our last visit and also admired that the windows were restored in a more historically appropriate manner.  This local landmark is owned by Columbia University and apparently is used as office spaces but was originally the preferred overnight destination for all of the famous guests who have visited Harlem in the past century.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

☞ EAT: Harlem Shake to Open in May


We just received information that Harlem Shake at 124th and Lenox has plans to open on May 14th.  An interior photo was also submitted and it appears that this new burger and shake joint came straigth out of 1950s Harlem!  This yet to open eatery is right at the north edge of the Mount Morris Park Historic District so the vintage decor should fit right in and become a hit with the locals alongside the many tourist who have arrived in the neighborhood for the warmer season.  Harlem Shake should be a game changer for lower Lenox Avenue and pair nicely with the Red Rooster which is just a couple of blocks north.

☞ INTRODUCING: Il Caffe Latte West Harlem


The old Baton Rouge townhouse was purchased last year and now it appears that the new business on 145th Street will be arriving soon.  We walked by the former restaurant space located east of Amsterdam Avenue and noticed some activity within the interior.  Those familiar with Il Caffe Latte in the Mount Morris Park Historic District will recognize that the pressed tin ceiling and the warm bistro lighting is exactly the same as the ones that have been installed at 145th street.  This will be the third new better restaurant in the area to open by summer 2013 so expect some major changes in West Harlem's dining scene to happen soon.

☞ REVIVE: Scaffolding at 124 West 123rd Street

One of the charming mansard townhouses on 123rd Street is finally getting renovated. We walked by this block just west of Lenox this past weekend and noticed major scaffolding in front of the former shell that is adjacent to the Mount Morris Park Historic District.  The Empire style roof at the top floors make this trio of homes unique to most of Harlem especially for the small scale of the buildings.  Check out what this home went for in back in 2011 as reported in our past post: LINK

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Friday, April 26, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Tapas Style at Vinateria





Vinateria has seen the crowds arrive since they opened last week on the corner of 119th on FDB/8th Avenue and we have enjoyed a couple of tapas style meals there recently along with some great
Spanish wines.   Bigger entrees are served up on the menu but we chose this route for health reasons in preparation for the warm weather ahead. The small bites are around $3 each and pack a lot flavor but merely serve as an Amuse-Bouche so expect to order more later.  All of the cheeses were spectacular along with a pork rillete that provides something new for diners in Harlem.  A vegetarian corn soup for the evening on Thursday is hands down one of the best offerings we have had in any city and the bruschetta with mushroom or eggplant are more robust than one would expect.

There was also a super fresh salad of seasonal beets or a meatier option with spanish anchovies that will excite the more adventuresome diner.  Steak tartar with a fried quails egg is also something new for the neighborhood and we eventually finished everything off with an extremely creamy Italian custard for dessert that had a bright burst of lemon and rosemary. Oh, and the service was impeccable which is a detail that is quite often lacking even in many better establishments.  Check out more on the very bespoke Vinateria in our past post: LINK

☞ SHOP: Vintage Harlem's Soft Opening

One of Harlem's first boutique wine shops shuttered last year but has now returned with a new name.  Harlem Vintage closed down and some thought it was a sign of tough times for businesses in Harlem but the purveyor of fine wines has come back as Vintage Harlem.  A sign is out front now announcing a soft opening so folks should drop by 121st and FDB/8th Avenue to show support.

☞ INTRODUCING: How is Time Devine

Wednesday, May 1st,  5:00PM-Midnight, How is Time Devine at the Uranian Phalanstery, 410 Convent Avenue, north of 147th Street.  The Uranian Phalanstery in Hamilton Heights will be inviting all of Harlem to one of their Art Happenings.  This salon-style group show will feature the community of artists and musicians of the art collective that moved to Harlem from the East Village in recent years. With an Esoteric theme, "How is Time Devine", the curation plays with a certain philological pre-text.

The Phalanstery is a place where the ecumenical religious context of art plays an active role and where the sacred and creative mind converge.  For more information, call 646 484 6907 or go to the official website: LINK

☞ SEE: A Jazz Mural in Hamilton Heights

A local school just north of 145th Street on Amsterdam Avenue in West Harlem has a few lovely murals on the front walls that we never noticed in our daily shuffle.  The one we admired the most was that of the jazz musician on the 147th Street side of the building which gives a nod to Harlem's iconic music history but also has enough naiveté to it to make it quite charming.  Public art is such a big part of living in the city and one of the best little things to enjoy uptown.  East Harlem has some serious murals at 103rd Street and one can see those wall paintings in our past post: LINK

Thursday, April 25, 2013

☞ EAT: An Update on The Grange


It was announced back in March that The Grange might open as early as April in Hamilton Heights but May 2013 might now be a more realistic date. The Grange updated the above photo on their Facebook site yesterday and one can see some major progress at hand but an opening in the next week or so seems a bit of a stretch. So far the interior is going for a much needed classic look but not much has yet happened to the exterior over by the corner of 141st and Amsterdam. Read more about The Grange in our previous post: LINK

☞ REVIVE: More on the Manhattanville Campus

We will be taking weekly photos of the construction over in Manhattanville and have updates on the rise of the new Columbia University campus just north of 125th Street by Broadway. The third floor appears to almost be finished as of the last week in April and we expect to see even more heights achieved in May.

☞ MEET: Upcoming LGBT Events for May

We mentioned last year that the LGBT community in Manhattan will probably move to Harlem from Chelsea or Hell's Kitchen and it appears some local businesses have started up various events to cater to the new crowd uptown.  Coffee Grinder at Lenox Coffee and Lido's Mixer happens only once a month while the other two parties will be weekly events.  Below are the LGBT nights happening next week:

Monday, April 29th, 9:00PM-11:00PM, Lido Gay-Borhood Mixer, 2168 FDB/8th Avenue at 117th Street.  Lido in South Harlem brings back their monthly LGBT mixer this coming Monday: LINK

Wednesday, May 1st, 6:00PM-11:00PM, In the Mix at Aloft WXYZ Lounge, 124th Street and FDB/8th.  The W Hotel's Aloft chain started up a weekly LGBT night last month and updates can be found on the Harlem location's Facebook site: LINK

Wednesday, May 1st, 5:00PM-11:00PM, Gentlemen's Wednesday at Billie's Black, 271 West 119th Street between Fredrick Douglas Blvd & St Nicholas Avenue.  Happy hour at this new gay soiree at Billie's Black goes from 5:00PM to 7:00PM and there will be drink specials all night. www.BilliesBlack.com

Thursday,  May 2nd, 8:00PM -12:00AM, Coffee Grinder @ Lenox Coffee, 60 West 129th, east of Lenox Avenue.  Come meet the neighbors at this gay mixer that will have DJ Bill Coleman providing the music.  The bespoke coffee shop recently started up wine/beer service and has been attracting quite a large following for this particular event. www.LenoxCoffee.com

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Send any tips and especially photos over our way if you have stories on your section of Harlem: harlembespoke@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Silver Gilding at Vinateria

In the world of design, judging a book by its cover is standard practice so we always like to point out local businesses who are taking the exterior look of their establishments seriously.  Vinataria has successfully opened at the corner of 119th and FDB/8th Avenue but we keep noticing some finer details of the new eatery every time we pass by. The art of Verre Eglomise is the traditional way to apply gold leaf to glass for window signage but Vinateria has come up with a more modern look by updating things with silver leaf. This nod to the past but with a contemporary aesthetic sets this restaurant apart from others uptown but those who are interested in the gold leaf for their brownstone entrances or businesses should check out this local Sugar Hill artisanal business: LINK

☞ EAT: The Amsterdam Social in West Harlem



We received some news from the owners of the new Tapas bar that will open in Hamilton Heights called the Amsterdam Social.  Folks should expect the eatery at 1768 Amsterdam to open by early summer if all goes well and this will be the first better establishment on to set up in this commercial section of Harlem located two blocks north of 145th Street.  The Amsterdam Social is located just an avenue over from the wildly popular Harlem Public so folks should expect this sleepy enclave to wake up a little in the upcoming months.  Check out the renovation process of the Amsterdam Social on their official Facebook site and make sure to "like" them to show support: LINK

☞ WALK: A Look in West Harlem

The little details that catches one's eyes uptown sometimes make an average walk down the block more interesting. We noticed the above new signs on some of the intersection on Broadway in Hamilton Heights and thought it was a clever way to promote pedestrian traffic awareness.  One quite literally takes a second look at this clever public announcement on the crosswalk that is also quite contextually graphic.  This might be also the work of a local artist which would make more sense since the design is a little more clever than one would expect for this type of signage.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

☞ SEE: Sakura Park in Bloom 2013


Japan donated cherry trees to the United States about a century ago and not all of them arrived in Washington D.C.  Some of the blossoming saplings arrived in Harlem at Sakura Park just north of West 122nd Street and Riverside Park and those same trees are currently in bloom.  This south border of West Harlem is not often visited by the rest of the city but the charming park provides a quiet spot to meditate on the joys of spring and get a view of Grant's Tomb. All of the tentative warm weather has caused the trees to bloom at different intervals this year and the main ones are just past peak blossom. Unfortunately it appears that a couple of trees were destroyed during last year's hurricane so maybe the Parks Department will work on rectifying this situation in the near future.

☞ DWELL: 353 West 121st Street Brownstone


The 16-foot-wide brownstone at 353 West 121st Street slowly reduced its price to $2.395 million last year but now has returned on the market for $2.895 million. This location is just around the corner from Morningside Park and the block itself is one of the more charming brownstone streets in South Harlem but buyers might want to check out the C of O on this one. The renovated townhouse was at one point an SRO but has since been renovated with much of its details intact. About 2,925 square foot of space can be found in the interior and the location is very close to the lower FDB corridor's offerings of restaurants and retail. More photos and details on this property can be found on the broker site which somehow mistakes the South Harlem neighborhood as Morningside Heights: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Savory Wafels & Dinges


The Wafels & Dinges Belgian Wafel truck has been stopping in Harlem every Tuesday evening and has several options for those that lack a sweet palate. We noticed a savory selection which included a bacon maple syrup wafel and pulled pork wafel which apparently is one of the best in town. There is also a chili option which we will probably try over the summer when the weather warms up. Those interested in Wafels & Dinge should drop by FDB/8th Avenue and 118th Street tonight starting around 6:30 PM.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Great Gatsby's Harlem Renaissance



The Jazz Age was a term coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald but it has been pointed out that the novelist failed to chronicle the heart of this heady era which had much of its roots in Harlem.  There is one point in The Great Gatsby that the main character sees a group of "modish negroes" with a white chauffeur but this was more of a reference to how the class structure started to break boundaries at this time period.

Baz Luhrmann's new film on Gatsby includes this important scene and appears to also have a few more nods to Harlem.  As an informal record of the 20s, the great Gatsby would have ideally had the characters visit the many speakeasies uptown for the wealthy were also bored and adventuresome.  Harlem was the epicenter of this new, underground music genre and prohibition would make the brownstone-lined streets the playground for those living further downtown.   More details on this movie can be found on the official Gatsby website: LINK

☞ REMEMBER: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Harlem

A young F. Scott Fitgerald lived at 200 Claremont in Manhattanville back in 1919 when the author was released from the military.  America's Jazz Age novelist rented a single room in the above building just below 125th Street while unsuccessfully trying to break into advertisement and probably working out a few final ideas for his first novel which would be released the following year.  This was a time when Harlem's demographic had started to shift and the majority white neighborhood would soon see a renaissance happening just a little further east of this location.

☞ EAT: Boulevard Bistro Outdoor Dining


The spring chill is still in the Air but the new Boulevard Bistro on Lenox has debuted an outdoor space.  This eatery built into the garden floor commercial storefront of a brownstone on 122nd Street already had a gated corner patio built in so it was only a matter of time before tables would be introduced for diners to enjoy the warm weather that is sure to come.  Another nice touch can be seen by the addition of the garden boxes mounted alongside the cast iron gates which provide a nice verdant charm to the bespoke space.

☞ SHOP: Pa-paya Seed Yogurt Revealed


Pa-paya Seed frozen yogurt in Mount Morris Park Historic District at 118th Street has updated their website with a sketch of shop.  Everything looks pretty standard for a yogurt establishment but the one notable feature for the summer is the new outdoor seating. The sign out front also indicates a May opening.  www.pa-payaseed.com

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

☞ DWELL: Historic Astor Row

Astor Row is the landmark district located in Central Harlem and these identical porch-front townhouses rarely go up on the market.  There are still a couple of neglected buildings in this micro neighborhood but its unique housing stock, proximity to the rapidly developing Lenox Avenue corridor and express trains make this historic Harlem block a notable address.

Back in the 90s, the late Brooke Astor returned to the neighborhood that was named after her family and quickly resolved to be a part of the restoration of these 28 free standing houses built in early 1880. Mrs. Astor, partnering with local government and landmark preservation groups, has help restore this stretch of houses on 130th street between 5th avenue and Lenox Avenue, to their original 19th century glory. The distant relative who founded the block, William Astor, was one of the developers who speculated on the northern reaches of Manhattan. As one can see from the houses themselves, they have front yards with grass lawns and wooden porches.

This reflects a time when the upper middle classes only saw living in a house as the acceptable way to live. Multi family apartments were considered tenements and less desirable. Once the financial crises arrived in the early 20th century, Astor row eventually succumbed to decay until its namesake matron arrived to complete its full circle of life 100 years later.

Friday, April 19, 2013

☞ EAT: Harlem's Growing Food Culture


Harlem food culture has really started to transform in the past couple of years and uptowner now appear to be embracing the new arrivals within Harlem.  Maison Harlem just posted the top photo on their facebook site which shows the steak tartare which is served up daily.  This French, land-based take on sashimi entails extremely fresh raw beef that has been chopped and topped off with an uncooked egg yolk.  Mixed together, the delicacy is enjoyed with toasted baguette slices.  Vinateria also had a tartare on their guest menu at their soft opening so raw beef is basically a trend these days.

On the subject matter of sushi, raw fish also arrived in a big way when Nobu Otsu opened up Jado Sushi on the lower FDB corridor.  This sushi eatery is also one of the best modern spaces uptown and Jado is filled nightly with sushi admirers.  There definitely are more basic sushi roll diners who turn up but the actual sushi and sashimi is definitely worth ordering: LINK

☞ REVIVE: The New Antique Aesthetic

A modern space with accents of authentic vintage pieces in the hard finishes can be the right way to go for historic renovation projects but few townhouses take on this route uptown.  Most of the gut renovations are either basic with moderate finishes or severely high end and incongruous to the nature of a century old house.  An occasional homeowner will keep all of the original details with worn patina, hairline cracks in the porcelain and original plaster molding but this is often a rare case because the idea of having a brand new space is so ingrained into Manhattanites for some reason.

We have seen some of the history-friendly renovations in Brooklyn's brownstone blocks and the basin sink at the new Vinateria on FDB reminds us of how some of the more creative designers in that neighborhood tackle the problem of mixing new with old.  As we mentioned before, the gutted space at the new South Harlem eatery has classic ceramic hex tiles in unglazed black but reclaimed items were selected to fit into a budget.  The sink within the unisex bathroom has newish fixture to it but can be easily purchased and reglazed for less than most high end new fixtures.

This in turn adds the character needed to a space and helps an interior not look like a contemporary hotel suite.  Bathrooms especially benefit from reclaiming old cast iron or porcelain sink but renovators who have more to spend can actually purchase newly manufactured versions at a restoration company that will charge substantially more to get this authentic look.

☞ LISTEN: Harlem Jazz Shrine Festival 2013

May 6th — 11th, The Harlem Jazz Shrine Festival 2013 at various venues including Ginny's Supper Club, The Apollo and The Gatehouse.   Cel­e­brat­ing Harlem’s His­toric Jazz Venues: Apollo The­ater, Showman’s, Minton’s Play­house, The Baby Grand, Cot­ton Club, The Alham­bra Ball­room, Sugar Cane Club, Clark Monroe’s Uptown House.

The Apple’s lat­est entry into the annals of what makes New York the epi­cen­ter of the jazz world. It’s a 6-day fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing the clas­sic clubs and venues that made Harlem USA the jazz Mecca begin­ning in the 1920’s. While it’s a nos­tal­gic look back at the great­ness of the past, this festival’s pulse is the present, show­cas­ing an array of today’s top and emerg­ing tal­ent and show­ing that what’s hap­pen­ing right now in Harlem really is where it’s at! FESTIVAL TICKETS $10 Some shows admission-free: LINK

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Send any tips and especially photos over our way if you have stories on your section of Harlem: harlembespoke@gmail.com

Thursday, April 18, 2013

☞ DWELL: 20 Hamilton Terrace Townhouse


Housing stock in Harlem is pretty limited these days but a rare townhouse on the desirable block of Hamilton Terrace by 142nd Street has appeared on the market for $2 million. There have been record sales of $3 million  closer to all the new development in South Harlem but the trade off here is a quiet historic district in Hamilton Heights that is not very far from the express subways at 145th Street.  Better amenities are slowly starting to arrive in the area and 20 Hamilton Terrace appears to have non offensive, higher end finishes with quite of bit of original details.  Buyers have made decisions just on the beautiful original tiles found in some historic baths and this one has such details.  We did not see the total width for this single-family house so that might be the only major issue.  More on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ REMEMBER: The Original Cotton Club on 142nd

As most know, today's Cotton Club at far West 125th Street was built in the 1970's and has nothing to do with the iconic club from the Harlem Renaissance years. The above photos show the jazz club at 142nd Street at Lenox Avenue back in 1930 and one can see a log cabin themed exterior at a storefront in front of what appears to be a tenement building.  Basically all the images that people nowadays associate with the Cotton Club are probably of the one that opened around 1936 in midtown at 48th Street and Broadway. This original Lenox Avenue location closed down in Central Harlem and relocated further downtown in the brand new Art Deco style jazz boite that everyone today thinks is the original: LINK

☞ SHOP: Tapas Bar Planned for Lenox Avenue

The gourmet deli that opened on the west side of Lenox at 131st Street about six months ago is now currently being gutted and apparently a tapas bar will arrive at this storefront.  For some reason, bodegas tend to always want to set at every corner of the neighborhood but this seems to not be working as a business plan anymore because of over saturation.  Folks on the block have informed us that a public hearing for the new liquor license for the soon to arrive tapas establishment was recently approved and the former brand new deli has now been gutted to the rafters. Does anyone have additional details for the new eatery?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

☞ EAT: Vinateria Opens Tonight







Vinateria on FDB/8th Avenue at 119th Street has confirmed they will be starting dinner service tonight at 6:00 PM and we were lucky enough to get a preview last night.  The gracious owner Yvette is a Harlem  resident who has seen the area change over the past decade and has come up with a modern italian eatery that has a lot of old world charm to it.

An original storefront at this corner of the FDB corridor was formerly a completely gutted space that lacked character but designer Jonsara Ruth has brought back a bit of old Harlem with reclaimed Thonet chairs that have been randomly painted with bright colors, a floor of old school unglazed black hex tiles, elegant antique milk glass lamps and a collection of impressive crystal are on display.  An old painted church pew that serves as the corner banquet out front has a rich contrasting hew that accents the zinc tables.  There is also a zinc bar which serves up cocktails and has a tap that makes sparkling water on site.  Everything was done on a tight budget but Vinateria now has the most sophisticated space on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and is worth visiting just for the design of the interior.

As far as the menu is concerned, South Harlem should expect another reasonably price establishment that will be affordable enough for diners to visit a couple of times a week.  A preview menu was served last night which feature grilled octopus salad, hand-cut beef tartare, fava beans with mint agnolotti in brown butter and a rosemary panacotta.  There are also less exotic offerings include striped bass and strip steak for those who want a less complicated meal.

Folks who want to show support for this local business or have regular updates should "like" Vinateria on their official facebook site: LINK