Friday, August 30, 2013

☞ EAT: Cantina Arriving in South Harlem

We reported that a BBQ called Suzy-Q's was arriving at 112th and ACP/7th Avenue but apparently the new business will now be call Cantina (which is an excellent name btw).  Paperwork filed earlier in the year had a BBQ listed as the new business but Cantina just put up their signage yesterday at this picturesque South Harlem location close to Central Park.  There are not a lot of better businesses in the area yet but Cantina could be the game changer if the food and service is as attractive as their storefront.

☞ INTRODUCING: Hot Bread Kitchen Challah

The Jewish Holiday Rosh Hashanah starts up next week and East Harlem's Hot Bread Kitchen has introduced Challah Turbans for the holidays.  Hot Bread Kitchen is a local non-profit that teaches immigrant women the art of artisanal baking so they can start up their own businesses but also sells the delicious baked goods to local restaurants.  A main baking center is located at La Marqueta at Park and 116th along with the Almacen which is the their retail shop that will be selling the bread.  Come by this great East Harlem bakery and get some artisanal Challah for the holidays!  More details on HBK at the official website: LINK

☞ MEET: Coffee Bark at St. Nicholas Park

Saturday, September 7th, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, Coffee Bark at St. Nicholas Park by St. Nicholas Avenue, closer to West 136th Street.   Coffee Barks are monthly events for dog owners to meet one another, and discuss issues and volunteer opportunities in the dog run. They are held on the first Saturday of the month at the St. Nicholas' Dog Run from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Coffee, donuts, and other refreshments are provided. Those interested in volunteering at the dog run who would like to join the mailing list should send an e-mail to

Thursday, August 29, 2013

☞ LISTEN: The Cecil & Minton's Fall Debut

Press kits were sent out late this afternoon announcing the planned opening dates of The Cecil and Minton's Playhouse.  The jazz lounge known as Minton's, which has been around since the late 1930s, closed down a couple of years ago but former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons has now taken over the iconic Harlem institution and will make it over in fashion similar to the Red Rooster.  This updated version of Minton's at The Cecil Hotel will have a restaurant called The Cecil which will officially open September 23rd at the corner of 118th and St. Nicholas.  An Afro-Asian offering will be on the menu so expect the unexpected for this new eatery which will be the sister supper club to Minton's around the corner which will open roughly in mid October.

Currently the neon sign at Minton's has been taken down for restoration but folks can see what it looked like earlier in the summer from our past post: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Artist & Craftsman Supply

Several Bespoke readers have been raving about the new Artist & Craftsman Supply shop at ACP/7th Avenue by 126th Street so we checked it out recently.  For those who need any arts supplies of any sort, this place is veritably awesome!  The top floor has a cafe and one walks down a funky spray painted stairway to one of the largest art emporium spaces that one will ever run into.

There apparently is an Artist & Craftsman set up in Brooklyn already and this is probably why the entire 8,000-square-foot loft space looks like it should be a venue for some underground dance party.  Besides the expected paint, marker and drawing supplies, one can buy stretched canvases or even marble blocks for sculpting.  A friend also mentioned that there is apparently 350 colors of glitter to choose from also at Artist & Craftsman.  Prices are competitive so a trip downtown to Blick or Utrecht will no longer be needed for designers and artists living uptown.

☞ BESPOKE: International Harlem Allure

Harlem has always attracted people from all over but a new international set of residents are now making a big presence uptown.  In the art world, Swiss born Ugo Rondinone will be moving uptown within the next few months or so and will be the most famous artist to be established in Harlem in this modern decade.  On the fashion front, Ethiopian model Liya Kibede (above photo shows the model featured in the windows of the 125th Street H&M last year) has lived a quiet life uptown with her family for several years now even though she is one of today's most established supermodels in the world.

Then there is Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson who is probably one of the most important cultural figures to establish themselves in Harlem in the past decade and has genuinely embraced the neighborhood's rich history. It is also interesting that this new generation has chosen Harlem as their homes during the height of their success as oppose to the start of their career.  Harlem still remains a mystery for many New Yorkers but somehow these expats have discovered the charms of the village located uptown.

☞ 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:

☞ DWELL: 146 West 127th Street Brownstone

A 16-foot-wide brownstone (at center of photo) just arrived on the market for the asking of $800K but appears to probably be an SRO based on what can be found on the DOB website.  This location between ACP/7th and Lenox Avenue is just steps away from the trendy restaurants on Lenox and the express subway but is on a pretty average block in Central Harlem.  There probably will be a lot of work needed for the interior or facade and a tenant is currently in place so this might not be the best investment for a first time homebuyer.  More on Streeteasy: LINK

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

☞ SHOP: The Triangle Cafe on FDB

The Triangle Cafe looked like it would open about 3 years ago on FDB/8th Avenue and 121st Street but the space still remains dormant today.  This corner of South Harlem could host a great outdoor eatery but word of mouth has it that the church owned building would prefer a non profit type entity to take over the commercial lease.  All of the interior has been finished up for some time but finding the right business appears be a big obstacle at this point.  Check out the interior of the Triangle Cafe in our past post: LINK

☞ REMEMBER: The Last Fire Watchtower

The Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, along with its Steering Committee of neighbors and friends, the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, has announce that they have raised the $4 million necessary to restore Harlem's Mount Morris Fire Watchtower in Marcus Garvey Park.

This is the last of 11 watchtower built throughout the city in the 1850's and has been deteriorating for several decades now.  Harlem parks have been poorly funded in the past but now it seems that a lot of grassroots efforts with a little help from local politicians have helped restore these public spaces.  There will be a celebration today, Wednesday, August 28th at 10:30AM at the tower at the top of the Marcus Garvey Park to acknowledge all who helped out: LINK

☞ EAT: Brunch Weekends at The Grange

The Grange in Hamilton Heights has now announced that brunch will be served on both Saturdays and Sundays.  We have not been able to stop by yet but the PR folks at the new eatery on Amsterdam at 141st Street sent over a couple of photos to remind us what we are missing.  What stood out the most was the eggs Benedict with pork belly instead of standard ham and fingerling potatoes are used for the home fries.  There are sweet options also available but everyone should just drop by to see for themselves why The Grange has become an instant neighborhood favorite.

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

☞ REVIVE: Whole Foods at Morningside Park

Saturday, September 7th from 10:30AM-12:30PM, Whole Foods Kids Day at Morninside Park, between 116th and 122nd Street.  As part of a first-time nationwide effort for Whole Foods Market and the communities it serves, kids and families from New York City are joining the company’s Team Members to help out at Morningside Park.

All kids are welcome to spend the morning beautifying Morningside Park while also getting creative with fun games.  Older kids will be invited to participate in weeding, planting, trash pickup and more, while younger kids will take part in an interactive activity where they re-imagine what they want their neighborhood to look like. Whether it is more playgrounds, trees or parks, our friends at ioby will help them draw the ideas on large posters that will be hung around the park on wooden stakes. Following all of the hard work, kids (and grown-ups!) will have a chance to “eat the rainbow” as we like to say, with a build-your-own salad bar, plus all of the fixings, in honor of the Whole Kids Foundation.

More details can be found at this event website: LINK

☞ DRINK: What's Up with Blue Monk?

A new lounge on 125th Street called Blue Monk applied for a liquor license 9 months ago but the space  still sits empty today.  Folks might remember that this used to be the old Mobay location at 215 West 125th Street which shuttered last fall and it appeared that another better establishment would take over by 2013.  We walked by the storefront in the past week and it looks like the space has been gutted and building materials are on site but not much is happening.  Does anyone have details on why it is taking so long for Blue Monk to happen?

Read more about Blue Monk in our past post: LINK

☞ SHOP: Eastside Floor Supplies

The new wood floor warehouse called Eastside Floor Supplies over on Park and 124th Street might just be the place for a lot of brownstone renovators to head over to.  This East Harlem business has a showroom, stock warehouse and even a parking lot for customers on site.  Check out the Eastside website for more details: LINK

☞ 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.

Monday, August 26, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Back to Black on 125th Street

Menswear has become as nuanced as women's in the past few years and street wear has increasingly been influential as of late.  We snapped another photo on the corner of Lenox and 125th Street which shows a trendy black color combo that features the parody Comme des Garcons tee which started a trend a couple of years ago.  All black dressing peaked in 90s and has had a comeback as of late since a new generation is rediscovering that decade and reinventing it as their own.

The literal aspirational label consciousness of that previous era has now been replaced by a fashion set that acknowledges that they know the rules but are decidedly rebellious about brandishing a logo as a status symbol.  Check out the most current parody tee hitting the streets in our past post: LINK

☞ DWELL: Record Contract for Astor Row

A rare historic Astor Row house at 220 West 130th arrived on the market for $2.5 million this past June and had a contract out on the property by the end of July.  Astor Row is an official landmark block between Fifth Avenue and Lenox Avenue that was founded by the Astors of New York City.  These identical 19th century houses with wood porches attached to the facade are in a decent location just east of Lenox Avenue but the block still has quite a few shells that never seem to get renovated. With that said, $2.5 million is a very respectable contract price for any home in Harlem and especially for one that does not have the majority of original details intact within the interior.

Number 220 will set a record for Astor Row if the closing price is anywhere near the initial asking which we suspect will be the case based on current market activity.  More details on this home can be found on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ DRINK: Early Fall Harlem LGBT Mixers

Summer is almost over and some of the monthly LGBT mixers such as Coffee Grinder at Lenox Coffee and Lido's LGBT night have returned.  All of the other events happen weekly so make sure to come out and support the local Harlem LGBT community:

Monday, August 26th, 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 Monday after taking a long summer break: LINK

Wednesdays,  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

Wednesdays, 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 the weekly gay soiree at Billie's Black goes from 5:00PM to 7:00PM and there will be drink specials all night.

Sunday, September 8th, 9:00PM-12:00AM, J*adore at Jado Sushi, 2118 FDB/8th Avenue by 114th Street.  Jado Sushi's weekly Sunday LGBT social called J*adore Jado Sundays will take a break for the Labor Day weekend but returns in September with happy hour prices from 9:00PM-10:00PM and additional drink specials:

Thursday,  September 12th, 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 Paul Ferrer providing the music.  The bespoke coffee shop took the summer off but has brought back the monthly party for upcoming season.

☞ SHOP: Late Summer Farmers Market 2013

Out of all of the farmers markets in Harlem, we tend to favor the Morningside Market at Manhattan Avenue and 110th Street because of its seasonal selection.  Standards such as fresh corn and root vegetables are available for the summer but the arrival of Zucchini flowers, Japanese turnips and tiny Seckel Pears recently caught our eye.  Then there is the purplish red Callaloo which seems rather exotic  but apparently is a staple of Caribbean cuisine.  Other vendors include an artisanal Mexican ice pop stand, Brooklyn cured, Bombay Emerald Chutney Company,  the pickle guys and a couple of great local bakeries makes this Saturday Harlem market the one to check out: LINK

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Friday, August 23, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: A Harlem State of Mind

Harlem has always had social borders that went beyond official political lines of the neighborhood.  West Harlem is a good case study since most consider Sugar Hill up by St. Nicholas as being in Harlem. For the most part, the historic neighborhood that starts right above 145th Street and ends at the crest of the hill at 161st Street, is in Harlem.   The only thing to point out here is that Harlem's most northern border ends at 155th Street from river to river.  So basically the last half dozen blocks within the Sugar Hill District is officially not in Harlem but don't say that to the folks that live there since they will give you a different story.

Then there is Morninside Heights which stretches from 110th Street to 122nd Street along the Broadway corridor.  According to the Community Board 9 website, West Harlem consists of Morningside Heights, Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights.  Once again, if one were to ask the residents of Harlem if the Columbia Universtity campus blocks were part of Harlem, one would probably hear a contrary comment.

☞ SHOP: New Beats Studio by the Apollo

Everyone now knows by now that Red Lobster will be the anchor tenant in the new building by the Apollo theater but now a second retailer has appeared on the scene.  New Beats Studio has taken over the top floor of the said building now with signage announcing their arrival.  These guys apparently sell high tech headphones base on what we can see from their website: LINK

☞ QUESTION: Has SpaHa Cafe Closed?

SpaHa Cafe has been shuttered for a good part of the summer and now it appears the boutique cafe has closed in East Harlem.  A Bespoke readers sent in the above photo of the shop just north of 116th Street on Lexington Avenue and the storefront seems to be up for rent.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

☞ LISTEN: Showmans Jazz Club on 125th Street

We received the below tip from a regular of Showmans Jazz Club on 125th Street which now has the record of being Harlem's longest running jazz lounge until the new Minton's Playhouse opens up in the fall:

Showmans Jazz Club has existed at least 75 years (since 1942). The lounge was initially on 125th Street next to the Apollo. Then the club was forced to move to 8th Avenue, and once again to move from the new Magic Johnson complex on 8th Avenue between 124th and 125th Street. Showmans now owns the premises it occupies and is well managed and co-owned by Mona Lopez who treats her customers as guests in her home. The music is provided by a variety of notable Jazz musicians whose schedules are frequent and music dynamic. Showmans Jazz Club is clean, well decorated and what I like most is they honor great jazz musicians of the past by displaying large portraits of icons of the Harlem Jazz era. Please inform your readers about this wonderful club at 375 West 125th Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Convent Avenue.

☞ DWELL: 529 West 142nd Street Sets Record

Number 529 West 142nd Street just sold for $2.625 million which makes the townhouse the record holder for West Harlem in recent years.  The 20-foot-wide home (far left at the above photo) was just purchased and renovated a year ago and the high end finishes mixed with original interior details attracted a buyer within months of the townhouse returning to the market.  Read more about this building that was asking for $2.695 million in our past post: LINK

☞ REVIVE: The City College Corridor

We have mentioned it a couple of times in past posts but now it appears that new businesses are starting to see that the area around City College in West Harlem makes sense as far as location goes.  This corridor in the mid 130s to the early 140s on Amsterdam Avenue has breathtaking views of one of the most romantic college campuses in New York City.  There is plenty of student foot traffic year round and the Hamilton Heights Historic District or Sugar Hill is in walking distance which all have who are looking for better establishments to go to.  With Coccola, The Grange and now Clove Indian opening up within less than a year, we expect the many available storefronts in the area to secure leases sooner than later.

☞ EAT: The Grange Debuts Brunch Service

The Grange started dinner service over the summer and now the gastro pub has brunch set up for the coming weekend.  This new eatery on the corner of Amsterdam and West 141st Street is one of the new West Harlem establishments that is changing the dining scene in Hamilton Heights and has been incredibly popular since they opened earlier in the season.  Brunch officially starts on Sunday at 10:30AM:

☞ INTRODUCING: Harlem Brew Garden at MIST

Harlem Brew Garden Pop-up at MIST, August 22nd Through November 3rd, Thursdays-Sundays, 12:00PM-4:00PM and 6:00PM-10:00PM.  MIST is located just east of Lenox Avenue over at 46 West 116th Street will be hosting a pop-up beer garden until the fall which will feature Sugar Hill Ale and a seasonal food menu.  For more details on My Image Studios, check out the official website: LINK

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

☞ DWELL: 123 West 118th Street has Sold

It took about a year but the 20-foot-wide Mount Morris Park townhouse at 123 West 118th Street has finally sold as of this past week.  Almost everything seems to be intact in the roughly 5,000-square-foot, 3-family home but it appears it all needs to have a few updates.

There is quite a bit of work that needs to be done here for the asking price of $2.695 million but we would not do a gut renovation since so much original details still exist (that bathroom maybe just needs a more historically accurate marble hex tile floor and maybe some re-glazing).  The Mount Morris Historic District is one of the best neighborhoods in Harlem when it comes to architecture, shop proximity and express transportation and closing numbers have been pretty much to the asking prices as of late. More details on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ LISTEN: Jimmy Heath at Marcus Garvey Park

Friday, August 23rd, 7:00PM-8:00PM, Charlie Parker Jazz Festival Presents Jimmy Heath, at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, Mount Morris Park West and 122nd Street.  The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival continues a summer of free jazz concerts with the notable jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater this Friday: LINK

☞ EAT: Clove Indian Arriving in Hamilton Heights

Hamilton Heights in West Harlem is about to get its first Indian restaurant.  Clove Indian has placed signs up at on old shop at 1592 Amsterdam Avenue between 138th and 139th Street.  This location by City College also saw Coccola along with The Grange open nearby in the past year so new businesses are starting to get the message of the value of this key location.  Indian restaurants have opened in East and South Harlem recently but this is the first ethnic eatery of this kind to debut above 125th Street.

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

☞ DWELL: Ugo Rondinone Moving to Harlem?

The media reported back in 2011 that the very notable Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone had purchased the abandoned Mount Morriah Church on Fifth Avenue with plans of making the building into community space but never mentioned anything about residential component.  With that said, we walked by the building that is still under scaffolding on a recent visit to upper Fifth Avenue and noticed a curious permit out front.

Just back in July, the existing church was apparently approved for a non-commercial gallery and one residential unit.  A new certificate of occupancy would now be needed but it appears that Mr. Rondinone might just be moving from the West Village to Harlem.  Read more about the dramatic all cash purchase of the Harlem Church in our past post: LINK

☞ EAT: Harlem's Oldest Restaurants

The handful of Harlem Renaissance establishments that have stuck around in the past decades have shuttered more recently and that had us wondering what restaurant was the oldest to stay open uptown. We first thought of Patsy's in East Harlem which was open in 1933 but there is another Italian establishment that is much older.

Rao's located at 114th and Pleasant Avenue debuted in 1896 when the neighborhood started attracting many Italian immigrants from the overcrowded smaller tenements downtown.  Both restaurant are the last bastion of when the east side was known as Harlem's Little Italy up until the 1950s when Urban Renewal changed the demographics of East Harlem.

☞ SEE: Unicyclists at Harlem Shake on Lenox

The other thing that was going on this weekend in the Mount Morris Park Historic District was that Harlem Shake had unicyclists out front promoting the eatery's menu.  This popular burger and shake joint at 124th on Lenox had three dextrous fellows riding around the outdoor cafe with various flyers by early afternoon on Sunday.  Harlem Shake appears to have been doing very well this summer but constant promotion is the name of the game to continue having a great business in this new era of Harlem.

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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.

Monday, August 19, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Vintage Cars on Lenox Avenue

There were a few of these retro Continentals on Lower Lenox this weekend that caught everyone's eye.  This section of the Mount Morris Park Historic District almost looked like a film set with these vintage automobiles lined up by the landmark brownstones but it all appears to have been more of a promotional element for a local shop.  Does anyone know why the cars made an appearance?

☞ SHOP: Harlem Lost and Found at Harlem Flo

Harlem Flo at 2276 FDB/8th Avenue and 122nd Street just received a new shipment of the coffee table book Harlem Lost and Found by notable Harlem historian Michael Henry Adams.  Folks who love the architectural history of the many landmark Harlem neighborhoods should check the book out and drop by the local Harlem boutique florists for other chic home offerings.

☞ EAT: Bacon Donuts at Toast Chicken Bar

We might have succumbed to ordering fried chicken a couple of times at the new Toast Chicken Bar but it is a curious donut creation in the carryout window next door that has us tempted to maybe break our summer diet further.  Apparently the new eatery on 123rd at Amsterdam makes their own donuts every day and now has introduced the bacon donut to West Harlem.

The savory and sweet concept is trending these days but has its root with the whole chicken and waffle idea that is in the majority of southern eateries in Harlem.  Bacon on everything is also something New Yorkers appear to be responding to these days so this new donut might be something to try at least once .

☞ DWELL: One Morningside Interiors

One Morningside has not topped off yet at the corner of 110th Street and Morningside Park but the new condo's website now has interior renderings posted.  The marketers also did a good job showing diversity in their campaign and it appears that families are a key demographic that the development wants to attract: LINK