Tuesday, December 31, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Pabst Harlem circa 1913

This photo of Pabst Harlem restaurant was taken around 1913 and thus is at least a century old.  Beer gardens were very popular in the early 20th century and the company responsible for PBR established the grandest one located on 125th Street just east of 8th Avenue. One would imagine that this particular location would have been the place to dine out at for New Year's Eve in Harlem until prohibition shut the establishment down by 1920.  The domed dining portion of the building still exists today on the 124th Street side of the complex but has been used for storage for the past decade or so.  It is all up on the market now so this landmark might not be around much longer in the future if a developer decides not to restore the venue.  More on Pabst Harlem can be found in our past post: LINK


Photo courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

☞ EAT: Cheri will Open in Early 2014

The table d'hôte restaurant called Cheri had planned to open in December but folks should expect the new establishment on Lenox Avenue to now debut somewhere in January 2014.  This corner of the Mount Morris Park Historic District by 121st Street has been picking up in the past year since Barawine, Harlem Shake and Boulevard Bistro have all set up shop nearby.  We have already previewed the well appointed interior space so what is taking so long?  Some delays involving final paperwork is usually the culprit from what we can gather since the French eatery has been ready to go for the past month or so.  Stay tuned.

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Harlem's Best Renovated Interiors





There are a lot of stark drywall homes with moderately priced finishes in Harlem but a few of the best selling townhouses over the years have definitely had a designer on hand to oversee the restoration.  Below is the list of our favorites that we have covered in the past:


Number 401 Manhattan Avenue belonged to the Victorian curator at the MET and sold back in 2010 for $1.55 million: LINK

Number 2087 Fifth Avenue was owned by an architect who restored all the original details and sold the brownstone for $2.075 million back in 2011: LINK

Number 532 West 150th belonged to an interior decorator who sold the West Harlem townhouse back in 2011 for $1.495 million: LINK

Number 351 West 120th Street by the Morningside Park corridor sold for $2.75 million in 2012 and was one of the first post recession Harlem homes to almost reach $3 million: LINK

Number 529 West 142nd Street sold for $2.625 million in Summer 2013 and was overseen by a developer with a high taste level who knew what they were doing: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: La Terenga Arriving on 139th

A Bespoke Reader by Strivers Row reports that the corner space at 144 West 139th Street and ACP/7th Avenue will now have a new restaurant based on the paperwork posted in the window.  La Terenga has now applied for a liquor license and the eatery that will most probably be Senegalese based on the moniker.  We could not find any other details on the new venture but the renovated storefront is a nice corner space so maybe this might be one to look out for in 2014.

☞ EAT: New Year's Eve Dinner in Harlem

Here is our list for last minute dinner reservations in Harlem for New Year's Eve.  Please inquire if there is a table minimums.  Prices might vary for later evening bookings closer to midnight:


Central Harlem
Mountain Bird, 231 West 145th Street between FDB/8th and ACP/7th, RSVP: 212.281.5752  Early and late evening 5-course Prix Fix for $49 and $59, BYOB: LINK

Maison Harlem, 341 St. Nicholas Avenue at 127th Street, RSVP: 212.222.224.  Harlem's best French bistro will feature a la carte items such as Beef Wellington and Grilled Lobster: LINK


West Harlem
The Grange, 1635 Amsterdam Avenue at 141st Street, RSVP: 213.490.1635.  The Grange will feature a 5-course Prix Fixe menu, wine and a Champagne Toast for $85: LINK

Harlem Public, 3612 Broadway at 149th Street, RSVP: 212.939-9404.  HP will feature a 4 hour open bar with small bites and a champagne toast for $80: LINK


South Harlem
Barawine, 200 Lenox at 120th Street, RSVP: 646.756.4154. Prix Fixe menu for $75 starting 8:00PM: LINK

The Cecil, 210 West 118th and St. Nicholas Avenue. RSVP: 212-866-1262.  Roast Pig Prix Fix for 6-8 people for $600: LINK

Lido Harlem,  2168 FDB/8th Avenue and 117th Street, RSVP: 646.490.8575. Frederick Douglass Boulevard's favorite eatery is having a Prix Fixe New Years Eve menu that features seared duck breast, crisp short ribs, sauteed scallops and filet mignon.  Three courses start at $60 and four courses for $75: LINK

☞ EXERCISE: Balance Pilates in South Harlem

Balanced Pilates has just opened at 305 West 123rd Street between FDB and St. Nicholas Avenue by the Dwyer Building.  For more on this new studio, check out their official website:  www.balancedpilatesnyc.com

Friday, December 27, 2013

☞ DWELL: How Much to Restore a Brownstone?

Even if one could inherit a brownstone shell for nothing, the cost factor to fix one up can be quite substantial if not carefully planned.  Some folks who are not savvy at what they are doing could reach the $1 million mark in a typical renovation for a stable, 4-story house under 20-foot-wide but knowing how to budget and having an architect could save hundreds of thousands.   The general rule of thumb for a gut renovation with drywalls, new pipes, updated electrical, moderate original detail restoration and reasonable finishes has always been around $100K per floor.  Most renovators start losing money with contractors when they make last minute changes that were not stipulated on the original contract so sloppy planing can add up.

Those with a good eye will splurge on important elements such as industrial quality kitchen appliances and stone countertops but also know that cabinetry styles can be purchased made with more affordable materials but still retain the looks of a classic kitchen.  Marble in the bath can just be used on the floors to give an element of luxury but classic ceramic subway tiles on the walls are always a tasteful and inexpensive design choice.  Having higher end faucets, shower fixtures (triple handle vs single) is a better option than having every single tile surface in the bathroom made of marble and this also provides a classic look without going over budget.  As far as getting an estimate goes, get four experienced contractors to provide a quote and select one that is somewhere in the middle for best results.

For more on this type of article on brownstone renovation cost, check out our past post: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Renovations at Native

Native on Lenox at the corner of 118th Street has been closed since September but folks should expect a new version of the restaurant to open in 2014.   We walked by this block adjacent to the Mount Morris Park Historic District recently and saw that the interior was totally gutted and work was quickly progressing.  Word of mouth has it that the new Native will be more on the higher end so folks should expect some dramatic changes when the opening finally comes about.

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

☞ REVIVE: No Progress at The Victoria Theatre

The $143 million development plan for the Victoria Theatre on West 125th Street was supposed to break ground in January 2013 but it appears that next year will probably be a more realistic timeline.  There will be two new 26-story towers built on the site which will have a hotel and an affordable rental component when all is done but there has been no word on when construction will actually start.  There will also be two theaters in the complex which will also be home to The Classical Theatre of Harlem and Jazzmobile.  Check out the rendering in our past post for more details: LINK

☞ EAT: Lido for New Years Eve 2014

New Years Eve Prix Fixe Dinner at Lido Harlem,  2168 FDB/8th Avenue and 117th Street, Tel: 646.490.8575. Frederick Douglass Boulevard's favorite eatery is having a Prix Fixe New Years Eve menu that features seared duck breast, crisp short ribs, sauteed scallops and filet mignon.  Three courses start at $60 and four courses for $75. Check out the menu on the Lido the official website: LINK

☞ SEE: Harlem on Film Holiday 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller just came out over the holiday and folks might recognized a notable Harlem subway station in one of the daydream scenes.  Check out the full trailer and look out for the familiar West Harlem location at the 0:24 mark: LINK

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Thomas Nast, Harlem and Santa


The modern version of Santa Claus was invented by political cartoonist Thomas Nast who lived with his family in Harlem for many years in the mid 19th Century.  This jolly version of the Saint Nicholas mythos was made famous by Nast in Harper's Weekly December 25, 1866 addition which would indicate that the American version of Santa evolved from the art studio of the Harlem artist's home.    Some sites say that Mr. Nast lived in the Mount Morris Park neighborhood and others mention 125th Street by Fifth Avenue but an address has not been circulated until now.

We found one record that provide the exact address of the Nast estate as Number 24 West 125th Street which would be the north side of Mount Morris Park just west of Fifth Avenue.  Today a tenement building sits on this site but from 1864 until 1872, Mr. Nast's Harlem would have looked like the above photo which shows Fifth and 127th Street circa 1870.  All of the houses would have mostly been free standing with yards and would pretty much look like some of the small historic upstate towns like Hudson New York.  Thomas Nast would eventually relocate to New Jersey after a series of political cartoons stirred up criticism about the corrupt New York City government and thus procured threats to the young family in Harlem.  The property would probably have been sold to developers a decade or so  later during a time when brownstones and tenements would take over the new landscape of 125th Street.

Archival photo courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

☞ DWELL: 607 West 146th Sold Higher

Number 607 West 146th Street has some great bones and found a buyer quickly for the asking price of $2.1 million this past summer.  The renovations which restored and retained much of the townhouses history eventually closed for $2.2 million which will be a record for a house that is west of Broadway in Hamilton Heights.  This part of the Broadway corridor is still a lttle rough around the edges but eateries like Harlem Public, The Chipped Cup and Il Caffe Latte 145th Street has appeared nearby in recent years.

☞ 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, December 23, 2013

☞ EAT: Harlem Christmas Dining 2013

Below is a list of Harlem restaurants that will be open for Christmas Eve and Maison Harlem will be open Christmas Day:

Maison Harlem, 341 St Nicholas Avenue at 127th Street, Tel: 212 -222-9224.  Open for Christmas  Eve and Christmas Day with a special selection featuring broiled lobster and filet mignon: LINK

Mountain Bird, 231 West 145th Street between FDB/8th Avenue and ACP/7th Avenue, Tel: 212-281-5752.  Open for Christmas Eve featuring a 5 course tasting menu for $49 featuring honey glazed duck alongside a confit, ostrich carpaccio, sautéed red snapper and a vegetarian selection,BYOB: LINK

The Cecil,  210 West 118th and St. Nicholas Avenue. Tel: 212-866-1262.  Open for Christmas Eve featuring a Special Fried Whole Long Island Peking Duckling,  Dinner for Two $135. In Addition Regular Lunch & Dinner Menus Available.  Please Request Duck for Two While Making a Reservation: LINK

☞ REVIVE: Cathedral Additions at 92 Morningside


We have been wondering what the new design of 92 Morningside would look like since it has been under scaffolding for most of the year and we got the answer this weekend.   A design rendering has now been posted on the sidewalk shed of the future rental building on 122nd Street which shows the penthouse additions with the reported cathedral ceilings.  This distinct building facing Morningside Park  has been a shell for a decade and thus we are happy that the renovations are under way even though we would have liked a more traditional update that would haver restored the lost cornice.

☞ SHOP: What's Up with Tonnie's Minis?

A few Bespoke readers observed that Tonnie's Minnies on Lenox by 123rd Street has definitely been shuttered for the past couple of weeks. There has not been any signage posted on the situation so many are wondering if the cupcake shop had closed. Does anyone know the details?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: The Original Bearded Lady


The guys who are opening Bearded Lady Espresso shop at 118th and FDB/8th Avenue originally had some inspiration from a French postcard circa 1910.  Cafe de la Femme a Barbe was the original Bearded Lady Cafe back in the day and probably located in some bohemian section of Paris.  Folks in Central Harlem who are fans of the early century feel of Lenox Coffee will be excited to hear that Bearded Lady Espresso has the same owner involved who plans to carry on a similar aesthetic that would put a smile on the original bearded dame.  Word of mouth has it that a mid January opening is to be expected and the interior is currently coming along nicely.  There is also an official Bearded Lady Facebook fan site where we borrowed the original image from: LINK

☞ DWELL: 123 West 118th Sold Lower



The 20-foot-wide Mount Morris Park townhouse at 123 West 118th Street finally sold after a being on the market for a year and public records now show that it did no quite make the $2.695 million asking price. This 5,000-square-foot, 3-family home has so many original details and is within our choice of top Harlem neighborhood for 2013 but sold eventually for $2.165 million.  Most of the Harlem brownstones on the market have generic white wall interiors so a townhouse with so much history intact is quite a find.  We just hope the new owners know the proper way to restore this type of home and not do a gut renovation.

☞ LISTEN: Live Jazz at the Grange

 Sundays, 7:00PM-10:00PM, Sam Taylor Trio The Grange, 1635 Amsterdam at 141st Street, no cover. Our Best Harlem Bar 2013 winner will be featuring live jazz on Sunday nights now featuring the Sam Taylor Trio.  The Grange is of the exceptional spots in Hamilton Heights so check out what the noise is about this weekend:  LINK

☞ SEE: Gilded New York at MCNY

Gilded New York at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. Inaugurating the Museum’s Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery, Gilded New York explores the city’s visual culture at the end of the 19th century, when its elite class flaunted their money as never before. In New York, this era was marked by the sudden rise of industrial and corporate wealth, amassed by such titans as Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, who expressed their high status through extravagant fashions, architecture, and interior design. The exhibition presents a lavish display of some 100 works, including costumes, jewelry, portraits, and decorative objects, all created between the mid-1870s and the early 20th century: 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: HarlemBespoke@gmail.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

☞ EAT: Jin Ramen to Expand


Jin Ramen has been open for almost two years now on Broadway by 124th Street and it appears the notable eatery will be expanding.  We received a direct message via Twitter from Jin just now hinting on the businesses growth but there still are not any clues on how this will come about.  Could another location open in Harlem?  Ramen shops are such a big downtown trend and Jin cornered the market uptown very quickly because of the quality of their offerings.  Now it looks like Jin is poised to be even a bigger presence in Harlem when 2014 arrives.  More details will be posted as they come in.

☞ REVIVE: Sidewalk Sheds at 721 St. Nicholas

Number 719-721 St. Nicholas Avenue has been abandoned for at least over a decade now and the building on Sugar Hill will apparently finally be going through renovations.  A construction team arrived at the corner of 146th Street this week and work permits online allude to an alteration filed separately.  It is all one big SRO now but it seems that a new buyer has come along in the past year to convert the landmark buildings into something otherwise.

The alteration permit is not up online yet but once the scaffolding is finished, the updated paper usually has to be posted on the site.  An express subway line that gets folks to 14th Street in 15 minutes is just literally around the corner from here so any new housing would greatly benefit from this key location.  Folks might remember that a previous developer wanted to add on a penthouse addition which was rejected twice by the Landmarks Commission: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Artimus Selected for 110th

We have been receiving messages for the past week on the closed gas station at 110th Street on FDB and it turns out one developer with some history in Harlem has already been chosen for the site.  As many might remember, the city owns the land and took it back from the gas station owner with the goal of 80/20 market/affordable housing.  Artimus is now responsible for building something worthy of this part of Central Park but have been most notable for their monolithic Fifth on The Park (photo) by Marcus Garvey Park.  DNAinfo has more details on the story but nothing proposed at this point as far as architecture: LINK

Architecture uptown has been pretty much on the moderate side in recent decades and we were hoping for something more ambitious like one of the original proposal for this corner: LINK

☞ SHOP: Where Should Trader Joe's Go?

When Whole Foods opened on the Lower East Side, Chelsea and the Upper West Side over the past few years, Trader Joe's soon followed.   This has us thinking where could possibly be a good location for the very affordable organic grocer?  We immediately think of the cast iron building 313-315 West 125th Street that was restored just around the corner from express trains on St. Nicholas Avenue.  There is a dollar store currently at the lower levels that seems to be temporary and the top floors are quite empty.  The aforementioned express subway station on the corner is a good connection to West Harlem and the location is easy to walk to from Central Harlem.

There is also the new building at west side of St. Nicholas Avenue on 125th Street which has the DSW shop and Blink Fitness.  Then there is the new commercials space by the Apollo which also has  a storefront available. Other developments are also being planned further east on 125th Street but that area needs to clean up a lot more before a Trader Joe's would ever arrive in our opinion. Trader Joe's is a lot more conservative than Whole Foods so we do not see anything working out if an express line is not nearby and the area will probably need to already have a few key retailers established already.

☞ PETITION: More Safety for Morningside Avenue

The Streets Blog has an update on the issue of safety along Morningside Park by adding traffic calming measures and bike lanes.  Harlem has mostly citizens that do not have cars and street safety has been made a major concern over the years but Community Board 10 appears to be siding with keeping the traffic flowing quickly as usual even though Community Board 9 has approved the new plan.  Streets Blog is very pro bike and pedestrian safety so the view might be slightly skewed but we kind of think this is okay.  Check out the site for a controversial recap of what happened Tuesday at the CB10 meeting: LINK

Another citizen has been trying to get the Department of Transportation's attention while CB10 tries to make up its mind on the matter by getting 1,000 signatures for the additional bike lanes so show your support by signing the petition which is about a third of the way there: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Made En Harlem Taqueria


Tips have come in that a public notice has been posted up by 115th Street and FDB at the former dry cleaner space.  It turns out that Made En Harlem Taqueria will arrive soon.  Word of mouth has it that the owner is from Washington Heights and will be opening the eatery in South Harlem in early 2014.   The name is a bit odd but a Mexican eatery would definitely help mix things up on the FDB corridor.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

☞ EAT: Harlem Indian Restaurants of 2013

Harlem had a big year for Indian restaurant openings since four establishments have debuted and one more is on its way.  Below is the 2013 recap of new Indian eateries in the nabe:

Red Chili Cafe: located on 116th just west of Lenox.  Festive sit down eatery by Lenox Avenue:  LINK

Maharaja Palace: FDB/8th Avenue and 114th Street.  Minimalist sit down restaurant within the FDB corridor: LINK

Chapati House: Takeout (pictured) at Broadway roughly by 124th Street.  Some seating available: LINK

Royal Curry & Kabab: 112th on St. Nicholas for takeout orders only.  Kind of a whole in the wall but everything is new: LINK

Clove Indian: Amsterdam just north of 138th.  Possibly open in early 2014: LINK

☞ QUESTION: Harlem Roof Repair?

We received an inquiry from a Bespoke home owner who needed a contractor to patch up a leaking roof.  Any recommendations from the Harlem brownstone owners out there?

☞ INTRODUCING: Harlem Whole Foods Revealed


A tip did come in that the construction lot at Lenox and 125th Street had the building design up for the new Harlem Whole Foods on the plywood at the site.  The five story building is not so bad since it mixes glass and solid elements along with a corner entranceway that has a large awning.  Construction has been happening quickly on the lot so expect this development to be the next big one to finish up in Harlem.  A 40,000 square foot Whole Foods will open up on this corner in about a year along with Burlington Coat Factory which will have 75,000 square foot of space.  Click on lower image to enlarge

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

☞ DWELL: Record Set at 20 West 130th Street

An Astor Row townhouse at 20 West 130th Street was in contract this past summer and public records now show that the house has sold for $2.4 million.  These homes with front porches on the landmark Astor Row district rarely go on the market and this is the first time one of the buildings have passed the $2 million mark since the past recession.  Astor Row was nominated as one of the best Harlem micro nabes in our 2013 survey this year: LINK

REMEMBER: Frederick Douglass Boulevard c. 1980


A photo by Camilo Jose Vergara shows what South Harlem used to look like back in the 80s.  Some new residents wonder what the good old days were about uptown but maybe the 80s was not the decade in question.  The area below 125th Street on FDB/8th Avenue consisted of mostly open lots from burned down buildings and boarded up tenements during that period in time.  Drug dealing and crime was rampant and Columbia University advised its students to stay clear of nearby Morningside Park.  Many families moved further north in Harlem to get away from South Harlem in the 1970s and 1980s.

The lower photo shows the same buildings by 114th Street today which has a different outlook.  All of the empty shells and lots have either now been built on or restored in a part of town that is now replenishing its numbers.  South Harlem is now a mixed economy with new residents of many backgrounds and even different nationalities that have all helped the neighborhood become a desirable place to live once more.

☞ 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, December 16, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: An Anniversary at Red Rooster

It will be Red Rooster's 3 year anniversary in Harlem this week and we have to point out that Chef Marcus Samuelsson is still one of the most important figures in modern Harlem.  Some locals are tired of Red Rooster because it is so mainstream and commercial now but that is to be expected since the restaurant on Lenox has received so much exposure in the first couple of years.  The service can be spotty, reservations difficult to get and the place sometimes feels a bit touristy but the Rooster is still the best show uptown.

We don't go often because of the price point but this is the eatery that we take out of town guests that want to experience what's new in Harlem and have little time on their visit.  Ginny's Supper Club in the lower level also provides the old jazz club mood with a design that is more like the original clubs of Harlem during its height as the music capital of the world.  Lenox Lounge used to be the first visit on any guest tour but unfortunately that establishment was dismantled last year.

So congratulations Red Rooster for another great year!  Maybe in the future we can see a spinoff diner or a specialty business such as a biscuit shack that would be affordable to the average resident to visit at least once a week.

☞ QUESTION: Will Upper Convent Ave Develop?

A question came to our inbox about how quickly upper Convent Avenue will develop. This part of the Hamilton Heights Historic District located above 145th Street has impressive townhouses but has less activity in the blocks surrounding it.  This is definitely one of the more quiet areas of Harlem and it appears that the neighbors really keep everything in order.  Better establishments such as Harlem Public Il Caffe Latte 145th or the Grange are a manageable walk but hardly at the doorsteps for this part of town.

Our only take on the blocks above 145th Street is that it appears that more new businesses are starting to open in this region because the blocks further south have much higher rents now.  There is not a lot of buzz like South Harlem or Lenox so businesses tend to be open by folks who live in the immediate area.   The Sugar Hill corridor on St. Nicholas Avenue just one block over has great potential but not much has happened in the area except Mamma K's Soups and a wine shop.  There is a grocery store right there also and the express train gets one to 14th Street in 15 minutes.  So basically our opinion would be that the neighborhood is nice enough but those who are patient will probably be the best candidates to invest in this area.

☞ DRINK: Coffee Grinder @ Lenox Coffee

This Thursday, December 19th, 9:00PM -12:00AM, Coffee Grinder @ Lenox Coffee with DJ Bill Coleman, 60 West 129th, east of Lenox Avenue. The Central Harlem LGBT monthly night of music, drinks and fun has DJ Bill Coleman finally returning to provide the sounds for the evening.  Come meet the neighbors at this gay mixer that is free and open to all: www.LenoxCoffee.com

☞ READ: The Fire on 145th Street

We walked by 145th Street between FDB and ACP on Sunday to check out the aftermath of the fire that raged on the north side from Friday evening until Saturday morning.  The fire department had everything under control by Saturday but the block still smelled of ashes on Sunday morning.  Apparently the beauty shop next door to the church caught on fire first and then spread to the church and the adjacent dollar store which were all part of the same construction.  Only the front walls remain now so the entire section of the block will probably be torn down by this week.  Luckily there were no casualties since the fire started in the night time.  More details on Gothamist: LINK