Wednesday, June 11, 2014

EAT: AN ABRUBT FINISH AT MOUNTAIN BIRD


A tip received yesterday mentioned that the acclaimed Mountain Bird restaurant on 145th Street was serving its final meal at that location last night after being open for a little over 9 months.  We headed over early evening to talk to the owners before dinner service started and now confirm the fact that the poultry-centric Harlem eatery is no longer open as of today.  So what happened?

Business has been good since all of the important food critics have given the thumbs up to the tiny spot on a shabby strip of Central Harlem so we assumed this has to be related to the lease of the storefront.  The husband and wife team ran a catering service out of this location for several years before renovating the space for a more formal restaurant in 2013 so the lease was already quite old by the time they opened.  Apparently the landlord wanted to increase the rent beyond a point were they could sustain the quality and reasonable prices of the establishment.  Putting things into perspective, this was probably a much needed push since the business was booming and Mountain Bird ideally needs a bigger location that could hold more seats and a bar for those who want a quick drink or the occasional non-reservation meal.

With all that said, can anyone recommend a corner of Harlem above 135th that the eatery should move to?  Mountain Bird wants to stay close to Sugar Hill and probably would not look too far south because of prohibitive commercial rents.  This little eatery is one of Harlem's top dining destinations and would definitely be a great local anchor to any residential location.

58 comments:

  1. Many empty store fronts in the Dunbar.

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  2. There's a restaurant space on W 155th St between St. Nicholas and Amsterdam on the south side of the street. It has at various points been a cafe, but it's closed up (again) now. Great access to subways and buses--a better location than the 145th St locale.

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    1. Hi! that location is admin/office space used by the agency that runs the SRO behind it but it woudl've been PERFECT!

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  3. Don't know if there are plans or not, but a bunch of storefronts just cleared out on Broadway between 151& 152 on the west side.

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  4. West 135 Street corridor from ACP to FDB would be a great location-

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    1. That is the perfect area for a restaurant

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  5. No let's keep it in Sugar Hill....St Nicholas, Broadway or Amsterdam from 145-150 .....easy walk from subways and a rapidly changing neighborhood!

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    1. i agree! Def the best place to have it! I would go very very often!

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  6. They were looking at the shuttered Wine Gallery space at St. Nicholas but the owner does not want food there. That location would have been great since it is right in front of the express train station.

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    1. That's too bad. I wonder why not? That would be a great location for a restaurant and would provide plenty of area for outside seating.

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  7. OH nooo and I didn't even get to try it yet :((

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  8. There is an open space in the same building where Manhattanville cafe just opened, on 142nd st. and Bradhurst. I'm not sure how big the space is, but it's on the other half of the building where the cafe is; and since the owners have just put condos on the market, I would think that having a restaurant would do much to help spure the neighborhood along.

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  9. This space at 142 Edgecombe was looked at as a potential but being next door to the new coffee shop was an issue since Mountain Bird plans to have lunch service.

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  10. This is upsetting news! I second the idea of the Manhattanville Coffee building - that would be fantastic, although perhaps still too small. A huge part of the appeal of this restaurant has been the location - both the "outpost" quality, and the need it fulfills in the neighborhood. I hope they can find a new home with a similar vibe ASAP!!

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  11. There is an open restaurant store front on the corner of 122nd / Broadway. I know it is further south then you mention but it is a great neighborhood and could use a great restaurant.

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  12. ...122nd and Broadway already has quite a few great restaurants. Why not somewhere near St. Nicholas Park, either down closer to Maison Harlem at 127th or up further near the St. Nick / Edgecombe split at 135?

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  13. 147th and St. Nicholas corner brownstone. Street level. Used to be the site of "Lundy's".

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    1. Yes! Perfect location and look.. Where Lundy's used to be works. It sits on a corner so that is a plus and it is easily accessible by train. And it is still Sugar Hill.

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  14. Sugar Hill has far more establishments than Central Harlem along the ACP/FDB corridor, plain and simple. What about one of the store fronts on FDB between 138-139 that are being gutted? I believe all the churches are far enough a way to block a liquor license from being on that corner. There's a gallery opening on 139 and FDB, and it would be a nice addition to the block front on the avenue of Striver's Row.

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  15. There are far more establishments in Sugar Hill than there are in Central Harlem along the FDB/ACP corridor, plain and simple. What about the corner of 138 and FDB where they're renovating the store fronts?! There's a new gallery opening on 139 and FDB and it would add a nice presence to what could be a beautiful commercial strip along the avenue. I believe it's also far enough away from any church so it would be allowed to get a liquor license in that spot. Also -- any news on the coffee shop at 139 and Edgecomb?

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  16. What about around 155-157 on Broadway, near the 1 train and Audubon Terrace, near Taszo's? There is a dearth of decent restaurants.

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  17. I know it is not Sugar Hill, but there is a commercial corner spot that has been available for 2 years at the corner of 119th and 5th Ave. At the bottom of a relatively new residential building, residential area, new condos across the street (5th on the Park), Marcus Garvey Park one block away. Area needs something new, competition is Gran Piatta d'Oro (Italian) 3 blocks away on Fifth and Barawine and Settepani on rapidly changing Lenox.

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  18. Argh!! This is why Harlem landlords are the worst/stupidest in the city! So a new business does really well in an area that basically isn't performing well at all (in terms of commercial activity), and the solution is to raise the rent to such a point that the business has to leave?! Nobody wins in a case like this, and it happens all the time.

    These idiot landlords would rather sit on an empty storefront for years, rather than making a steady stream of income, with good businesses that will eventually attract others. Worse yet, the ones in high profile strips think they are in the same price bracket as downtown, but not even banks are opening up here because the rent vs. income stream isn't high enough. Harlem landlords are literally their own worst enemy, and they are messing up the entire neighborhood because of it as well.

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  19. The Columbia Head Start space at Hamilton Pl. and 142 is empty, and next to the future Hog's Head.

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  20. There is a relatively large space which used to be a bodega at 155th and St. Nick on the Northeast corner.

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    1. Yes this would be great..there are actually multiple adjacent vacant storefronts in a row (former Bodega, Pizza place and Pawn shop). Friedland property. It is RIGHT across the street from the new Sugar Hill building designed by David Adjaye.

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  21. Southeast corner of 142nd and Broadway. Nice bright space--perhaps a little big, but it's been cleaned out and has been empty for at least a year.

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  22. I don't know much about commercial rents but I think a good place to be is somewhere along the 140s on BROADWAY!

    There is potential to make Hamilton Heights a more accessible place to be and it starts with better businesses grouped together, not scattered here and there.

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  23. I have to say I absolutely love your blog. Sorry to hear that Mountain Bird has to move.

    I'd like to recommend a space that's been open since I've moved to Sugar Hill/Hamilton Heights --the downstairs of my building at the corner of Amsterdam and 148th Street at 500 W148th St. It's a commercial space made for a restaurant, 2 blocks from the express train, and in a booming area --with Chipped Cup and Harlem Public within 2 blocks. Hopefully that will work for them!

    Another spot that is vacant, but I'm not sure if it's available, is 400 W148th Street --the old bar at the corner of St. Nicks & 148.

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    1. that space used to be Triple Candie, a gallery, not a restaurant. the landlord wants $8000/month for only 2000 sq. ft. in a 3rd tier location, btw, to give you an idea of how insane they are up here.

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    2. It advertises as "restaurant ready, so perhaps they changed the interior? Either way...Damn.

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  24. There are at least 3 empty storefronts on Broadway between 142 and 145. MB should also get the foie gras off the menu. Harlem should be the last place to promote cruelty.

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  25. I have eaten there a few times. The duck duo is to die for as is the head to tow sampler. The wife is extreamly friendly and helpful. I hope they find a new location quicly and stay in the Sugar Hill/Hamilton Heights area.

    Amsterdam has a number of storefronts for rent between 141st and 145th and then rent is substantially lower than the available store fronts on Broadway (not to mention a lot more peaceful).

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  26. The only good news to come out of this is that their new location (staying in Sugar Hill) will most defiantly be on a nicer block. Their current block has to be one of the ugliest in Harlem and only reinforces the stereotype of Harlem as a burnt out ghetto for those who venture up from downtown.

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  27. How can we get in touch with them to help them?

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  28. send details to: harlembespoke@gmail.com

    we can forward the message from any interested parties.

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  29. What can we do to make landlords more reasonable and make smarter decisions....it's in their own best interest for these new restaurants and businesses to come in and for the neighborhood to improve for all.

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  30. Just slightly south of 135, but goodness knows that unoccupied space next to Carvin's mini donuts could use something with enough culinary interest to make a go of the spot. It's been empty a long while now, maybe the landlords would be reasonable.

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  31. That's a large space and probably still quite a lot even at a discount.

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  32. It's very hard to get people to stop being greedy and think about the overall sustainability of the neighborhood. I wish I knew the solution.

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  33. How about the Twin Donut space at 157 and Broadway? TD will be closing soon, as its owners are the ones opening Caffe Benne around the corner. Could be an amazing restaurant space, with 3 sides of windows and a subway entrance literally at its doorstep... Only problem: Friendland Properties seems to be aiming for national chains in the building, and is asking $25K/month for the space.

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  34. Perhap's the former Tony Merenda's Flash Inn at McCombs Place and West 155th St.?

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  35. they were great and I hope they'll stay in the same neighborhood. How about the empty spaces at 149th(?) and FDB? please don't go too west...stay in west/ central harlem !!!

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  36. Just a theory-- I wonder if maybe that church across 145th presented a problem-- NYS has strict on-premises liquor laws, and if a restaurant is within 200 feet of a church then a permit cannot be granted.

    The nice thing about the 145th location was the availability of parking. It wasn't hard to find a space on that block, especially across the street.

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  37. Had nothing to do with the church. The lease expired in the beginning of the year and they were month to month during the negotiation process. It didn't work out so they packed up. No longterm lease, no longterm commitment.

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  38. 148 st just west of Amsterdam on Southside, used to be an art gallery, then a dance studio only commercial space available

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  39. Sad to lose a great dining spot in our neighborhood! I stopped by this week to thank them for many great meals and wish them luck. Owners Keiko & Ken both said they were really motivated to end the lease because they want a bigger space (about double the size) and don't consider themselves "forced out" because of the rent. They told me the management co really wanted them to stay bc they are great for the neighborhood and even tried to rent them the adjoining space but the residential building's lobby prevented a contiguous space. Thanks to Ken & Keiko and we'll hope to see you open up nearby soon.

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  40. The .99 cent store on the south side of 145 between St. Nick and Edgecombe recently closed. It is a small space but it looks as if there is an upstairs. Not restaurant ready, but could be a good location because the subway is close. The store front is between a pizza place and a Subway sandwich shop.

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    1. A selling point for the .99 cent store space is that most likely there is access to a backyard garden.

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  41. There is a vacant storefront on Amsterdam between 139th and 140th right next to the LG laundromat. This would be a nice addition to The Grange, Cocolla and soon to be Grill on the Hill.

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  42. 153rd and Amsterdam - what used to be something like the 12 O Clock Café? Cute wooden storefront, previous café, and has two lions in front.

    400 Tavern - 148th street just off of St. Nicholas.

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  43. 400 Tavern - just off of Amsterdam on 148th Street. Has a backyard space (it looks like it does anyway). Just down block from 147th street entrance to ABCD

    153rd and Amsterdam - corner shuttered former café, with two lions and cute multipaned windows.

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  44. so disappointed to see this - i was just checking harlem bespoke for the address details, as we have been meaning to go to mountain bird for months. however, heartened to see the outpouring of ideas for a new location! any updates on where it might be?

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