Though tourists may visit, Harlem is for the Harlemites. But if you want to blend in and see some of the best spots in town, we’ve got you covered. Harlem is a kaleidoscope of the sights, sounds, and flavors of its history. If you don’t leave Harlem dripping with the mouth-watering flavors of soul food, the unique notes of jazz, and the beating heart of poetry, then you missed out. To get a glimpse into how to do it right, dive into the list below.
Ginny’s Supper Club
Located in the basement of the Red Rooster, one of Harlem’s most iconic and delicious restaurants, there is a speakeasy that you do not want to miss: Ginny’s Supper Club. Whether you go for the weeknight jazz or the Sunday gospel lunch, you are sure to enjoy the music and the iconic cooking of Chef Marcus Samuelsson. Known for its Ethiopian flared soul food and jazz tunes, plan to stand in line a while since this is one of Harlem’s most popular spots.
A piece of history not to be missed, the Apollo Theater was built in 1914 to house a burlesque show. The Apollo Theater has been inspirational in understanding Black music and had a hand in the creation of hip hop, rhythm and blues, jazz, and the like. Showtime at the Apollo was an important show that came from the Apollo Theater. Today you can still enjoy a show in its treasured seats or even try your hand at Amateur Night, an Apollo Theater staple.
I, Too Arts Collective
Located in the leased brownstone that was once Langston Hughes’ home, this cultural mecca continues to celebrate the role of poetry in Harlem. Take a poetry class or enjoy a poetry reading in this historic, meaningful building. I, Too Arts Collective sponsors Poetry Salons, Speaker Series, and other weekly and monthly events that bring the spoken and written word to light.
At the Wallace and Harlem Public
There are many great places for jazz and nightlife in Harlem, but don’t be fooled into thinking that is all there is. You don’t have to find jazz or poetry to love Harlem. If you love cheap beer, dinosaur chicken nuggets, and giant Jenga games, the eclectic bar At the Wallace is for you. If you are a bit more of a purist as far as bars go, head to their brother bar Harlem Public to find a great cheeseburger and a refreshing pint of beer. Both of these places offer a varying perspective of Harlem that is not always apparent.
The “Queen of Soul Food,” Sylvia Woods, established this special restaurant in 1962. Celebrities, dignitaries, and vacationers all continue to flock here. A stellar menu of southern favorites including oxtail, catfish, and chicken and waffles wows guests, along with live music on Wednesdays and other special events. Sylvia Woods is an excellent example of the kind of woman that made Harlem great: she followed her dream from the South Carolina farm of her youth and made a name for herself as a restaurant owner. And now, she gives back through her scholarship program for the community. Beyond her philanthropy, her food will astound your palate.
Shrine Musical Venue
The Shrine Musical Venue pulses like no other place in Harlem. It features live music seven nights a week with Black artists, highlighting jazz, hip-hop, reggae, and more. After ten pm, a DJ starts spinning tunes, which could only be described as other-worldly. This is a music scene you won’t soon forget, and a trip to Harlem would not be complete without a night at the Shrine.
The Hamilton Grange
Yes, the line from the hit musical was true! Hamilton and Eliza did build a little house in Harlem. Although it has been moved several times from its first location in a cornfield, it now resides on 141st Street. Go beyond the typical museum by enjoying one of Alexander Hamilton’s homes. Visiting is free, but you need to make reservations to see upstairs.