In the past six weeks, we’ve had an influx of people visiting us in Harlem — my dad, friends, cousins, and surrogate family. It’s been a busy, but fulfilling time of catching up with people we don’t get to see on a regular basis.
Inevitably, when people visit us in NYC and ask us what they should do while in town, our suggestions always involve some food, because 1) we’re greedy and absolutely love to eat, and 2) there’s just so much good food here in New York.
When it’s time to take visitors out to eat, there’s no shortage of good choices in Harlem, and it seems like a new place is opening every month. Jordan and I are famous for visiting a new restaurant, liking it, declaring it our new regular spot, and then not making it back for six months. #fail. #exaggerators. But that’s just because there are really that many good choices.
But when we take visitors out to eat, we tend to have our go-to’s in the neighborhood — the places we depend on for consistently having great food. And I thought for any of you living in the neighborhood or planning to visit Harlem, that this little guide could be helpful in leading you to your next tasty meal.
7 Places to Eat In Harlem
Lido – 2168 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY
Lido serves Italian cuisine, and everyone we take there loves their meal. The chef, Serena Bass, is really talented and passionate (she once advised me to order a dish because it had really delicious tomatoes she’d found at a farmer’s market, and boy was she right). She’s catered for tons of celebrity parties, including Sarah Jessica Parker’s wedding. All this to say, she knows how to run a restaurant with good food. Lots of people frequent Lido’s brunch, but we tend to visit for lunch during the week or dinner in the evening.
Melba’s – 300 W. 114th Street, New York, NY
There’s no shortage of soul food in Harlem, and most people are familiar with famous, long-standing spots like Silvia’s or Amy Ruth’s. But our favorite is Melba’s, which is run by Melba Wilson, Silvia’s niece. The food is delicious, and her chicken and eggnog waffle with strawberry butter won the Throwdown! against Bobby Flay. My mouth is legit watering as I think and type about this. What makes Melba’s even nicer is the atmosphere — it’s a small space that feels familiar, and the people are really warm. If it’s someone’s birthday, the entire place sings “happy birthday” — the Stevie Wonder version, of course.
The Edge – 101 Edgecombe Ave, New York, NY
Up on a pretty residential street of brownstones is The Edge, a cafe owned by two sisters. This is a great brunch and lunch spot, and we’re there pretty regularly. The inside is beautiful, with exposed brick and each table topped with a couple small buds of fresh flowers. The menu reflects the places the sisters have lived — New York, England, and Jamaica. So when we want our fix of ackee and saltfish, washed down with a glass of sorrel, we love that we can head there. And perhaps two of the nicest things about The Edge is you won’t find a bunch of people buried in their laptops, and their brunch menu is available on weekdays.
Jin Ramen – 3183 Broadway, New York, NY
This place often has a wait, but it’s for a good reason. I’d put their ramen up against the most acclaimed ramen spots in the city, particularly their spicy tonkatsu or curry ramen. Really good and steps from the 1 train at 125th street, if you’re coming from someplace else in the city. Just don’t expect to linger – once your bill is paid, they will expect you to leave to make space for waiting guests.
Patisserie Des Ambassades (Les Ambassades) – 2200 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY
If you ask us, this Senegalese bakery makes the best french pastries in Harlem. Our favorite is the raisin roll — when we lived just two blocks away, we’d treat ourselves to them on Saturday mornings. And we’ve had many people tell us their almond croissants are the best they’ve ever had. This place is dangerously good, and if you speak French, you can flex your skills with the folks who work there.
Levain Bakery – 2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY
I feel like God confirmed His love for Harlem when He put one of the three Levain locations in our midst. These cookies are serious and huge. So big, I can’t eat one in a single sitting without mildly hating myself. Jordan, on the other hand, would gladly pulverize one with no regrets. My favorites are chocolate peanut butter and oatmeal raisin. And for those of you who want to try the amazingness but won’t be in Harlem anytime soon, you can order their cookies online.
The Cecil – 210 W. 118th Street, New York, NY (UPDATE: The Cecil is now closed.)
This is one of my favorites, because the food is really unique. It’s African Diaspora and Asian fusion. So think oxtail dumplings, fried chicken fried rice, and brown rice grits, and you’ll start to get the drift. The food is delicious, the ambiance is beautiful (they have this huge painting in the dining room that I wish I had the bank account and space to put in my apartment), and you’ll likely leave having had a dish with combinations you’ve never had before. This feijoada pictured below had me ready to book a ticket to Brazil the next morning.
(Photo of feijoada by Paul Wagtouicz. Photo of beet salad by Lido. Photo of chicken and waffles by Melba’s Restaurant. Photo of The Edge by Robert Shaffer. Photo of ramen by Jin Ramen. Photo of croissant by Niko Triantafillou. Photo of cookies by Stefan Karlström.)