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Harlem Restaurants to Suit Any Mood

By Jeff Mays | October 6, 2011 6:55am
Sakita Holley, editorial director of the Eat in Harlem blog, says Lido Harlem provides great Italian fare at reasonable prices.
Sakita Holley, editorial director of the Eat in Harlem blog, says Lido Harlem provides great Italian fare at reasonable prices.
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Ebony Johnson

HARLEM — Just call it the Red Rooster effect.

Ever since the hotspot owned by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson opened late last year, more attention is being paid than ever to Harlem's burgeoning restaurant landscape.

"Harlem's restaurant scene is more exciting now because of the attention. The sustained coverage of Red Rooster has brought more people here and they are discovering new places," said Sakita Holley, a publicist and editorial director of the soon-to-be relaunched Eat in Harlem blog.

The diversity of restaurants has increased quickly. From beer gardens such as Bier International to speakeasies such as 67 Orange and a brick oven pizzeria planned for Lenox Avenue, Harlem residents have more choices than ever before.

"You can have a different experience every night if you eat in Harlem," said Holley, who eats out uptown at least three times per week.

Holley thinks it has to do with Harlem's unpretentious vibe.

"Even the celebrities who go to the back room downtown, talk to everyone when they come to Harlem," Holley said. "You can be the most guarded person but as you cross 110th street, the guard drops. It's like you are family here. Everybody has a story and people will talk to you."

Below we've listed six restaurants that Holley believes are worth a visit. Depending on your mood, there's something for everyone.

Mood: Hearty meal on a budget

Lido Harlem
This is the perfect place to satisfy your Italian food cravings without breaking the bank. Favorites from executive chef Stephen A. Putnam include the pappardelle with braised lamb, orecchiette with shrimp, or the classically prepared hangar steak. As an added bonus, make sure you sit on the patio so you can enjoy these last few weeks of warm fall nights.
Lido Harlem, 2168 Frederick Douglas Boulevard; 646.490.8575.

Mood: Quick burger fix

Milk Burger
If you ever find yourself on the east side, make sure you drop by Milk, which sits in the same location as the old Chimney BBQ. Milk Burger opened up earlier this year to much controversy that their menu was heavily inspired by Shake Shack. After a few minor adjustments, they created a menu that is deliciously their own. The wife of food personality Anthony Bourdain, Ottavia, recently gave the new restaurant a Twitter shoutout. Favorites include the Milk-a-Bello burger with their signature milk sauce or the black angus salad. Throw in some truffle-glazed sweet potato fries and you're good to go.
Milk Burger, 2056 2nd Ave; 212.360.1988.

Mood: Super fresh

The best, most authentic Mexican food you can find outside of Spanish Harlem. This family-owned restaurant serves up house specials such as the mole Lolita's and the wet burrito, which comes smothered in red, green or mole salsa with a savory stuffing concoction. The ingredients are procured from local farmers markets and test farm fresh. It's a quaint, unassuming restaurant located on the corner 113th. If you're ever craving a dish that reminds you of a home-cooked meal, this is the place to go.
Lolitas, 57 Lenox Ave.; 212.222.6969.

Mood: Crazy cocktail

67 Orange
67 Orange is a throwback to the speakeasy days of old Harlem and was inspired by Almack's Dance Hall which was one of the first black-owned bars in New York City. The crowd here is always an eclectic mix of Harlem residents and cocktail connoisseurs that come uptown for one-of-a-kind drinks, including those mixologist specials that aren't on the menu. With its frequent tastings, live performances and ever-changing menu, every visit will feel like the first time.
67 Orange, 2082 Frederick Douglas Boulevard; 212.662.2030

Mood: Want to be seen

Red Rooster Harlem
No one talks about Harlem these days without mentioning famed chef Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster, and with good reason. This neighborhood hot spot is a celebrity and city social set favorite. Recent diners have included Bono, First Lady Michelle Obama and international dignitaries. The menu is a curated blend of comfort food and items that reflect Samuelsson's frequent travels. And although they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, the best time to visit Red Rooster is at night because there are few sexier places to enjoy a nightcap and the soothing sounds of a live band. Red Rooster, 310 Lenox Ave.; 212.792.9001

Mood: Laid back Sunday

Hudson River Cafe

HRC is located steps away from Harlem's west side water front on a block formally known as restaurant row. And when it's old neighbor Talay was turned into the new Phuket Lounge and Nightclub, Hudson River Cafe instantly became the perfect remedy for a night of non-stop partying. So whether you go for the unlimited brunch cocktails or the amazing shrimp & grits, you will not be disappointed. Hudson River Cafe, 697 W 133rd Street. 212.491.9111.