There are a ton of great places you can eat in New York, but the experience of dining al fresco in Harlem is unrivaled. Not only is my neighborhood drenched with history, it also has the most culturally diverse crowds and a great mix of culinary staples that can satisfy almost any appetite.
So if you’re looking for a new brunch spot or a cool place to have an outdoor meal on a warm night, try one of my favorite spots:
2153 Frederick Douglas Blvd (at 116th street)
Harlem Tavern is a restaurant and beer garden that on some nights can feel like the best sports bar in town and on others can you give you an intimate front row concert experience with live music on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and a jazz band on the weekends.
310 Lenox Avenue (btw 125th and 126th streets)
Named in honor of the legendary Harlem speakeasy, Red Rooster, is the neighborhood’s first restaurant helmed by a top chef, which has made it a major culinary destination. Rooster serves up a fusion of comfort food and a variety of cuisines inspired by foreign locales. And the best thing about dining al fresco here is that you’re almost guaranteed to spot a celebrity sitting a few tables away (everyone from Alicia Keys to Tom Brokaw has visited Red Rooster at least once).
196 Lenox Avenue (on the corner of 120th street)
Settepani is an Italian restaurant with a heavy focus on Sicilian cuisine. Aside from the sexy interior and draw of their seasonal menus, I love that the outdoor dining option here provides a much quieter meal than some of the others due to a lower amount of foot traffic in the area.
321 Lenox Avenue (on the corner of 126th street)
“A warm, inviting, vibrant and pulsing scene,” is how the owners of Corner Social describe the restaurant they built directly across from marquee Harlem destinations such as Sylvia’s and Red Rooster. And having dined here several times, I can say that they’ve painted the perfect picture of what the feeling is like once you’re inside.
If you’re a young professional this is definitely the spot for you and after you’ve had a quick meal you can head next door to COVE lounge (not affiliated with CS) for the live DJ and a nightcap.
328 Lenox Avenue
Sylvia’s Restaurant has been serving classic soul food favorites in Harlem since 1962 and has since become a cultural landmark in the community. And while some may argue that it’s not the best soul food option in town, it’s one of those places you have to try at least once. (Soon you’ll be able to get Sylvia’s in Florida as the family is building a second location in St. Petersburg).
2168 Frederick Douglas Blvd (on the corner of 117th street)
Lido Harlem is a great italian restaurant that provides a culinary experience designed to transport your taste buds straight to Italy. The vibe at Lido is so laid back that you always feel as if you’re dining amongst friends.
414 Lenox Avenue (btw 130th and 131st streets)
Chill Berry is Harlem’s first frozen yogurt shop and it is absolutely delicious. So if you’re looking for a way to cool off this Summer make sure you stop by and try to snag one of the shop’s four outdoor seats (not shown in this pic) because there’s never a dull moment when you’re people watching in Harlem. (Ed Note: The owners of Chill Berry are getting ready to open Harlem-Yo, a new fro-yo and burrito bar on 8th avenue.)
308 Lenox Avenue
Before Red Rooster and Corner Social moved in the only other restaurant near Chez Lucienne was Sylvia’s. But there has never been any reason to panic about new neighbors because Chez has it’s own crew of loyal patrons and a reputation for great French cuisine.
701 West 135th Street (on 12th avenue)
Covo Trattoria is tucked away near West Harlem Piers Park, a beautiful waterfront area that is one of my absolute favorite places to visit. It’s also perfect for grabbing a meal and then walking it off along the water. And it’s usually pretty quiet unless there’s a day party going on next door at the Hudson River Cafe.
Hudson River Cafe
697 West 133rd Street (on 12th avenue)
Also located near the West Harlem waterfront, Hudson River Cafe, is a latin restaurant that probably offers the most expansive outdoor dining options in the neighborhood. HRC features a two level patio surrounded by garden walls, a courtyard bar and frequent live bands that keep the party going.
341 St. Nicholas Avenue (on the corner of 127th street)
Maison Harlem is a quaint French bistro that almost didn’t happen. To gain community support, the owners of Maison launched a Kickstarter campaign that was never fully funded, but they didn’t let this stop them. Now they’ve become one of West Harlem’s newest hot spots.
Yatenga French Bistro & Bar
2269 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd (btw 133rd and 134th streets)
If you’re looking for a change of taste and want to venture a little further uptown, stop by Yatenga French Bistro & Bar. The inspiration for the name of the restaurant was taken from the Yatenga Province in West Africa’s Burkina Faso, an area that is known for its French influences. And what I love most about Yatenga is the way they effortlessly blend the African culture and European flare into the menu and every other part of the restaurant.
*If you’d like to keep up with the dining scene in Harlem make sure you follow my other twitter account @EatInHarlem.