Restaurants have always been a vital part of any New York City neighborhood. One of the greatest perks of being a New Yorker is the vast array of places we have to eat on any given night, even during a global pandemic–but over the past year, they did even more, banding together to feed those in need in their community and sending countless meals to frontline workers during COVID’s darkest days here last spring.
So now that summer’s here again, and the city’s back open in a way that seemed almost unfathomable during our long, dark Covid winter, let the multi-block party begin… even if that means ordering in – through Seamless we can keep the feeling alive with a great meal, made with love, delivered directly to our home. The choices of cuisine are staggering. The ordering couldn’t be easier. And it’s definitely the most delicious way to support your local favorites or try something new. When you donate the change on your Seamless order, your donation will go to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce to support LGBTQ+-owned restaurants impacted by the pandemic.
Gothamist and Seamless have teamed up to celebrate amazing restaurants over the coming weeks that, whether they’re a few blocks from your place or a bike ride away, are NYC favorites that we think you’ll love too. If you haven’t yet, check out the previous installment — food lovers guides to the West Village and Jackson Heights — and stay tuned for upcoming guides coming at you in the next few weeks. Next up: Harlem
Few neighborhoods in Manhattan these days can match Harlem in both the energy and variety of its food scene, with longtime stalwarts standing side by side with hopping upstarts along the broad boulevards and bustling side streets. To the east you have some of the best tacos (and tres leches cake!) in town; to the west, all that classic soul food, West Indian, and African fare; and everywhere there are new spots popping up, featuring almost every type of food you can imagine, often opened by locals who saw something missing in their neighborhood. Like, to take just one example, some really good homemade ice cream.
Given all of the additions around here over the past few years, an exhaustive listing of Harlem restaurants worth checking out would be an overwhelming enterprise, so we’ve pared our guide down to some new essentials, some old favorites, and a few places that took us by surprise. And even though it feels like things are getting back to pre-pandemic levels of social interaction and “openness,” remember that restaurants, and their workers, have been among the hardest hit of all businesses during Covid, and could always use your support by ordering a meal or two a week delivered to your home via Seamless.
More than 15 years ago, after a long career working in places like Sylvia’s and Windows on the World, Melba Wilson, “born, bred, and buttered in Harlem,” realized her longtime dream and opened her namesake restaurant on one of the busiest stretches of Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Melba’s menu is packed with comfort food favorites, from Country Catfish to BBQ Turkey Meatloaf to Eggnog Waffles, but folks often wind up getting the Fried Chicken (dark meat of course), which strikes the exact right balance between crisp and juicy. The sides–A$AP Yams, Down Home Peas and Rice, Low Country Collard Greens, Creamy Mac & Cheese–are always exactly how you want them to be, too. Just be super friendly to your dining companion at home to replicate the high-end hospitality of the Melba’s experience.
More good chicken, this time in sandwich format, can be had from the nearby Harlem Biscuit Company–“Biscuits yo Grandmama would love!”–as well as a bunch of solid breakfast/brunch options. And if burgers, wings, fries, and grits are more in line with your home delivery comfort food cravings, try Corner Social over on Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard.
Melba’s is located at 300 West 114th Street (212-864-7777) – Order Now
Lolo’s Seafood Shack
Right near Melba’s on West 116th Street is one of the neighborhood’s best Caribbean (by way of Cape Cod) restaurants, the always-festive Lolo’s Seafood Shack. Owned and operated by chef Raymond Mohan, who grew up in Guyana (often at his family’s roadside food stand), and Leticia Skai Young of East Harlem, Lolo’s features a terrific menu of things like Crispy Shark and Bake, Belizean Conch Fritters, Spicy Crawfish, and, for landlubbers, a very good Jerk Chicken with Johnny Cakes. Paint your apartment bright yellow, crank up the calypso, dig into a bag of Mohan’s Peppa Shrimp Boil with Garlic Noods, and it’s staycation time, baby!
For Island food with a Jamaican bent, Kingston on West 116th delivers heaping platters of Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat, and Oxtails, always with first-rate sides; and Greedy Pot over on Adam Clayton Powell makes some great Southern food with touches of the Caribbean–chef and co-owner Kevin Morrision was born in Jamaica, but has lived in Harlem since he was 10 years old–with standout BBQ Beef Ribs, Turkey Wings, and Fried Catfish.
Lolo’s Seafood Shack is located at 303 West 116th Street (973-629-8953) – Order Now
There are lots of great treats to be found in Harlem, whether for breakfast, afternoon snack, or dinner dessert, but the best doughnuts in this part of town right now definitely come out of the kitchen at Dan Cohen’s superb coffee counter and bakery, Super Nice. Cohen first got our attention more than a decade ago with his Danny Macaroons booth at Smorgasburg, but Super Nice shows that the man is way more than a one-trick baker. The fat, yeasty doughnuts, glazed up and often studded with crisp goodies like Fruity Pebbles, are stellar (and happen to be vegan), and the dense cake doughnuts, scones, cinnamon rolls, and croissants (and croissant sandwiches) are all equally delicious. Breakfast in bed never tasted so sweet
Also in East Harlem you can order the best Tres Leches Cake you’ve ever had in your life from the appropriately named Tres Leches Cafe on East 112th. And if you prefer your dessert to be frozen, Harlem got a world-class ice cream parlor a few years ago when local couple Petruschka Bazin Larsen and her husband Nick opened Sugar Hill Creamery on Lenox Avenue. The Brownie Sundae here, in particular, is phenomenal.
Supernice is located at 156 East 117th Street (917-261-5069) – Order Now
East Harlem is famous for its taco stands, and one of the best is Taco Mix, which sits on a semi-chaotic stretch of East 116th Street and specializes in all sorts of meaty Mexican dishes. Start with the tacos, of course, which are served on good corn tortillas and come piled high with roasted pork and pineapple (the Al Pastor), or spicy Chorizo, or tender Lengua, or Chipotle Chicken (Tinga), or all sorts of delicious offal. Burritos, tortas, quesadillas, and platters of nachos are all also guaranteed to satisfy your conveniently-delivered, at-home fiesta cravings.
More top-tier tacos can be had from La Chula, chef Julian Medina’s corner shop on East 116th, but ordering one of the many varieties of burritos from here is also a solid move; and, switching gears a bit, the old-school lunch counter Lechonera La Isla, located about as far east on 125th Street as you can go, makes one of my favorite Chicharron platters in town (the Pernil is really great too).
Taco Mix is located at 234 East 116th Street (732-624-6850) – Order Now
On West 116th right near Frederick Douglas Boulevard is one of the only Somali restaurants in New York City, Safari. Run by Maymuuna (Mona) Birjeeb and chef Shakib Farah, Safari delivers a full range of dishes you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else, such as Chicken Suqqar, a traditional southern Somalia dish that’s like a spicy stew served with chapatti bread, and Hilib Ari, or roasted goat in bizbaz sauce. And for dessert, get the Malab Iyo Malawax, which are Somali crepes drizzled with honey and a dusting of shuk shuko sugar.
Other Harlem spots specializing in regional African cuisines that are well worth a delivery or three include Lenox Sapphire on Malcolm X Boulevard, which makes Senegalese fare like Maff Lamb with a creamy peanut sauce, the fish stew Thiebu Djen, and Yassa Poulet, or lemon-marinated chicken. And Abyssinia on West 135th has plenty of Ethiopian favorites, such as spicy Beef Awazi Tibs and the lentil-based, vegetarian Ye Miser Wat.
Safari is located at 219 West 116th Street (929-209-8893) – Order Now
Andrew Ding, from northwest China’s Xinjiang region, had an instant hit on his hands when opened The Handpulled Noodle on Broadway about six years ago, with locals packing the place for bowls of, among other things, Spicy Cumin Lamb served over a variety of “ding ding” noodles. So much so that Ding opened a second, slightly larger spot, called simply The Noodle, last fall. Both Noodle joints have similar menus–in addition to the Spicy Cumin meat dishes, you can get dumplings, Ginger Chicken Soup, and a number of vegan options, like Curry Jackfruit–and both deliver lively, hearty food that really hits the spot.
For a different sort of noodle dish, this time from Singapore, order from the excellent Native Noodles, right over the border in Washington Heights and one of my favorite new restaurants to open during the pandemic. Get the Laska Noodles with Shrimp, the vegetarian Satay Peanut Noodles, or the porky Wonton Dumpling Noodles here. Finally, if rice is more your thing, JJ Johnson’s great Fieldtrip on Lenox Avenue has six different varieties of the grain, all topped in style with fish, meats, and/or vegetables
The Noodle is located at 370 Malcolm X Boulevard (551-214-2552) – Order Now
This post is a sponsored collaboration between Seamless and Gothamist staff.