The Best Places in Harlem for Weekend Brunch and Dinner on the Go.

From the end of 2020 a couple of restaurants sprung up in Harlem that you can grab a quick and tasty brunch or dinner while on the go, Saturday or Sunday without losing a step or a beat during a busy weekend.

The Noddle which opened up in Harlem on Lenox Ave (on 128th Street) which offers an alternative to the traditional “Chinese Restaurant” with high quality “in house made” Noddle’s with your choice of chicken, beef, or lamb. Mild, Spicy or extra Spicy sauce available suited to your taste. You can also choose regular thickness fresh pressed noodles, extra thick or ribbon (flat & wide) noodles which are made from scratch everyday!
Spicy Cumin Stir Fry with Lamb

One Saturday (while on the move all day) I picked up my favorite, Spicy Cumin Stir Fry with Lamb large flat noodles and a iced tea and took my “late brunch” or early “dinner” and rode to the park to eat (busy day) while on my way to meet people. No fuss, No muss!

Large Flat Noodles with Lamb

The Noodle is the sister restaurant to the “Hand Pulled Noodle” (which is on 3600 Broadway in Hamilton Heights)

Of course you can eat in (If your not in a hurry) and enjoy the best fresh hand pressed noodle’s in Harlem!
The Noddle Harlem

You can mix and match to find your favorite combination (which is half the fun) with the various noodle sizes and added extras! Would love to stay and chat….but I left already!

Chick’ N Cone

Also new on the block for 2021 is Chick N’ Cone! Now the it’s the old “chicken and waffles” brunch favorite, but with a twist! The “Chick N” is chopped up and placed within a waffle cone (which they make fresh everyday) and topped with their sauces (you can also get it on the side) and place in a cone frame for your enjoyment.

Making the Waffles!

One of the girls that work their told me that, everyone must pass “Waffle Making School” before being hired! It just has to be just right.

It’s a great novelty and spin on the chicken and waffle concept, and it’s fast as my order was ready in five minutes, and I sat and ate in the small but kinda cozy space and was back on the go in no time!
Empty Waffle Cone
Chick N’ Cone

Chick N’ Cone is located at 370 Malcolm X Blvd in Harlem. Stop by for a quick bite on the go for brunch or dinner. Another fun fact is that both these restaurants are right next door to each other! Swing through!

Restaurant Review: The Best Places for Outdoor Dining in Harlem.

After months of not being able to “eat out”, restaurants had to make many changes to comply with post quarantine rules for outside dining. During the latter half of the summer I went to check out which were the best for outdoor dining (and drinking) in Harlem.

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Renaissance was one of first to open with outdoor dining post quarantine, and It gave me the feeling that I could adapt to the new normal. This Sudanese owned restaurant has a well rounded menu (and a hearty happy hour). I love the shrimp tempura and seafood platter which can be quite additive, and they boost the 2016 chardonnay by the glass which is the best in Harlem or comparable to Bara Wine Harlem which has more than one selection of chardonnay. 

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Lido Harlem

Lido did not seem to miss a beat after outdoor dining was allowed, they were quick to set up a lovely outdoor dining space and the food is always on par with flavorful fancies, and delicious eats.

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Lido Harlem

B2 (B Squared) Harlem

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BSquared Harlem

This gem (hidden) of a restaurant is always worth visiting for their unique crafted cocktails and innovative dishes that tantalizing the palette. Still has the best catfish in Harlem along with fresh seafood selected by the owner/chef.

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B Squared Harlem
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B2 Harlem

Chaiwali Harlem

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Chaiwali is not only one of my favorite places to eat in Harlem, but it’s the most romantic setting to dine with you’re significant other. The most recent item on the menu, the Lotus fries is now one of my personal favorites!

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Chaiwali Harlem
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Chaiwali leads the pack of restaurants in Harlem in raising the bar on diner’s safety, with sanitizing stations all throughout restaurant as well as sanitizing the bathroom every hour on the hour.

Ruby’s Vintage/Sexy Taco Pop Up

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Ruby’s Vintage pays homage to the former Lenox Ave restaurant, and it’s iconic transformations from Native restaurant on 118th street. Have dinner and drinks while reminiscing of the golden age of the Lenox Ave dining scene of 12 years ago.

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Ruby’s Vintage
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Archer & Goat

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After some front renovation to comply with outside dining laws, Archer & Goat makes it’s return on Lenox Ave and opened late during the summer, but….better late then never! The simple yet complex dishes are a much welcome return!

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Archer & Goat
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Clay

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Clay

I had the pleasure of meeting the two charming ladies owners of this (low-key/upscale) restaurant, and the greater pleasure of dining there. A must visit indeed! This restaurant will have it’s own review which will be published in two days. Be sure to read it then!

I highly recommend these Harlem restaurant, but you don’t have to take my word for it…..go take a visit!

Restaurant Review: The Return of Chaiwali Harlem.

On Thursday December 19th 2019 I had the pleasure to be invited to a private “friends and family” re-opening party for Chaiwali Harlem! After a long hiatus (two years) Chaiwali has returned to reclaim it’s place as the Crown Jewel of the “Lenox Avenue Restaurant Row“. After receiving the invite sent to me by the lovely Anita Trehan and Natalie Pinto, I scrambled to clear my schedule for that day to attend.

20191220_104908(Anita Trehan Mike Strange, Diego Balarezo)

It was such a pleasure to be re-united with my old friends (family) and celebrate the return of this important restaurant venue on Lenox Ave.

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20191220_105125The laid back and sophisticated company was the highlight of the evening as I celebrated with my Chaiwali Family, old and new. And before I left the party I told Anita, Diego and Natalie that I would return next week to review the opening of the “New” Chaiwali, as the restaurant will open to the public the next day on Friday December 20th.

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On Christmas eve of 2019 December 24th, I returned to Chaiwali to have dinner and review the new and delicious items on the menu that the owner and chef Anita Trehan has created (it’s been awhile) and crafted after two years of preparation. As I walked in I was greeted by the gracious Natalie Pinto who took my coat and bag to place in the closet, and than took me by the arm to usher me into what was like a familiar home with some new trappings that seamlessly blended in with the old that remained.

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I stopped by the bar to have a drink, and chat with a charming gentleman, who Natalie introduced me to before being seated to have dinner. The gentleman said that I reminded him of a friend who used to frequent his bar in Japan, or more specifically Okinawa. Stating that my manner of dress and mannerisms made him reflect upon his friend there. After a brief and pleasant conversation, my stomach reminded me of why I was there in the first place, to review a new item on the menu for dinner. Natalie then summoned a waiter to seat and serve me, who was a very capable and likable gentleman by the name of Jevan Malaviya.

20200107_150629(Jevan Malaviya)

Jevan took a moment and seated me in a good and strategic table in the back near the outdoor garden (oh how I missed this place) and made suggestions on what was good on the new menu items. I started with the Pink Anari Beet Bhel: which was made with puffed rice, gram flour crisps, pomegranate, beets, potato and cilantro.

20200107_151742This Indian dish was deliciously spicy and hot, but just hot enough as to not numb my palate to much for the main course. I really enjoyed this culinary creation of Anita’s which proves that her skills just keep getting better.

20200107_151912The puffed rice added a complex texture to the dish which was unique, and I will most surly be having this again in the future. I ordered the Valonga Chardonnay to accompany the Anari Bhel, which was from Spain, un-oaked with hints of tropical fruits.

For the main course I had the Velvet Carrot Butter Chicken: served with carrot, plain naan or saffron rice, and organic butter cream sauce.

20200107_152136(Velvet Carrot Butter Chicken)

This creation by Anita was so wonderfully tasty, and was blended perfectly by the respective ingredients that when I ran out of pita bread to lap up the sauce I was temped to just lick the sauce off the plate (in the most ungentlemanly fashion) to give you the idea of just how good this entrée was!

20200107_152258During the course of entrée Natalie suggested pairing the Schalkenbosch Malbec: 2015, which had a very smooth finish and strong red fruit notes, with the butter chicken. Heeding her advice I was quite pleased with the excellent pairing, which invoked a new perspective on how I perceive food and wine pairing going forward.

20200107_150541The food really exceeded my expectations (which was very high to start with) and Anita even took a moment to come upstairs between cooking her amazing Indian dishes to chat for a bit with me, and all of her diners (it was Christmas  Eve after all) as one big family. I give the current incarnation of Chaiwali four and a half stars overall. and it’s everything you can expect from fine dining in Harlem.

Chaiwali is located at: 274 Lenox Avenue on 124th Street in Harlem.

Do yourself a favor and stop in for some of the best 1st World Indian Food Dining Harlem has to offer!

Restaurant Review: Dinner at Lido Harlem.

Now I have been going to Lido Harlem for drinks since around the time they first opened up in Harlem some years ago, but never really ate there (except for the occasional bar food, calamari and wings), and since I always liked the place, I thought it was high time that I actually did a review!

20191210_190703I arrive around a few minutes after 7pm and said to the manager at the desk up front: “dinner for one”. Right away was the response, and was taken to a table that was up in the front of the restaurant, in the mist of all the action, (it was quite crowded for a Tuesday night). Now I did not inform them that I was coming to do a review, and was trying my best to be “under the radar”, but after being seated, I noticed that the manager was staring a bit in my direction a few times. I also noticed that he whispered something in a waiters ear while trying not to look in my direction, but I saw it happen.

My waiter Vladimir, who the manager whispered to, promptly came over and asked if I wanted a drink, Chardonnay I said! (of course) and he quickly went to fetch it for me.

20191211_132259Lido is one of the few restaurants in Harlem that serve a decent Chardonnay, so I sipped upon it and enjoyed the bread while I perused the menu for what I would eat for dinner and critique for the evening. The Cannonball Chardonnay had a 2016 vintage (quite good I say) a California wine from Sonoma, that hints of Honeysuckle, Vanilla and Quince, and very full bodied. I loved it.

When my waiter Vladimir returned, I ordered the Center Cut Pork Chop, which was topped with sautéed Spinach with garlic cream, with Currants Agodolce.

20191210_192459The presentation was superb with the spinach on top the chop, and the other ingredients underneath the chop supporting it like mini table legs. It was a very unique presentation that was visually pleasing. Inspecting the “chop” I found that it was cooked very well, not too dry nor undercooked, and the garlic cream sauce was something noteworthy.

20191210_192515At this point I began to suspect that they were onto me, and knew who I was, so as I went outside for a smoke I introduced myself to the manager Patrick, and confessed that I just reviewed the food for the magazine. Patrick was delighted and the owner was standing nearby, and I could see by the look on her face that she was delighted too!

But as I stepped outside to smoke, I saw that a man had fallen in the middle of the street and holding up traffic, I rushed over to help him up, but he was obviously under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. I could get him to his feet, but he either refused, or could not walk to the safety of the sidewalk, even with the assistance of two other gentleman. I quickly called 911 for immediate medical assistance (and he was still in the middle of the street holding up traffic) exercising the “Good Samaritan Law”.

20191211_133451Several passerby’s walked up to me and gave me either nods or words of approval at my swift and effective action to rescue the gentleman (and resume traffic on the corner of 117th street and Fredrick Douglas Blvd). I returned inside of Lido to settle my bill, and was received like a hero for my actions outside to my amazement (I do this all the time, but, oh well) and returned to my table to sign my check. Since my cover was blown, and they knew I was a restaurant critic, I asked if I could take some photos of the interior of the restaurant for the article, which was met with a resounding yes!

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I also took the opportunity to check out the bathroom, which was clean, and also possessed a bit of charm.

20191210_193956As I made my way back to my table to collect my things, I saw former New York City Mayor David Dinkins sitting at a discreet table in the back of the restaurant. As I tried to keep a respectful distance, he nodded towards me with approval, and I extended my hand to the former “Hissonor” he noted my “heroics” outside and inquired of my visit to Lido. I explained that I just finished a restaurant review of Lido, as I’m a Food Critic, aside from being a men’s fashion magazine and gave him, and his guests at his table my business card.

20191210_195128The former Mayor was very gracious and inviting, and also was so kind to take a photo for the article.

20191211_133708(Mike Strange, and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins)

The former New York City Mayor’s guests wanted to get in on the action as well, and all posed for a photo together!

20191211_133924When I finally returned to my table, I found that the Manager Patrick gave me  another glass of Chardonnay on the house, as a reward for my “good deed” and for reviewing the restaurant!

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20191210_195906(Mike Strange, and manager Patrick)

Lido is quite a fine Italian Restaurant in Harlem that I believe has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so, and will continue to be one of my favorite spots.  The service, décor, and overall aesthetic I give 4 1/2 stars. The food is worthy of 4 1/2 stars as well. Lido is located at: 2168 Frederick Douglas Blvd on West 117th Street in Harlem.

20191211_132507Needless to say this has been the most eventful review that I have done so far (never a dull moment), with fabulous food, superior Chardonnay, rescuing a fellow Harlemite, and practically sitting on David Dinkins lap for a photo. I just simply love Harlem, and I love Lido Harlem.

20191210_200355So what are you waiting for? Get to Lido for dinner or drinks to mix and mingle with their fabulous pre/post gentrified clientele. Oh…did I mention that they have a great Chardonnay!!??

Brunch at Ruby’s Vintage Harlem.

On Sat January 12th Harlem’s new upscale lounge Ruby’s Vintage started their new brunch menu. being a fan of co-owner Brian Washington Palmer’s culinary creations for over a decade, I just had to go and try it!

While I’m always on the lookout for suitable places in Harlem to eat, network, write, entertain and conduct casual business, and more importantly relax. Few places have the right combination (especially with good places closing, and new places opening at an almost breakneck pace) of ambiance, good music, exceptional food with flair and variety.

It would seem Harlem Vintage has achieved all the criteria mentioned, to my delight without a doubt. The introductory menu included such dishes as, Eggs Bennie with Canadian beacon or smoked salmon, a curious dish named “The Devils Mess” which consists of scrambled eggs, chorizo, tomatoes, carmelized onions with jack cheese, Chaliah French Toast with fresh fruit, Steak and Eggs, Organic Pasta with brown butter, mushrooms, and truffle oil. Southern Breakfast, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage or bacon, home-fries, and cheese grits! And of course Shrimp and Chedder Grits. For $16.00 you can have unlimited Rum bunch or Mimosa’s for an hour and a half with your entrée.

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I choose the Southern Breakfast which was served to me hot, and cooked by Brian himself. All the items on my plate seem to blend and compliment each other, flavors, aroma’s, and visual presentation all combined to create an enjoyable as well as a favorable experience. With my meal I had the unlimited mimosa, which was not overbearing with the champagne or the OJ (which seems common in many places), but blended perfectly to my delight. The music was also very delightful, a combination of “balaeric beats, world music, and smooth groves” (I slipped into a momentary reverie when Blonde’s rapture slided in rotation).

I highly recommend Harlem’s Ruby’s Vintage Saturday/Sunday brunch, alone, with a date (It’s very romantic) or with friends, either way you will end up elevated and satiated.

The Green Parrot: The Harlem Lounge Oasis near the Sugar Hill Area.

Standing right under my nose in Harlem is a charming small lounge called the Green Parrot on 145th Street and 7th Ave near the “Sugar Hill” area. The Green Parrot is a fascinating bar/lounge in Harlem, with an interior that you would not expect in this particular area on 145th and 7th. It looks like it should be in downtown Manhattan or “Downtown Harlem” simply because of the tasteful ambiance this place has.

The Green Parrot is another addition to Harlem by “Londell” , yes the same owner as the famed Londell’s restaurant on Strivers’ Row in Harlem, with the same touch of class but with a unique flavor of its own. This place gives off a relaxed and humble feel mixed with a lot of “coolness”. Green Parrot is managed by the lovely and sexy Rashida Gariver aka (“Roxy”) who also is the resident “Mixologist”!

“We are very open minded with our clientele, we have people from different backgrounds, from different places, and all are welcome here as long as you come with love in your’re heart. This establishment is a place that leads with love. There really is no limit to our clientele as long as you come with love and respect in you’re heart. We put good energy into our atmosphere so that we can receive that good energy back.”

As I spoke with “Roxy” she explained her plans to transform this lounge into a hub of culture with a variety of different genre’s with art gallery shows, paintings and poetry, performing arts, different forms of artistry to allow people to come and express themselves. We also feel the need to cater to the people that live here in the neighborhood to build with the community.kimg1375-2

This bar/lounge also has “bar food” that is good good indeed. Roxy served me the “Veggie Burger”with fries and coleslaw served with a chipotle  mustard which left me quite satiated along with her signature “red sangria” that was not only tasty but packed a hidden punch with I felt when I rose from my stool when she offered to take me on a tour

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of the kitchen and her office downstairs. Roxy is not only a pleasant and respectful person, she is also a most gracious excellent host. (then I realized she treats everyone likes this) many would benefit from her example. As she walked me thorough the kitchen and introduced me to the chef, I noticed that the kitchen was not only very clean and orderly, but above standard (they did not get an A rated for nothing), then she showed me her modest office (very neat and professional) and even got a tour of the liquor store room, (I felt like an inspector) as she showed me that everything is of high standard, which it was in fact. The openness and honesty of this woman was impressive enough to pass any inspection!

The Green Parrot also features “Roxy’s Signature Drinks” all artistic creations from the head mixologist herself. “I am like a chef when it comes to mixology” I tend to blend liquor, juices, herb and spices and flavors”. I’m learning everyday some new combination of liquors and flavors. All my drinks I make from scratch, and my inspiration comes from my customers while I custom build drinks for them.” Roxy’s flavorful creations include the rapidly trending “Call Uber” and the “Joy Ride” which is a variation of the sidecar she recreated.  Roxy is always thinking of new ways to make the lounge better, and she is totally committed to her work; when I asked why she pours so much energy into the lounge, she said: “Because I love the business, I love the grind and what I do”!

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And just like her wonderful signature drinks and outstanding customer service, I love what she does too!

 

PEQUE: A “Cozy and Hip” Restaurant near Sugar Hill.

I was invited to a unique, stylish and intimate restaurant near the Sugar Hill area of Harlem on West 145th Street by co-owner Paul Morejon called PEQUE. While this hip and cool place may seem a little unassuming from outside, once you step in its like entering a another time and place; specifically, Spain, France and sometime in the mid 1930’s and 1940’s, but  still managing to come off as modern. Paul owns the restaurant with Marla Rose, who is also the chef of this fine and exciting place to drink and dine.  PEQUE occupies the same location that was formally “Mountain Bird”. Paul and Marla was looking for a space to open a restaurant in Harlem for almost two years, but was not happy with the locations that they were shown in “Downtown Harlem”(which is the term he used for “that corridor between 110th and 130th  street”), as they both live a couple of blocks from the restaurant in Sugar Hill and wanted a space in their neighborhood.

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(Co-Owner Paul Morejon)

“We wanted to bring something to our neighborhood that would not only be welcomed, but needed as well; such as nightlife and entertainment that this area does not have a lot of, so we are very happy to be an anchor in this part of Harlem for this.

        ( Josephine Baker Custom Décor charger by Harlem Artist “Ollomatic”)

As I was enjoying the space and the music and the clientele and the food and the service, I suddenly realized that I was having the time of my life, and all I had to do was walk into this amazing restaurant and sit down. Snapping out of my reverie, I continued my interview with Paul (who is so cool and relaxed) and asked him about his background.

“I have very little restaurant experience, I have decades of eating at restaurant but never worked at one before this. I worked with an experienced restaurant manager and consultant who basically boot camped me for about three to four months before the restaurant opening in the operating and the nitty gritty of the business, her name is Alexis Pepaj Straber (formerly of the popular Red Farm). Everything else I learned on the job opening and closing the restaurant.  I learned how to handle the tips, scheduling, wine and food ordering, handling staff, and also having a husband at home and we entertain people to make sure everyone has a good time, I sort of transferred that here to the restaurant.”  Before this Paul spend 20 years leading technology teams in internet development, websites and applications. “And after that I  was living the life of a New York Fashion week photographer, I still do fashion week photography”.

Co-owner and chef Marla Rose was formally a NYPD Lieutenant for 23 years, and after retirement went to culinary school ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), and is doing an amazing job at transforming the tapas style into something authentic with a Harlem touch on it.  Now the fare is an authentic Tapas style with a flair of Harlem added to it.

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I was served the “Setas Salteadas”(delicious mushrooms with sautéed shallots) to start and than came out “Cordero a La Parilla” (Grilled Lamb chops with vegetable couscous and arugula salad in vinaigrette), I was also served the “Ceviche”(shrimp & bacalao cocktail with corn tortilla strips. Notable mention must be given to the “Asparagus” (wrapped in Jamon Serrano) and the “Vice” Chardonnay, a 2013 uncommon Sonoma & Napa Valley blend which is far superior to any Chardonnay I have tasted in Harlem, except for Barawine Harlem.

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The lamb chops was served medium rare and all my dishes was served on vintage china! “I have a secret place in the Bronx where I get my antique china”. Paul told me. The food was so good when Paul asked me while I was enjoying my meal “how do I like the food” all I could do is nod my head yes, as I did not want to pause chewing these delicious creations of Marla the chefNow I’ve have had Tapas many times at many places, but this is something I have never encountered before, which was not only a pleasant surprise but an amazing one as well.

The ambience is something of a treat as well, with antique cameras, books and even a miniature disco ball over the bar. Co-owner Paul describe it as “A road trip between Barcelona and Paris, a vintage road trip by a Harlemite”. The clientele was a mix of young professionals, older couples, young couples, artsy types, but one thing they all had in common was that they were cool, layback, relaxed and friendly! Décor custom Diva chargers greeted all the diners, as Paul partnered with Harlem artist “Ollomatic” to create beautiful art out of vintage chargers, featuring the likes of “Grace Jones”, “Nina Simone” and “Josephine Baker”.

Everyone interacted with each other on one level or another, pleasant and nice, something I have not seen in New York in quite awhile, the main thing was everyone was authentic. This is definitely the place where the “real cool” people come to eat and hang out. It is very difficult to talk about the restaurant without using the words: “Hip, “Cool”, and “Chic”, because this place embodies all this and more, along with the fabulous and delicious food and wine.

It was almost a dream I thought, because you know the saying: “If it sounds too good to be true?” So I walked around the whole place to find some kind of down side that could be mentioned, the kitchen clean and spotless, not a table wasn’t ready for a customer to be seated, bar was on point, then I walked into the bathroom and thought I was in someone’s den! A collection of vintage classic books on the shelf, mirrors, and an antique radio playing WBLS. So no I was not dreaming and there was no downside to this restaurant.

 

The service was excellent and outstanding by the bartender “Wanthy” and the waitress “Delia” (I dropped a fork and it was replaced so fast by Delia, with a smile) Very professional indeed!

(Delia Gubelmann and Bartender Wanthy Reyes)

I was on my second glass of Paul’s “Vice” Chardonnay and said to him “I don’t think I want to leave”. Paul replied: “You don’t have too”. Life just seemed I bit more pleasant listening to “Let a Woman be a Woman-Let a Man be Man”, “Jungle Love” by the Time, “Keep it Together” by Modonna, and “I Can’t Take It” by Evelyn “Champagne” King, and “Baby Here I Come” by James Brown.  Marla even came from the kitchen to sit at the bar and have a glass of wine with me.  Marla was so easy to talk to, as we discussed how almost everyone lives in the immediate area, all the items on the menu are her recipes, her personal relationship with her girlfriend, like real people having a real conversation! Needless to say I was very impressed with this otherworldly restaurant, I say that because it actually felt like I was eating and drinking in a perfect world.

About that wine! Paul and myself have a love of wines, which we discussed at length, “The wines here are like my children, I know each of them very, very well, I raised them all and brought them all in. I sample many wines and select the best ones for the restaurant. I like to pick the grapes of the wines from the same soil that the food is grown, this is my favored approach.” PEQUE has quite a selection of beers on tap, and carry beer from local brewery’s Harlem, Bronx, and NYC area beers, the best selling beer on tap is the Dyckman Pilsner, which Paul calls a”Dominican German Beer”.  Paul is also a native New Yorker like myself and so we say it like it is. “PEQUE is LGBT owned and operated”, and is a safe place for everyone, they have had product launchings, and weddings at this awesome restaurant.

On Wed nights they have live music, and they are about to launch “Broadway Night”on Monday nights, showcasing Harlem Broadway Performers, open mic night, Harlem Pride night every second Friday from 6-10PM, and during the summer will be hosting a “Outdoor Tango Night”.  This is a perfect place to take a date for dinner and drinks, or catch a drink with you’re buddies, or that significant other, or just chill out by yourself, either way you are going to have a most enjoyable time. When I finally left the restaurant, I could honestly say to myself. “This was one of the best nights out I’ve had in a long time.”

 

 

 

Where to Drink Series: Sottocasa Harlem’s imported Italian Beer’s and Wine’s

Sottocasa is an excellent choice for dinner in Harlem, but this Italian restaurant also has a full service bar serving up imported Italian wine’s as well as beer’s on tab like Moretti, a pale lager brewed in Italy, which has an alcohol content of 4.6%. This well balanced lager is smooth with a crisp malt flavor and has a pleasing aftertaste, which is amazing when paired with pizza.

 

 

KIMG1147While I’m a Chardonnay lover at heart, Matteo Prospiti introduced me to Muller Thurgau’s 2012 Sudtiro, an amazing white wine which is a hybrid crossing of Riesling and Madeleine Royale. This wine has a refined aromatic scent of nutmeg and a refreshing after finish reminisced of elder blossoms. I highly recommend this!

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The P45 (Doc Lison Pramaggiore) Merlot is sure to become a favorite on Lenox Ave, from north-eastern Italy. The full-bodied red wine carries aromas of deep red berries with subtle but marked notes of spice. A perfect match when paired with Lasagne.

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Sottocasa is always serving the best quality wines, and will be be having more of Italy’s best imported beer’s and red/white wines on the way, so stop by and hang out at the bar with friends or that special someone and indulge in a couple of glasses of superior libations found no where else in Harlem.

SottoCasa Harlem: Real Authentic Italian Wood Fired Pizza Comes to the Heart of Harlem

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(Matteo and Elena Prospiti)

After four years of opening two Brooklyn locations on Atlantic Ave and Boerum Hill, Sottocasa Pizza now brings authentic real Italian thin crust wood fire baked pizza to the center of Harlem.

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I met with Matteo Prospiti and his wife Elena who are managing partners at the newly opened Sottocasa Pizzeria restaurant located at 227 Lenox Ave right in the middle of West 121st Street and was received as if I was family, in fact the restaurant has the look and feel of a Italian villa which makes one feel right at home, and I swear while sitting at the bar drinking sparkling water on a hot summer mid afternoon talking with Matteo my mind drifted for a minute and I actually felt that I was in Italy hanging out with a friend just shooting the breeze. Such was the easy going and friendly manner of Matteo and his lovely wife. Now Sotto Casa translated from the Italian means “Under the Home”, but in Italian it is understood as (near the home) or (in the neighborhood).

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Matteo and Elena made all the furnishing for the restaurant themselves, Elena made the wall decorations herself by hand, they made the tables with recycled wood, including the bar!

 

I had become very fond of the back room dining space with the fantastic skylight roof, which was at one time a garden space but an extra room was build over it sometime in past by former owners.

This Husband and wife team made this restaurant look more like a home than a business, which gives this pizzeria an extreme charm that is hard to find anywhere else in Harlem. They did extensive research on the location in which they opened the restaurant and discovered that it was in the past a soul food chicken place, and a synagogue. When Matteo and his wife first came to Harlem they fell in love with it right away and had the same feeling that many of us harlemites have, that it’s more like a small town that distinguishes itself from the rest of New York.

All the ingredients and recipes for their pizza and food are authentic Italian and fresh, and for an extra four dollars Sottocasa offers Gluten Free Pizza! They take extra care to avoid cross contamination for the safety of their customers.

In addition to real Italian pizza, SottoCasa offers imported Italian beers on tap and bottled, as well as imported Italian wines, red and white. SotoCasa will very soon be offering wine and beer tastings so that Harlemites can fully experience the flavor of Italy.

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I left SottoCasa with a smile on my face, as I felt that I just left from a visit with an aunt and uncle in Italy, which is how they make all their customers feel, like family. Ciao SottoCasa!

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   (One of Elena’s Handmade wall decoration at SottoCasa)

Ponty Bistro: From Gramercy to Harlem.

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Always working in fine dining, Cisse and his cousin/partner Cheileh Cisse wanted to open another restaurant. Since they both lived in Harlem, they felt that would be the perfect location for the next restaurant, and on August 4th 2014 Ponty Bistro Harlem opened it’s doors at 2375 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.

Owner and chef “Cisse” along with his cousin moved to Harlem 20 years ago from Senegal, and in 2008 opened Ponty Bistro Gramercy at 218 3rd Ave East 19th street.

Cisse told me that opening a restaurant has always been their dream, and it’s “the only thing we know how to do.” And they do it quite well. While talking with Cisse, I got a sense of the very passionate nature that Cisse channels into his cooking, having worked  as a chef for the famous French restaurant Daniel in midtown Manhattan.

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(Katherine moved to Harlem four years ago, here enjoying a drink waiting for dinner)

Cisse describes his fare as “French/African fusion, citing that Ponty Bistro Gramercy  has been very successful for the past nine years. When I asked about the decor, Cisse told me that their vision for the restaurant was to have it very chic and very nice foreveryone. “Wants everyone to come in and have fun with us.”

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(“Cisse”owner and chef)

This culinary duo built the restaurant from scratch, and on their best selling dishes, like the crispy tuna and the steak artichoke salad.  also specialty drinks such as the “Senegalese punch”, and the “Biss martini”

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(The Crispy Tuna with Artichoke salad)

Before I left Ponty Bistro, Cisse invited back in the kitchen where I got a look at the master at his craft working hard in the kitchen to produce the best possible meal for each and every customer.