My neighborhood crush on Harlem started the first time I heard Cynda Williams sing Harlem Blues on Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues movie soundtrack. It was 1990. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. But the way Williams sang about the neighborhood, the men, Strivers Row, Madam CJ Walker’s beauty shop…Harlem’s bluesy soul spoke to me. I grew up in Detroit in the 80s and early 90s, so everything about Harlem’s historical blackness felt familiar. They had the Harlem Renaissance and we had Berry Gordy’s Motown Sound. Detroit had a large black population, and so did Harlem. They liked to dress fly, and so did we. At age 11, Harlem was like the capital of Black America to me.
Today, like many predominately black neighborhoods across the US, gentrification is changing the demographic makeup of what was once considered the Black Mecca. Harlem’s black population is shrinking. There are more people that look like actor Neil Patrick Harris, who purchased a Harlem brownstone for $3.6 million in 2013, moving into the uptown neighborhood.
While it’s disheartening to see how expensive Harlem has become, there are still some great black-owned businesses where you can eat, drink, shop and have fun.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Ginny’s Supper Club is a good place to start if you’re looking for that grown and sexy vibe that Williams is giving in Mo’ Better Blues. The late night dinner spot is in the basement of the Red Rooster restaurant (also owned by Samuelson). The speak-easy ambiance, cocktails, and music won’t disappoint. Another late night supper club you’ll want to experience is Minton’s, which is owned by former Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons.
Explore our favorite black-owned businesses in Harlem to eat, drink, shop and things to do in Harlem.
Where to Eat & Drink IN Harlem
Solomon and Kuff
Where to Shop IN HARLEM
Harlem Haberdashery Clothing Store
• Harlem Haberdashery (Men & Women’s Custom Apparel)
Things to Do IN HARLEM
Hoodwink Escape in Harlem
• Hoodwinked Escape (Escape Games)
Written by Tanisha Blakely.