I have spent a lot of time in New York City, well mostly in Brooklyn, but much of my time in Manhattan has been spent visiting art museums like the MET and MOMA and eating cake at Magnolia's Bakery and any other institution that has been deemed "cool" due to pop culture or fashion magazines.
On this particular visit, I chose to stay in Harlem. I wanted to stay in the same area where black creators who forged the way for me to be able to write and create for a living spent their time. Like most black neighborhoods in major cities across the country, gentrification is happening at a rapid rate with white people moving into areas and erasing (well, trying to erase) the history and uniqueness of what we've built. But, I digress.
There is now a Whole Foods and a Starbucks (you know when you see either those gentrification is coming). However, that doesn't take away from the spirit or the black-owned businesses that are thriving in this historic piece of Manhattan. I won't pretend to know all there is to know about Harlem because I don't, I can only speak on the business that I supported during my two-day stay.
Here are eight black businesses to support the next time you're in New York City.
Harlem Hops is the brainchild of Kevin Bradford, Kim Harris, and Stacey Lee, who are all HBCU grads. The beer bar has 16 rotating taps with two offerings from Harlem Brewing Company and Harlem Blue, which are both black-owned breweries out of Harlem. If you're hungry, their kitchen offers up an assortment of spicy pies made with Habanero Beef, spicy crab, and potatoes and chickpeas. One last thing, if you're not a beer drinker, they didn't leave you out. Ask for a Langston's Choice cocktail if tequila is your spirit of choice or a Harlem High Roller made with Harlem Haberdashery's Bespoke Rum.
This little french bistro was just a block away from my Airbnb. From the moment I walked in, I could tell this was a neighborhood haven that also happened to have good food. I ordered a glass of wine and the macaroni and cheese because it was made a little differently than the southern style I am used to with bechamel sauce, parmesan cheese, and parsley.
Mr. Lee has sold handmade rugelach in Harlem for over fifty years and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. My favorite was the chocolate, but they also come in raspberry and apricot.
Since I was eating pretty late, I decided to make a reservation at Ponty Bistro. When I walked in, I immediately noticed the stunning bar design and the friendly face waiting to show me to my table. The restaurant serves French & West African cuisine, though what I ordered was definitely for the American palette. I ordered the Lobster BLT and a ginger martini which didn't disappoint.
I had a few hours before my flight and was in search of a coffee shop to get some work done, and The Edge came up on my search. When I got there, I quickly realized the "brunch all day" restaurant wasn't quite what I was looking for, but the menu and the packed house made me decide to stay. The owners, Juliet and Justine Masters', offer up cuisine native to Jamaica and New York from a coconut fish burger with plantains (which I had) to their version of the classic shrimp and grits.
Whether you need flowers for a special occasion or went to send your best friend a celebratory bouquet, Barbara's Flowers (run by a mother and daughter team) has you covered. The floral shop also sells candles from Harlem Candle Co.
There was a time when I was obsessed with TSDC, but my bank account was like, "Girl, you need to do better." This consignment shop is one of the best I've found because of their pristine finds and outstanding customer service. The shop is open by appointment only, but even if you're not in Harlem, you can make purchases online.
The Studio Museum has supported black artists since its founding in 1968. Their permanent collection now houses over two thousand works of art created by artists of African descent. Their 144 W. 125th Street location is closed for construction while they build their new home. But, you can visit the museum Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 6 pm. at 429 West 127th Street between Amsterdam and Convent Avenues.
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