Missed The Harlem Renaissance? No Worries, There’s Still Plenty of Culture Uptown
Bohemia Blog by Agent Lauren Smith
I’ve always imagined myself roaming through Harlem in the roaring 1920’s with the art and culture of Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Countee Cullen, filling the streets. Although I missed the Renaissance, Harlem is still the artistic beacon it’s always been if you’re looking in the right places.
Here are my greatest hits of the best spots uptown few know about (yet):
Bill’s Place (133rd St. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.): Crowned Harlem’s “only authentic speakeasy,” legendary performer, Bill Saxton, has converted the first floor of his 133rd St. brownstone into a stage for himself and the Harlem All Stars live jazz band. It’s an opportunity to be in the same place that was once occupied by Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, and Willie the Lion Smith. It’s BYOB with access to Bill’s beautiful outdoor garden space on those long summer nights.
The Cecil Restaurant (118th St. and St. Nicholas Ave.): It’s soul food fusion at its best. All the dishes are traditional African or African American foods, with a global twist. The Gullah jumbo shrimp burger is served with kimchi and scallion and the bourbon praline ham includes cinnamon yam purée and roasted bok choy. Patrons can also enjoy live music during Sunday’s brunch.
Harlem Repertory Theatre’s Open Mic Event Series (122nd St. and 2nd Ave.): Every first Saturday, singers, slam poets, musicians, comedians and sketch artists share their work at the Harlem Repertory Theatre’s (HRT’s) blackbox space - The Hideaway. It’s a perfect way to see up and coming talent or showcase your own.
MIST Harlem (116th St. and Lenox Ave): This is a relatively newly constructed space that serves as home to many unique events including A Tribute to The History of Black Shakespearians, Afro Beats Brunch, and the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic. If you’re interested in absorbing a kaleidoscope of Harlem culture, I suggest visiting MIST as frequently as possible.
67 Orange (Frederick Douglass Blvd. and 113th St): It’s a tight space, but a good time. This bar that can probably fit 30 people comfortably, has an extensive drink list, great music, and good vibes. If you like a relaxed chill environment or need a place to drop in before or after a big night out, this is the spot.