Tag Archives: Harlem restaurants

Floridita’s identity crisis doesn’t bother me

22 Mar

When Harlem’s wildly popular Floridita had to close a few years ago because Columbia was expanding, people were seriously sad. The restaurant had been serving cheap, authentic Cuban food for 34 years. It was a neighborhood staple, but it also brought people from all over the city in search of a warm plate of rice and beans.

Luckily it just reopened a few blocks away on 125th and Twelfth (in the same building as Dino BBQ). YAY! This reincarnation is like the love child of a diner and a bar (neither of which are abundant around here). Stop by for a quick cafe con leche or linger over a mojito. The menu is large and varied—you can pretty much get whatever you want, whenever you want, from breakfast foods like Huevos con Tostones y Queso Frito or Mangu to traditional dishes like Arroz con Pollo y Chorizo,  Asopado and Mofongos. A pitcher of sangria is under $20 and there’s live salsa a few nights a week. It’s a large space with zero scene, but it doesn’t need one—and that’s one of the best things about it.

Cuban comfort food served in a casual atmosphere with reasonable prices? We like! Floridita is back, and the neighborhood couldn’t be happier.

Drop me off in Harlem

11 Oct

This past week I’ve eaten at two spots in Harlem that totally reminded me why I love living up here.

1. Melba’s. Imagine the southern comfort food of Sylvia’s (Melba is Sylvia’s niece) served in a small, modern and slightly more upscale dining room with better decor (century-old chandeliers, black subway tile, church pews). We went for brunch on a drippy, chilly morning and my irritation at the unpleasant walk dissipated when we stepped into the warm and homey interior. Despite being packed (they take res before noon), Melba’s managed to exude a calmness; instrumental Bob Marley tracks played softly. After a short wait and being served biscuits—never a bad thing—I ordered a basic spinach omelette (zzzz) but my husband tried the signature brunch dish: Southern Fried Chicken and Eggnog Waffles. He said it was one of the best dishes he had EVER had. Based on my bite, it’s no wonder it beat one of Bobby Flay’s in a throwdown. The bill—including one mimosa and a side of grits to honor my late Meme in Birmingham—came to less than $40 with tip! I couldn’t help but think how welcoming and festive this place must feel around the holidays.

2. Chez Lucienne. This cozy French bistro is right next door to Red Rooster. Less of a scene while still being lively,  it’s been ranked as one of the top restaurants in Harlem for the past few years. Even on a random Tuesday it was full of French speakers, both at the bar and at tables. The soupe a l’oignon has just the right amount of salt, topped by a perfect  slice of gruyere—sop up every last drop with thick-cut french bread. Choose from steak au poivre, coq au vin, moules, escargot, and assorted poisson and other treats from la mer. Or hell, just have a delicious-looking kobe beef burger. But no matter what you order, you MUST get the frites. Wines are about $9/glass, and while we didn’t indulge, other people appeared to be enjoying the selection. Or go on a Wednesday when many bottles are half off. In fact, there are a bunch of daily specials that keep your tab from becoming extravagant.

Uptown really is indescribable: the spots, the people, the vibe. Come visit us sometime!