Spring in New York Series: Harlem

The daffodils are opening, the breeze feels warm around my ankles, and this Sunday I watched the sanctified saints of Harlem strut through St. Nicholas Park with their peacock feathers and taffeta bows. Harlem is aglow in whites and yellows and pretty pale blues. Easter weekend has come and gone again, which means FALLOPIA is one year old. Happy birthday to us.

It is also that time of the semester where I need to be spending all day in the library just as I’d rather spend all day lounging on my fire escape, or napping under a tree. As a compromise, I’m on a hunt for places in Harlem where I can do my homework, while still fulfilling my wanderlust and craving for spring-ish environments.

Maybe we can get Em to map them for us. (She likes that sort of thing.)
The only requirements were free wi-fi, window seats and a decent cup of Joe.


Cafe One
1619 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY

This little place has about 12 small tables. It was pretty crowded when I stopped in at 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon. It is right near City College, so I can hope the crowd consisted of students, and not just the lavishly unemployed. They had a pretty good pastry spread, and they make simple sandwiches as well. The cafe is clean, bright, and sunny, just like the all-American girls behind the counter. Hours: 9am -9pm daily.

Perks: They make fresh smoothies, and will make you an egg sandwich on a fresh bagel, roll, or croissant ALL DAY. Yay.
Unperks: Crowded, plastic furniture with only a few outlets for laptops

Cafe Veg
2291 Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard, New York, NY

I have walked past this place four times now, and never seen it open. However, someone is updating the sidewalk board outside the shop. It always says different tantalizing things like “Fresh Mango Juice” or “Free vegan cookie with lunch”. It is probably the only place offering vegetarian and vegan snacks for miles. If only I could figure out how to get inside.

Perks: Whoever owns the place has great penmanship, and and eye for color.
Unperks: Unpredictable, irrational hours.

La Pregunta Arts Cafe

1528 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY

This place presents itself as a sort of sultry intellectual salon, more akin to Chelsea or the East Village than something you would expect to find between a Halal grocer and a locksmith in Harlem. I was sold by the fancy lettering and seductive posters in the windows of the cafe, so I crossed the street to check it out. The place was pretty large, and also pretty empty, save for a long- haired latin man with a ponytail who was eating alone at a table in the middle of the room. He had a napkin tucked into his shirt, and he gave me the slightest, sexiest wink a man with a fork in his mouth could expect to pull off. I didn’t see much art, culture, or life in the place, but it was about 2pm in the middle of the week. I get the feeling this is meant to be more of an after-hours establishment. I’ll certainly go back and check it out sometime, if not just to find out what that man was eating.

Perks: The place has a pretty snazzy website, that boasts an “exotic” salad bar. It also has a REAL bar.
Unperks: There are no events listed on the calendar of events. The cafe may turn out to be little more than a great idea. Though it could be a great place to start your own stimulation-type gathering…

Cafe Muddy Waters
2185 Adam Clayton Powell Jr, New York, NY‎

If coffee is your number one priority, I would recommend Cafe Muddy Waters at the corner of 129th and 7th Avenue. The place has a great, true-to-Harlem kind of atmosphere, big on the cozy and the community…slow on the service. I had a cappuccino that rivaled any other cup of “coffee” I’ve been served in Harlem. Unless you think Dunkin Donuts is as good as it gets, I’d give this place a shot.

Perks: Full espresso menu and real baristas.
UnPerks: Even though they have free wireless, there is no free electricity! There are no outlets for laptops, and the barista said they didn’t have any plan of adding them. The cafe website greets you with “Happy Thanksgiving!” so I think they’re a little behind in the realm technoculture.

Tea and Things of That Kind
2340 Adam Clayton Powell Jr, New York, NY‎

This is by far my favorite find in Harlem, though I have yet to be an actual customer. I’m saving it for a rainy day, or more accurately- a perfect spring afternoon that I don’t have to rush off or bring in my laptop, and I can sit and sip a cup of tea the way tea was meant to be sipped. This place is pristine and pretty as your grandmothers parlor. Everything is pale and delicate, and hopelessly romantic…even with the tell-tale clear plastic covers on the furniture that lets you know you’re still in Harlem. It reminds me of when my Grammie would have the ladies over after church, and I was only allowed to step and and “have myself a cookie” before being ushered back out of the soft white room. This place is run by a mother/daughter team with high ambitions to bring “health consultations, massage therapy and non-prescription natural path health remedies for individuals in the local community.”

Perks: It is adorable. Sweet in the sweetest sense. And their tea is meant to keep you healthy: body, mind, and spirit.
UnPerks: You probably can’t get your boyfriend to join you there…unless he is very different from my own. Bring a girlfriend and giggle away.


~ by Vy on April 7, 2010.

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