A Day in East Harlem

There’s a question in this NYC neighborhood you will often heard asked – is this East Harlem or Spanish Harlem? There’s a distinct difference between the two, the cultural playground being in Spanish Harlem, and all those artists and musicians living in East Harlem. Barely a year ago, The New York Times called East Harlem “the next big” New York City neighborhood. Whether or not it truly is “the next big,” this rapidly-changing neighborhood is renowned for its easy-going vibe.

Harlem River Park

Your morning run/stretch/trot will begin at the Harlem River Park, located at the edge of the Harlem River. The park has become a destination for local artists’ work. As you make your rounds around the park, you will notice the heavy presence of artwork on its walls. In recent years, the park has also become a welcome host for festivals that spotlight local food, art and music. Today’s run is sure to give you a fantastic view of the city that not many get to see. Add to the amazing visual soup the sprawling views of the Bronx, and a view of the New Yankee Stadium.


Bosa’s Pizza of Harlem

Lunch in East Harlem means small, often simple bites, like pizza. The best is easily at Bosa’s Pizza of Harlem. In fact, Bosa’s pizza is considered superior to the rest of the pizza joints in the city. It’s even become so popular that the pizza place extended its delivery services across the river and into The Bronx. From the basic cheese slice to the broccoli rabe, there’s not a slice you should not want to taste. For another lunch spot you may want to try down the road, sample the bites at Wimpy’s, which features some tasty burgers.


National Black Theatre

There’s a distinct cultural presence in East Harlem. The area once housed a major movie studio near the Harlem River Drive (the interior scenes of “The Godfather” were filmed there.) But the National Black Theatre is the gem of the neighborhood. The theater group was created in 1968 and has provided an outlet for African-American actors and playwrights. The location itself is one of the oldest African-American owned theaters in the country, and one of the longest operated by a woman of color. The goal for the theater group remains to provide a history of the African-American experience on stage.

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Nightingale Bakery

The first meal of the day should almost certainly be at the Nightingale Bakery. You could get used to this bakery’s offerings, easily. They are known to readily turn visitors into regulars. There are other excellent morning options like Lechonera La Isla, which features fantastic pastries and baked items from the Caribbean. But Nightingale is undoubtedly the best for a coffee and homemade powdered jelly donut. Even if you just want to grab some cookies to dip in your coffee, you’ll have to make Nightingale part of your daily ritual.


Crack is Wack Mural

The one major art installation that has had an incredible influence on local arts for more than 30 years is located just off the Harlem River Drive. The “Crack is Wack” Mural was the work of the iconic artist Rick Haring, unveiled in 1986. The mural has become a symbol of Upper Manhattan and stands out amongst the area’s other storied landmarks. Composed of Haring’s signature kinetic figures and abstract form in bold outlines, the piece was a response to the growing crack epidemic in the city – and most specifically in Harlem – and placed on a playground to make sure the message reaches the youth. The saying has become a trend in the 1980s and has continued to present day.

A Night in East Harlem


Fernandez Cigar Lounge

Latin roots run deep in East Harlem, and that very fact makes Fernandez Cigar Lounge an instant destination. The cigar bar has an impressive selection of flavorful cigars and the service is out-of-this-world accommodating. If you are a novice to cigars, the guys here will guide you to sampling the best cigars to fit your taste buds. The atmosphere itself is inviting and relaxing, just a perfect place and time for you to begin your night out on the town.

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Words by Arte Vincent

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Erik Serras
Erik Serras
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