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West Harlem/Morningside Heights Bar for tonight after work

I'm meeting a friend after work to eventually go over to Florence's Restaurant on 8th & 114th. We're looking for a good bar for a drink before that--somewhere between 110 & 116th, 8th to Broadway.

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  1. i love society, a cafe that serves wine, and is also at 114th and frederick douglass (8th ave). it's a nice space with big wooden tables, friendly staff, reasonably competent food, and wines from harlem vintage up frederick douglass (at 122nd-ish).
    what is florence's restaurant? i know of melba's on that block and have never been particularly enticed by their menu. enjoy it, and please report back when you go.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rose water

      Melba's is the ultimate! I just had to through that in there. Continue....

    2. There's always The Heights on B'way and 110th. I know people might knock it, but it won't be full of college students quite yet, and their margaritas are, actually, quite good. And large, if you're into that.

      1. Native on 118th & Lenox. Bar/lounge with a restaurant in the back. Smooth, hip Harlem crowd. Varied menu; Southern with West Indian touches. Here's a review:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        12 Replies
        1. re: nobody special

          i've got to say, as a harlem dweller, that "smooth hip Harlem crowd" plus the name "Native" make me cringe. and makes me think of Ginger (asian fusion on 116th and 5th ave), which has far more style than substance. but i've heard others (of dubious chowhounding credentials) recommend native, and dixieday's report that you linked looks promising. anybody have more recent reports?

          1. re: rose water

            It's a smaller, more intimate place than the flashier Ginger. I haven't eaten at Native and won't comment on the food; just the bar environment. Younger, neighborhood crowd; casual and friendly. Stylish but not fake...I'm not sure how else to describe it--it seemed 'stylish' to me coming from East Harlem...LOL.

            1. re: nobody special

              thanks 'nobody special' and 'gloriousfood'--i'm excited to try Native out. and thanks, Peter, for putting Florence's on my radar (and i'm glad you liked society). i look forward to reading more about it.

              i have to say that i haven't explored the harlem chowscape as much as i'd like, because my partner's vegetarian. but both of these places look really promising, and i'll report back when i check them out.

              as for stylish east harlem, what about itzocan bistro? read Peter's description of the incredible huitlacoche souffle: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... oh, which i responded to, in my old-board freddie incarnation

              hooray for having 'hounds uptown!

              1. re: rose water

                STOP! I've heard the food at Native is horrible! I recommend trying Revival instead if you want a meal. I've heard from several sources that they have the best brunch in Harlem.

                1. re: Uptownflavor

                  I wouldn't go that far. I enjoyed my one trip there. The place is cozy and comfortable. My partner got a bowl with sauteed spinach, white rice, and black eyed peas that was really tasty. My food was indeed pretty bad (a creamy pasta rich to the point of being inedible). Despite that, my partner's comfort food, and the cozy vibe almost had me excited about this place, and I would've given them another shot, if it hadn't been for the (friendly, but) completely inattentive service. We waited for eons to get our check and haven't been tempted to return.

                  1. re: rose water

                    I've heard from just about everyone who has been to Native that the food is bad. I'm assuming you are responding to my comment about Native and not Revival.

                    1. re: Uptownflavor

                      Sorry, yes. I was referring to Native.

                      Where is Revival? And what, besides brunch, stands out there?

                      1. re: rose water

                        I've just heard raves about the brunch.

                  2. re: Uptownflavor

                    I've heard that too, UF. That's why I just had drinks there.

                    Went to Baton Rouge recently and it was closed due to some plumbing problem (yuck). Is it any good?

                    1. re: nobody special

                      Personally, I had a bad dining experience there. You may want to go one night for drinks but IMO the drinks were not great for the price and neither was the entertainment. It literally left a bad taste in my mouth. I am amazed how the same people who run MoBay which is a great restaurant can create the opposite experience in a better space. I recommend going to the back patio. It is so nice back there.

                  3. re: rose water

                    I'm so with you that it's nice to see Uptown hounds!

                    Actually, there a few sort of "stylish" hangouts in East Harlem on the arty-bohemian tip.

                    Catch a film, exhibit or live music at Carlitos Cafe y Galeria (Lexington btwn 106th-107th). Grab a cheap beer and don't bother with the coffee or bare bones bar.

                    At Camaradas-El Barrio (First Ave. btwn 115th-116th), the Spanish coffee (expresso), cafe con leche, and sangria are quite good and some of the tapas are excellent. It's a cafe by day, bar at night. Drawback: no comfy couches or Wifi.

                    This is obviously pretty subjective, but if you're talking strictly coffee quality (not atmosphere), I've always preferred the strong Spanish coffees and cafe con leche at the Latin places over places like Les Ambassades and Society. And it's less than half the price!

                    In many ways, the nabe reminds me of the LES 20 years ago (for better or for worse, since we know how that turned out).

                2. re: rose water

                  Have you been to Native? Nobody Special's description of the type of crowd that goes there is right on. I'm a Harlem dweller too and have no problems with either the restaurant's name or NS's description. I used to go frequently because it was just about the only option for "fine dining" or something different in the neighborhood! The food is very good, very eclectic, and very affordable. Service, however, can be verrrrry slow--my only complaint. I'm with you on Ginger--the cost does not justify the food. I have very warm feelings toward Native because it started out nearly 5 years ago when the Harlem dining scene was lacking, and the neighborhood has really embraced it. It's great to see a place like this succeed and to get the message out that we here in upper Manhattan enjoy--and want--fine dining too!

              2. Florence's is a Ghanaian-Ivoirien restaurant that Sietsema wrote about:

                http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

                Society sounds like the perfect bet. Thanks, rose water.

                Now I just have to digest my Uzbek lunch so I can raise an appetite for my African dinner.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Peter Cherches

                  oh, i can imagine the place now; thanks for the link. i look forward to hearing about your meal there!

                  1. re: rose water

                    Society worked out great--a pleasant little place right near the restaurant. Florence's was fantastic--great food, great people, great vibe, amazingly cheap. I'll try to post a report before the weekend in a separate post.

                2. Society is really nice – I go there all the time for the wifi, the good wines, the friendly staff, the vibe, the big window so I can see what's going on in the street. I can sit and work/read there for hours! They are really building a community. Nice, clean decoration, fabulous bathroom. Often very good music (although sometimes too loud and limiting conversation opportunity).

                  HOWEVER, their coffee sucks, which is embarrassing given that they market themselves as a true quality coffee provider. I have to say that sometimes their lattes remind me of dish water! Sometimes the coffee (I drink mostly caffe latte) is OK, sometimes it is quite good. But you never know, the standard is very uneven.
                  I often take friends to Society, because it is a big part of my life in Harlem that I want to show, but I always have to warn them for the coffee first. And that really is a pity.

                  Also, the menu is long and quite varied, but a little unimaginative – and most of the items are over-priced. I often get disappointed when what I have ordered arrives at the table (and chocked when I get the bill). They should go down to Café Gitane and get some inspiration as of that meny of small dishes! Soups and smoothies have been good at Society, though. Pastries, such as brownies/blondies, sometimes have been terribly dry. I once left half of my brownie, because it was too dry to eat – it has never before happened anywhere that I didn't eat every crumble of a brownie.

                  To sum up: I lovelovelove Society and will go there a million times again, and I highly recommend it for a pre-dinner glass of wine, or a lengthy wifi session, or for anyone who wants to check out the Uptown scene – but I really wish they will work on their coffee making skills and their menu.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: godzillanyc

                    I've heard from friends that Les Ambassades has GREAT coffee but bad service. Always a trade off it seems.

                    1. re: Uptownflavor

                      I agree with godzillanyc 100%

                      My Harlem coffee ranking (for coffee quality):
                      best--Tribal Spears
                      eh--Les Ambassades (sorry Uptownflavor, I disagree with your friends; it's weak at best, and doesn't do much for caffeine-addicted, coffee-loving me)
                      worse--Society

                      For cozy space
                      1. Society
                      2. Tribal Spears
                      3. Les Ambassades

                      To ingest food products
                      Les Ambassades [the other two don't make the list]
                      They have a varied range of baked goods freshly made there, which are great to have in the neighborhood, but not worth a special trip. Service is relaxed and slow; not particularly warm, but not unfriendly. The place has an outrageously amazing buttery sugar scent bathing the block in the morning (and spicy onions in the evening). I've had less luck with their savory stuff than their baked goods.

                      1. re: rose water

                        Interesting...to each his own. I've heard several people say they love Les Ambassades coffee and that comes from regular coffee drinkers. I think it is great that Harlem has reached a point where people actually have choices!

                        1. re: Uptownflavor

                          I have no information other than my own perceptions, but it seems like Les Ambassades has changed either its coffee, or the way its made, in the past year. The default used to be a rich, creamy au lait, but now they've gone to serving weaker stuff.

                          1. re: kimcheater

                            Interesting. Since I was just going by word of mouth I have to take your word on that. I have heard some strange things about that place. I probably wouldn't give them my business anytime soon based on the reports I've gotten about their staff and the hit or miss quality of what they serve.

                  2. For a lounge bar, as opposed to a coffee bar, try Mona on Amsterdam and 109th. It's a grad-student bar, so cheap but classier than the frat boy places.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: piccola

                      I liked Mona Lounge the one time I was there and I totally agree it is so badly needed in that hood, but my first impression was that you won't find any kind of quintessentially uptown scene or Harlem vibe there. It is, after all, in Morningside Heights/Manhattan Valley. The place could just as easily be in Hell's Kitchen or below 14th st., no? Should I give it another shot? I definitely could be missing something.

                      1. re: nobody special

                        No, you're right, it's not very "Harlem-y". It's nice for students thought, since we don't always feel like taking the train downtown to go out...