How to do Harlem
I tell my clients to keep their eyes open because it's easy to miss something wonderful in Harlem," says Anthony Bowman, whose company, A La Carte New York Tours, specializes in the neighborhood ($125 per hour; 646-265-8923; email@example.com). "There's history all over this place." And Bowman loves showing it off—the exquisitely preserved 19th-century architecture (the sort you'll see on Strivers Row on West 138th and 139th streets), the weekly parade of ladies in elaborate hats coming from New York's first black church, Mother A.M.E. Zion (140-7 W. 137th St.), and the new shops and cafés that have created a distinctly uptown style. With Bowman leading, we took a stroll through Harlem and made a few stops along the way.
HATS BY BUNN "This isn't your father's fedora," says the Trinidadian-born designer and shop owner, Bunn, of his brown waxed-straw hat with beige trim ($90). "It's already 'broken down' just right." Bunn goes by only one name and works solo, filling custom orders for a chic young set of "hat ladies" as well as such entertainers as Aaron Neville and Alicia Keys. The "Naya," a felt number with a flat top and tapered crown ($120), is the shop's trademark. At 2283 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.; 212-694-3590; www.hatsbybunn.com.
THE STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM Founded in 1968 and for years somewhat marginalized on the New York City art scene, this museum has been revitalized by executive director Lowery Stokes Sims and chief curator Thelma Golden. Its sleek galleries are now considered the city's premier exhibition space for contemporary African American artists. Fred Wilson, who recently showed here, was the U.S. representative at the 50th Venice Biennale. At 144 W. 125th St.; 212-864-4500; www.studiomuseum.org.
102BROWNSTONE This year-old boutique hotel isn't New York's most luxurious, but for travelers who want to see the neighborhood from the inside, it is the only one of its kind. Occupying a renovated 1892 brownstone on a fantastic block, the 102 has six charming rooms decorated in themes such as Victorian and modern Asian. Rates, $120-$190. At 102 W. 118th St.; 212-662-4223; www.102brownstone.com.
LOUISE FAMILY RESTAURANT Small and absolutely no-frills, this neighborhood institution has been open for 40 years and is still the place to go for perfect fried chicken. Diners craving home-cooked Southern food make pilgrimages here for other dishes too, like pigs' feet, oxtail, and, for breakfast, salmon croquettes and grits. $ Dinner, $20. At 217 Lenox Ave.; 212-864-8400.
REVIVAL Figuring that Harlemites were hungry for more than fried chicken, Parag Mehta opened this café, which serves the bird roasted in a shiitake-portobello sauce instead. The kitchen, under chef John Savarimuthu, also does inventive riffs using classic elements, like cornbread topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Dinner, $65. At 2367 Frederick Douglass Blvd.; 212-222-8338; www.harlemrevival.com.
SETTEPANI La dolce vita comes to Harlem with this pasticceria and café, the new hangout for local swells. Bill and Hillary Clinton eat here (and Settepani caters events at the former president's office on 125th Street), lured by the always expanding menu that includes panini, pasta, a terrific panzanella salad, and a heavenly sweet-potato tart. Very Harlem. Lunch, $20. At 196 Lenox Ave.; 917-492-4806; www.settepani.com.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.