Sure – to some people, East Harlem may be the place you go to buy oversized rolls of Bounty at Costco. But tons of people live here, there are lots of great bars and restaurants, and ultimately it’s probably only a matter of time before East Harlem becomes the new Williamsburg. So whether you just moved to the area, want to explore it for the first time and don’t know where to start, or are a neighborhood veteran, here’s our guide to all the East Harlem spots that should be on your radar.
This cocktail bar is the type of place you’ll want to roll up your sleeves and stay awhile. The leather couches and candlelit room make it feel like you’re hanging out in a friend’s living room. They don’t serve food, but the cocktails and playlists are good enough you’ll hardly remember that you’re hungry. But when you do, Earl’s next door has you covered.
No longer the size of a dorm room, Earl’s has recently undergone renovations and expanded. The deer wall mural make you feel like you have been teleported to a cabin in the woods, and the mac and cheese will just make you generally happy. Don’t miss the Earl’s taco, which is a fried scallion pancake shell filled with pork. Wash it all down with one of their craft beers on tap and enjoy a well-deserved food coma. You earned it. If you grab a seat at the communal table, you’ll have direct view of their TV which plays all the Sunday games.
Your friends might want to go downtown for brunch, but Earl’s sister restaurant ABV makes a good case for brunch in Harlem. ABV serves up some inventive takes on your typical brunch dishes and it won’t be as packed as every restaurant in the East Village (even though it may look like one). It’s also open for dinner and makes for a good date spot with its relaxed vibe, dim lighting, and small plates.
It’s nothing fancy and you definitely won’t need a reservation, but that’s okay – you’re going to Lupita’s for its excellent Mexican food. Our favorites include the vegetarian enchiladas, pollo flautas, and the bistec sopes.
Despite the name, Lexington Pizza Parlour has a lot more than just pizza. This neighborhood restaurant has a homey feel, thanks to both the jazz playing in the background and the extremely friendly staff. Order the Luna Piena, which is a half Margherita pizza with smoked mozzarella and half ricotta calzone rolled into half of the pizza pie. Yes, this is a thing that exists. If you’re still hungry, go for the chicken parm or any of their homemade pastas.
Gong has been serving up consistently excellent modern Thai food for years. They have a small menu, but hits include the crispy vegetarian spring rolls with plum sauce, Thai hot wings, and tom kha soup. No judgement if you order the Pad Thai, you know you want it and their version is packed with flavor. Gong doesn’t serve alcohol and does not allow BYOB, but that’s what delivery is for.
One of three Moustache Pitza locations in Manhattan, this spot may not look like much from the outside, but it actually has a very warm feel to it – sort of like you’re eating in a Turkish den. Skip the pitza portion of the menu and head straight for the mezzeh. Their hummus and tahini is some of the most authentic we’ve tasted in this city, and the baklava is on-point too.
Everything you’d want from your neighborhood vegan restaurant: Kale shakes, almond butter wraps, and a pretty sizable salad bar. A good choice for a healthy lunch in the area.
Roast is a recently-opened kosher restaurant specializing in chicken (roasted and fried). The restaurant itself is quite small, so we’d suggest you add Roast to your weekly take-out rotation.
A true classic. The East Harlem location of Patsy’s Pizzeria is the original, and has been in this very same location since 1933 when Pasquale ‘Patsy’ himself opened the doors. You don’t need to get too creative here with toppings. Order the plain pie – it’s the reason you’re coming to Patsy’s.
There are three steps to success at El Paso: Grab a seat at the bar, get yourself a margarita or anything from the extensive tequila menu, and order the chips (served warm) and guacamole, which is extremely fresh. The shortrib tacos are a big standout, and their garden patio (which kind of resembles a tree house) makes for great outdoor seating in the warmer months.
A poultry-focused French bistro run by a Japanese couple (the husband is the chef while his wife runs the front of house). Mountain Bird gets its name because the menu is all things poultry served in non-traditional ways – like the bite sized head-to-toe sampler which includes chicken heart and liver mousse. The food is excellent and different from what you’ll see on every other menu.
Lexington Social has SCRPRTCUWFF written all over it: It’s an intimate wine bar, so you’ll be able to hear one another speak while sharing tasty Mediterranean small plates. The malfatis (dumplings filled with spinach and ricotta) and the shaved brussel sprouts are among our favorites. Don’t sleep on their happy hour either: $4 beers and $6 wines.
This tiny shack serves what are very possibly the best al pastor tacos in all of New York City. These alone are worth a trip to East Harlem – and since Taco Mix is open 21.5 hours a day (9am – 5:30am), you have lots of opportunities to make the pilgrimage.