Time for a Harlem NYC Food Tour!
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
Food tours are one of Chris and my favorites ways to spend a day exploring neighborhoods in NYC. So I put together a tour of the Harlem section of the city. We have seven stops ahead of us so lets get going.
To get into the city from New Jersey we take the PATH train to 33rd street and then subway up to the 116th street station at Malcolm X Blvd. From this point the rest of the food tour is on foot. At the end of the day, we head back home via the same subway/path combination. Once you arrive in Harlem head west on 116th for 1/2 a block to our first stop of the day. Today we will have 7 different stops to enjoy.
Our first stop, Amy Ruth's, is located at 113 W. 116th Street. The sit down restaurant has been serving up classic soul food for over 20 years. Our stop here is to focus on chicken and waffles, fried catfish, fried okra and cooked greens. My go-to choice is the chicken and waffles, they serve it with butter and real maple syrup. It so good that I forgot to take the blog photo until after we started eating. Chris and I share one order of chicken and waffles so we have room for the rest of the tour. While waiting for your food to arrive they will bring you warm corn bread and butter, YUM. Before you head out use the restroom if needed since we wont get access to one for a while.
With the immediate craving satiated, we start walking east down W 116th street. Our next stop is not a food stop but a unique market for crafts, clothing, jewelry and goods from Africa. The Malcolm Shabazz Harlem market is at 52 W 116th street. Spend a little time here browsing thru the individual shops so you can have an appetite at our next stop.
Our 3rd stop is reached by continuing to head east on West 116th street. This street eventually turns into East 116th street. Cuchifritos is located 168 E 116th street. Even though the numeric address is close to our last stop it is a bunch of blocks away between Lexington and 3rd Ave. As you walk these blocks you will notice the change in language in the streets and on the signs as we head into Spanish Harlem. Cuchifritos is a neighborhood mainstay serving traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. They have a takeout window open to the street and a counter server area inside. Both overlook hot steam trays of yummy goodness. Good luck finding a seat at the counter. We we have come here, its always busy. Just get in line and order up Pernil, fried pork skins, Alcapurias de Yucca, Medure, fried empanadas, or our favorite pork mofungo. The mofungo is served with plantain chips, salad and a container of slow cooked pork juice. Poor it over the takeout container and enjoy it right on the street. One order of mofungo is enough for 4 people on the tour. If you have leftovers, they are great reheated for breakfast in a frying pan with a fried egg on top.
Head toward our next quick sweet stop by going east until you reach 3rd Ave and turn north. Don Paco Lopez Panaderia is located on 3rd ave between 116th and 117th street. They are a traditional Mexican bakery that serves Mexican Sweet Bread and cookies. As you walk there notice the street vendors on the corner of 3rd Ave and E 116th street, some of them sell ice cream or fruit, but one woman who is not there all the time, sells homemade tamales. If you bring a cooler, buy some and steam at home for a wonderful treat. Most times, Chris and I bring a backpack cooler with us when on our food tours for just such an occasion.
From the bakery, our next stop is north and east on 1st Ave between 117th and 118th streets. 2287 1st Ave is the home of Patsy’s Pizzeria. Patsy’s has a historic coal oven that has been putting out delicious thin crust pizza since 1933. They have a dinning area and a small takeout storefront that houses the coal oven. You order takeout by the slice and will need to wait a little bit for your pie to be baked. They sell the slices as fast as it comes out of the oven, so be careful not to burn the roof of your mouth on the first bite. (Or maybe its worth a little burn to savor the wonderful sauce and cheesy goodness as soon as possible)
This is a far east as we will travel today. To reach our next stop, we will walk west along 118th street all the way back to Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Ave. Its a very nice walk past brownstone neighborhoods. Many have been newly renovated and others are in the process of being updated. When we get across town we are headed to 184 Lenox Ave. Sugar Hill Creamery is located on Lenox between 119th and 120th street. Sugar Hill is a family own ice cream shop with unique flavors like blueberry cheesecake and spring pea with rhubarb. They are also extremely dog friendly and always have at least one flavor that is safe for dogs to eat. Take a seat and enjoy a rich creamy cone. Also note that there is a restroom here.
Our last stop is not a food stop even though they are a restaurant. We are heading west to the Harlem Tavern to unwind with a glass of wine or beer and people watch. If you take this tour on a weekend, they will have live Jazz music until 4PM. Outdoor seating is a must if its a nice day. The Harlem Tavern is located at 2153 Fredrick Douglas Blvd at the corner of 116th street. Relax for a bit here and discuss your favorites of the day. When you decide to head home, the subway entrance is located right outside the tavern and it will take you downtown.
Hope you enjoyed the food and the friends you spent it with. Cheers!