With upwards of 5 million people expected to visit New York City for the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, East Harlem/El Barrio is the perfect place to explore beyond the City’s classic holiday events. Both New Yorkers and visitors can find hidden treasures, enjoy authentic cuisine and shop for unique gifts in the neighborhood. For more information about what to do and see in East Harlem/El Barrio, visit nycgo.com/neighborhoods.
“Both New Yorkers and visitors will enjoy the noteworthy cultural organizations, superb restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops that line the streets in the lively and culturally rich East Harlem/El Barrio neighborhood in Upper Manhattan,” said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company. “In time for the busy holiday season, we are pleased to highlight East Harlem/El Barrio, a neighborhood full of hidden gems that are unique to its Italian and Hispanic histories.”
“Through cultivating local talent and presenting work by artists from around the world, East Harlem’s cultural organizations provide an exciting range of programming for visitors,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “With terrific museums, performing arts groups, and more, this dynamic neighborhood has a number of cultural destinations to choose from.”
“El Barrio/East Harlem is the perfect place to visit this holiday season,” said New York City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Whether you’re looking for delicious food, a dynamic cultural experience or wonderful historical landmarks, El Barrio/East Harlem is the place to be. As the cradle of the Puerto Rican community in New York City, El Barrio is a mecca of Latino arts, music and culture, making our community an exciting and unique destination. On behalf of our small businesses and cultural institutions, I thank NYC & Company for featuring El Barrio/East Harlem in its Neighborhood x Neighborhood initiative.”
Cultural Organizations and Gardens:
• Central Park’s only formal garden, the Conservatory Garden is divided into three sections, showcasing Italianate-, French- and English-style garden architecture. The beautiful six-acre landmark is accessible through the Vanderbilt Gate at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street.
• With a permanent collection of more than 6,500 objects spanning more than 800 years of Latino, Caribbean and Latin American art, El Museo del Barrio is New York City’s leading Latino cultural institution. In addition to its galleries, the museum hosts a series of cultural festivities, educational programs and literary discussions.
• Harlem Meer, named after the Dutch word for lake, is the second largest man-made body of water in Central Park. Located on the northern shore of the Meer, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center offers free education and community programs, seasonal exhibits and holiday celebrations.
• Named after a Puerto Rican poet, the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center hosts arts programs, educational activities and their annual Puerto Rican Parade & Latino Festival. Located at the Center, Los Pleneros de la 21 is a community organization and music ensemble with programming throughout the year. An event space and gallery at the Center, Taller Boricua has been part of the East Harlem/El Barrio community for over 40 years.
• In the summer of 2013, Latino artists from the United States, Puerto Rico and around the world painted large-scale murals throughout El Barrio as part of the historic Los Muros Hablan NYC urban art festival. The murals in El Barrio depict each artists’ take on the concept of “diaspora.” A full map, artist information and images of the completed murals can be found at losmuroshablannyc.com.
• Museum of the City of New York was founded in 1923 and explores the past, present, and future of New York City from its buildings and streets to its cultures and people.
• New York City’s longest-operating black theater company, National Black Theatre’s stage has featured performances by Alicia Keys, Nina Simone and Patti LaBelle. This December, the Theatre will present Shakespeare Remix: Twelfth Night in conjunction with Epic Theatre Ensemble on December 12 and 14. In addition, the monthly event, Fertile Ground, showcases National Black Theatre’s artists on December 12.
• Located on East 104th Street and Lexington Avenue, the Spirit of East Harlem mural was painted in the 1970s by Hank Prussing and restored by Manny Vega in 1998. The mural captures the essence and residents of the neighborhood during the time period and incorporates several portraits of neighborhood residents and common activities of the area including dominos and basketball.
• An urban street game, stickball dates from the 19th century and is celebrated in East Harlem at the World Series of Stickball Community Gallery and Stickball Hall of Fame. The gallery showcases bat and balls used in the game including sawed-off broomsticks, mop handles and curtain rods and pink rubber Spaldeens.
Dining and Nightlife:
• For authentic Cuban food and drinks locals go to Amor Cubano. The menu includes everything from sweet plantains and shredded chicken with yellow rice and vegetables to traditional Cuban steak and white sea bass. With their three dining spaces, one of which resembles a Cuban backyard patio, there are plenty of options for diners.
• Founded by an East Harlem native, Aromas Boutique Bakery & Café offers cake and cupcake flavors like vanilla, chocolate and their best selling pumpkin. For customers with dietary restrictions, Aromas also offers gluten- and sugar-free baked goods.
• A charming restaurant, Restaurant San Cristobal is enjoyed by both locals and visitors for the large selection of Hispanic dishes including their popular cemita, a Puebla-style sesame seed bun sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, chipotle, pápalo, Oaxacan cheese, avocado and beans.
• Camaradas, a neighborhood nightlife spot, has a wide selection of beers in addition to wine, sangria and seasonal cocktails. Their Puerto Rican menu includes the delicious jíbaro sandwich, alcapurrias and mofongo relleno.
• One of East Harlem’s newest restaurants, Cascalote Latin Bistro serves Latin food with Mexican seasonings. Their dishes include sautéed spicy shrimp, grilled chicken tacos with onions and a flat bread appetizer with chorizo.
• Founded in 2008 by an El Barrio native, East Harlem Café is a cozy, relaxing place for coffee, lunch or a light dinner.
• With both an outdoor and indoor space and plenty of tapas, El Kallejon is a favorite spot of neighborhood locals and New Yorkers from every borough. The tapas range from Manchego cheese, serrano ham and quince to octopus with onion, cilantro, citrus, tomato sauce and chili with crispy tostitas.
• Opened in 2009, Evelyn’s Kitchen boasts “dangerously delicious” baked goods including blondies, banana pecan chocolate loaves and pecan pies. Customers also flock to Evelyn’s Kitchen for the to-go lunches and dinners.
• The Lexington Social, an inviting bar and tapas restaurant, is a favorite of neighborhood locals for their vintage cocktails, reasonably priced wines and inventive tapas. Menu items include goat cheese–stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta and fried artichokes and chipotle mayonnaise.
• Located at the same East Harlem address since 1933, Patsy’s Pizzeria has earned praise over the years from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Francis Ford Coppola and many more for their thin crust pizza made with quality ingredients.
• Rao’s has been serving Neapolitan cuisine since 1896. The legendary Italian restaurant is arguably the hardest reservation to secure in the City.
Retailers and Markets:
• In business for more than 45 years, Casa Latina Music Shop offers a wide selection of Latin CDs, vintage vinyls and instruments, and the knowledgeable staff keeps customers returning visit after visit.
• Sneakers and hats line the walls at Goliath RF. The streetwear store carries over 60 brands of clothing, hats, sneakers and accessories.
• A Hispanic botanical store, Justo Botánica sells spiritual products associated with Santería including candles, religious statues, herbs and oils. Owner Jorge Vargas guides customers unfamiliar with the products in the right direction.
• A literature hub, La Casa Azul Bookstore hosts book clubs, author signings, gallery shows, film screenings and writer’s workshops making it more than just a bookstore. Although it is Latino centric, La Casa Azul offers books in both English and Spanish.
• Opened by Mayor LaGuardia in the 1930s as the Park Avenue Retail Market, La Marqueta is a vibrant market under the Park Avenue elevated railway tracks. The market is home to several vendors including a bakery, cider mill and an urban garden center.
• Located just minutes away from East Harlem, the Aloft Harlem offers guests modern style in historic Harlem. Amenities in the more than 120 loft-inspired guest rooms include luxurious beds, free WiFi and LCD TVs. Guests and visitors can also enjoy the hotel’s W XYZ Bar, a lounge complete with a pool table, bar and snack menu and live music.
• A short distance from East Harlem, The Marmara Manhattan is a luxury hotel offering spacious accommodations from studios to one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with separate bedrooms, living rooms and dining areas and fully equipped kitchens.
New York City is made up of five distinct boroughs: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. The Neighborhood x Neighborhood initiative intends to spotlight the affordability and accessibility of neighborhoods across the five boroughs with a particular emphasis on areas that have seen new hotel development in recent years. Neighborhoods and featured highlights were chosen in collaboration with City Council officials, Department of Cultural Affairs, NYC Small Business Services, business development districts, community leaders and with consideration of NYC & Company’s more than 2,000 members.
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- East Harlem’s Maria Calas (video) (harlemworldmag.com)
- New York: Harlem (highlife.ba.com)
- One Dead, four Injured in East Harlem Crash (harlemworldmag.com)