My family and I enjoyed a tasty brunch on Sunday at Red Rooster in Harlem. Named after a legendary Harlem speakeasy, it’s one of chef Marcus Samuelson’s restaurants and has been a huge hit since it opened (on Lenox Ave between 125th and 126th) in 2010. While the food is stellar, the restaurant has higher goals: “We aim to play a role in the future of Harlem, by hiring our family of staff from within the community; inspiring better eating through neighborhood cooking classes; and buying from local purveyors.”
But there’s more at the Rooster. We headed downstairs to Ginny’s Supper Club where they offer a Gospel Brunch every Sunday. For anyone who is interested in the literature, music and culture of the Harlem Renaissance , Ginny’s is a great place to get a little feel of what that era was like, whether you arrive on Sunday morning or any evening during the week. The Sunday morning entertainment is considerably more wholesome than in speakeasy days: Gospel for Teens. Check out the group’s impressive and poignant story that appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes a couple of years ago. Fortunately, we ate before the show started because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to sit still long enough to fit a forkful of food into our mouths with all the clapping, dancing, and those kids singing their hearts out.
For better or worse, this section of Harlem escaped much of the demolition of urban renewal and redevelopment, so a lot of the original gorgeous architecture along Lenox Avenue remains. After brunch, we walked down Lenox and into Central Park. This is a great excursion for anyone who would like to skip the typical mid-town tourist scene. And, if you’re thinking of heading to Harlem, take a look at any of the books listed below regarding the Harlem Renaissance and you’ll appreciate the neighborhood even more.
Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, the complex life of a young African American man in the South and later Harlem. Winner of the National Book Award.
Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes and Not Without Laughter, classic works from one of the most famous figures of the Harlem Renaissance.
David Lewis (ed.), The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. An anthology.
James Baldwin, Go Tell It on The Mountain, a semi-autobiographical story of a young African-American boy in 1930s Harlem.
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Though her story takes place in Florida, Hurston was an important player in the Harlem literary scene.
Laban Carrick Hill, Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance. This is actually aimed at young adults, but the book has been so critically acclaimed, it’s great for any age group.