Discover New York: A Modern Renaissance In West Harlem

ginny's supper club

West Harlem Street Art. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Baikovicius/flickr

Like most New Yorkers, I don’t like to stray too far from my neighborhood. From Bushwick, invitations that involve going past Midtown are typically declined; luckily, a recent plan to make the 50-minute trip up to West Harlem was more than worth the journey, as I experienced a lesser-known and extremely experimental NYC gem.

I’m not quite sure what to expect as I ascend the stairs at the 125th Street stop off the Express 2 train. I haven’t been to Harlem in years, and while I’ve heard West Harlem in particular has taken on a modern, trendy vibe, I can’t help but recall five years ago when a man swinging from a lamppost like a monkey kicked me from the air — hard — and starting laughing manically as if possessed by Satan. It was terrifying, and I hoped this time would be different.

Emerging onto Lenox Ave, however, the gritty scene I remember is replaced by outdoor patios, attractive after work-happy hour goers and clinking cocktail classes. Needless to say, I was excited to explore this “foreign” place — at least to me — territory.

red rooster

Red Rooster interior

My friend, Alex, and I take a seat in the garden-hugged outdoor space at Red Rooster. We’re both the type who seem to get into comically crazy adventures, so cocktails are a must before we recount tales of humorous horror, me getting accosted by a woman selling bows made of cat hair and her almost getting converted to a New Age religion on accident.

For me, it’s a boozy “Brownstoner,” nutmeg-infused-bourbon, St. Germaine and Cherry Herring, while for her it’s a sweeter “Bourbon Negroni” fig and pear-infused bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth.

Cheers to another week of surviving the bullsh*t and only-in-NYC awkward encounters that come with living in the city, and to celebrating the endless array of opportunity around us.

ginny's supper club

Cocktails and cornbread at Red Rooster/Ginny’s Supper Club

Alex and I love food, and despite the fact we’ll be eating at the downstairs Ginny’s Supper Club later on, we snack on delicious starters of chicken-skin mayo-stuffed deviled eggs and crispy chicken wings. As we dine the sun sets, yet the darkened sky stays warm, chatter continues, glasses stay clinking.

This is why I love NYC.

Once 9pm hits we pay the check and make out way indoors, passed the open kitchen, the dangling exposed bulbs, the chalk board walls scratching out recipes and cooking tips like science equations, and down a set of stairs. I descend not only into the subterranean Ginny’s Supper Club, but also a trip back to the Harlem Renaissance.

ginny's supper club

Ginny’s Supper Club

Moody lighting envelops me, Italian chandeliers and candlelit tables lighting the way. The mood is sultry, sexy and vintage, 1940s accents throughout. We sink into a plush banquet, ordering glasses of Prosseco and delicious comfort food dishes. With each bite, sounds of ecstasy escape our mouths, and anyone listening in would think we more likely between the sheets than between gooey bites of Mac and cheese, peanut chicken and cornbread spread with honey butter and tomato jam.

Beside us sits a group of attractive young men in suits — usually not my type but as a newly single woman I’m open to experimenting. A well-groomed dark-haired man with a GAP model smile winks at me and I feel a flutter of excitement. As someone who lives in a neighborhood where “nice ass” is a common pickup line, I may have just fallen in love.

The show begins, and a 5-member band led by the amazing Bryan Carter begins jamming out to the sounds of Ray Charles. I’ll admit I’m the type to become easily fidgety, but these guys hold my attention and I can’t seem to get it back. Their energy is infectious, their playfulness, adding little scenes into the music, makes me laugh out loud. When they come into the crowd and get diners to sing “Yes, I believe” into the microphone I’m almost jumping on the table as I burst with energy.

Within an hour I’ve developed a huge crush on the bass player, the way his fingers quickly and daintily strum the strings, like an angel playing the harp, but groovier, helping to bring me out of my recent-breakup funk. It was seriously the most fun I’ve had in awhile.

ginny's supper club

Bryan Carter and his brand perform a Ray Charles act

When the entertainment concludes the people don’t leave, but instead head to the back bar, generous pours of Sauvignon Blanc filling our glasses. We mingle, meeting sexy strangers and genuinely friendly people, until around 1am when we realize it’s a work night and we probably should have been in bed hours ago. I’m sad to leave, but happy with my discovery of this awesome place that I’ll definitely be returning to.

Ginny’s Supper Club shows are Thursdays and Saturdays, with tickets ranging from about $15 to $25. They also host a Sunday Gospel Brunch. Click here to check out their calendar.

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What’s your favorite West Harlem haunt? Please share in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Ginny’s Supper Club 

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