Harlem culinary scene in the spotlight with new festival

The restaurants include soul food stalwarts as well as newcomers.

Get a taste of Harlem!

This weekend, the inaugural Harlem EatUp! festival celebrates the culinary players who have made the neighborhood a destination as of late, from newcomers to institutions.

“There are all these incredible restaurants in Harlem that I want to showcase,” said Marcus Samuelsson, who co-founded the festival with Herb Karlitz and has lived in the neighborhood for nearly a decade. “I know these places, but I want to show New Yorkers them and the rest of the country.”

These restaurants include soul food stalwarts such as Sylvia’s and Charles’ Country Pan Friend Chicken, as well as newcomers including Southern Revival spots The Cecil and Minton’s, both spearheaded by chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson, craft cocktail bars The Grange and La Bodega 47 Social Club and, of course, Samuelsson’s own restaurants — comfort food destination Red Rooster, the speakeasy-esque Ginny’s Supper Club and the casual chicken spot Streetbird, which opened last month.

Harlem native Leticia “Skai” Young-Mohan opened the Caribbean-Cape Cod mashup LoLo’s Seafood Shack this past fall with her husband, chef Raymond Mohan, and jumped on board participating in the festival.

“It’s a great time for Harlem, and it’s a festival that will spotlight Harlem as a dining destination,” says Young-Mohan, who remembers going to Sylvia’s after church on Sundays growing up in East Harlem. “The great thing about the restaurants here is they’re all so different from each other. It’s just totally ripe for exploration.”

Festivalgoers can sample the neighborhood’s offerings during two big tasting events on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend festivities will also feature art, music, style and dance to further highlight the neighborhood’s vibrant culture.

Harlem Park to Park, which has helped bring together restaurants for the festival, anticipates around 3,000 people each day during the weekend.

“The goal is that this weekend may be an introductory experience for some people, but will certainly make them want to come back for more,” said Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, executive director of Harlem Park to Park. “One trip to Harlem and one meal in Harlem is not the full experience.”


Here are some highlights during the Harlem EatUp! Festival:


As part of the “Dine in Harlem” series, restaurants throughout the neighborhood including The Cecil, Ginnyas Supper Club, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and VinaterAa will present special dinners and collaborations. Ranging from $85 to $125 with multiple seatings.


Enjoy tastings from Harlem restaurants and culinary demonstrations from the likes of Marcus Samuelsson, Melba Wilson and Scott Conant at “The Stroll” in Morningside Park (114th Street and Manhattan Avenue) from noon-5 p.m. FREE, though admission to ticketed tents featuring art, music, style and dance as well as more bites is $75.


The festival closes out with “A Sunday Afternoon in Harlem,” featuring tasting tents, artists and live performances from noon-4 p.m. Admission FREE but tasting packages are available ($50 for 10 food tickets, $50 to access the wine, spirits and beer tents).


IF YOU GO: Harlem EatUp! Thursday-Sunday. Events schedule at harlemeatup.com

Meredith Deliso