There are many restaurants and eateries popping up in Harlem, which thankfully now gives us a choice of where to spend our money. Some of us make our choice by food or drink, some by location or service and some require all four–let’s call it the “quad-fecta.” Well, it has come, and may it live forever!
Sitting squarely in the middle of the east side of Fredrick Douglass Boulevard between 114th and 113th street lives the Harlem Food Bar (2100 Frederick Douglass Blvd., 212-222-9570, www.hfbnyc.com). While the simple black, white and red logo says “Come on in,” the large, graphic, colorful pop art wall of food and culture icons says, “You made it! Thanks for coming! Grab a seat!” And I did.
The restaurant is owned and operated by partners Ernie Gonzalez and Scott Siler. Together, they have owned a couple of notable establishments in New York City, but Gonzalez, a native East Harlemite, took hold of the opportunity to return uptown to be a part of Harlem’s growth.
Gonzalez and Siler’s convivial and generous spirit is evident from staff and patrons alike. Gonzalez, also the chef, prepares all the food, including his soon-to-be-famous hand-blended vegetarian burger. “I want to have things on the menu that I would eat and are affordable,” says Gonzalez.
Everything on the menu is under $20! Appetizers of fresh guacamole or hummus, grilled corn with toasted coconut and the ubiquitous chicken Wings do the trick. The extra crispy fried pot stickers and fried mac and cheese squares with red pepper coulis hit all the right notes for a bar nosh while enjoying a cocktail or beer.
Salads, sandwiches and burgers are the three categories on the entree menu. The roasted beet salad with goat cheese crostini serves its traditional “food marriage” well. Sandwiches include a shrimp po’ boy, salmon BLT and steak sandwich with caramelized onions and aged cheddar that is cooked perfectly. The burger menu includes the traditional beef, turkey and a veggie that is packed with lentils and served with horseradish cream. It needs a little more of a binder in the patty to prevent it from falling apart, but that doesn’t stop you from eating every bit of it. And those super crunchy fries and thin sweet potatoes fries will do you right!
Harlem Food Bar is taking their love of service to the community by hosting a series of happy hour events once a month called “HFB Gives Back. ” On select Mondays HFB offers free appetizers from 5-8 p.m. to help loosen those purse strings to giving. A portion of the proceeds goes to local charities.
The first HFB Gives Back event benefited the Dream Center for youth and young adults in Central Harlem. The next two events will be Oct. 15 for the NYPD Police Athletic League and Nov. 19 for Harlem United, which assists those fighting HIV/AIDS in Harlem.
So go and sidle up to the Harlem Food Bar for a plate, a drink, a smile or just because you can.
New York City’s first nighttime farmers market will take place in Harlem! Thursday, Oct. 11, from 4-9 p.m. at the Harlem Treasure Chest Flea Market, corner of 117th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Fresh fruits and vegetables, wine, cheeses, breads and baked goods plus prepared food from local restaurants will be available. Cash, debit, credit and EBT/SNAP Benefits accepted. See you there.
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
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Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email kysha@iSCHOP.com.