NYC Food Trek Part 2: Harlem Food Bike Tour
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012 17:04
That’s right. Our fabulous Spring Break NYC Food Trek did not end with the 2012 Village Voice Choice Eats Festival that we told you about in the last Oppy issue. In fact, our Spring Break just kept getting better and more glutinous! What do you get when two Stern foodies have a day off and time to explore New York City? The 2012 Harlem Food Bike Tour!
It was aggressive, but with an all-day bike rental (including helmets of course), hardcore bike locks (this was the biggest risk factor) and an entire day to kill, Katherine Mitchell and I ventured above 57th street and embarked on a fantastical bike tour, developed and mapped out by yours truly.
Stop #1: Jin Ramen
3183 Broadway (between Tiemann Place & 125th Street)
We started our bike tour along the Henry Hudson Parkway, which was incredibly scenic and relaxing. Our strategy was to head uptown on the West Side and come back downtown on the East Side and through Central Park. Along the ride to our first stop, we were tempted by the smoky smell of delicious BBQ from Dinosaur BBQ. However, we remained strong and committed to our destination points. If you are ever up for the Harlem Bike tour challenge, I definitely recommend substituting or adding Dinosaur BBQ as one of your destinations in Harlem!
Our first stop was Jin Ramen. A popular spot frequented by Columbia students, I was excited to try the Spicy Tonkatsu with extra pork, which I had heard nothing but fabulous things about. However, after a long (and tiring) bike ride, Jin Ramen was closed. Apparently they are not open for lunch on Mondays through Thursdays. Bummer! This is not posted on their website, so readers, you saw it here first. Katherine and I will definitely try to go again, probably via subway.
Stop #2: Red Rooster
310 Lenox Avenue (between 125th & 126th Streets)
What’s a bike tour in Harlem without stopping at Marcus Samuelsson’s famed Red Rooster? Located near the Apollo theater and Sylvia’s (another treasure), the restaurant is named after the legendary Harlem speakeasy that was located at 138 Street and Seventh Avenue, where neighborhood folk, jazz greats, authors, politicians and some of the most noteworthy figures of the twentieth century – such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Nat King Cole and James Baldwin – would converge to enjoy drinks and music in an inviting atmosphere.
In hopes of maximizing our experience as well as saving our appetites, Katherine and I ordered the famous Helga’s meatballs and Fried Yard Bird (fried chicken), both of which came strongly recommended by the table next to us and our waiter. While I am a huge fan of Ikea’s meatballs, Helga’s meatballs knocked it out of the ballpark. The meatballs, paired with lingonberries and green cabbage was delectable. We tried not to eat both entrees to save room, but ended up cleaning up both plates. The Fried Yard Bird is spectacular. The skin is to die for and the meat impressively juicy, and both perfectly compliment the potatoes (which was Katherine’s favorite).
Overall, the food was amazing and the atmosphere was super cute. Our only complaint was the price point. After venturing so far out to Harlem, I felt a bit of sticker shock considering we were going to three more places and did not feel full. The food was definitely delicious, but given the cost factor, I almost wished that we had stopped at Dinosaur BBQ.
1634 Lexington Avenue (between 103rd & 104th Streets)
After a lot of bike riding, we arrived at our third destination, El Aguila. Katherine and I were on a mission to find great Mexican food, but were slightly disappointed with El Aguila. Well, very disappointed. I had read so many good reviews about the food, but failed to realize that El Aguila was more of a “street-food” type of place, where there was not ample seating and places to lock our bikes. We looked at the menu and were told that the tacos were authentic and delicious. The place was bustling with people and quite stressful. Thus, with nowhere to lock our bikes or sit, we decided to let the bike tour continue.
Stop #4: Lloyd’s Carrot Cake
1553 Lexington Avenue (between 99th & 100th Streets)
Alright, what is a Lisa food tour without dessert? Our next stop was Lloyd’s Carrot Cake, home of the most amazing carrot cake of my life. Think about the moistest cake you have ever had in your life and it would still not compare to how moist the cake at Lloyd’s is. Prices range from $2.50 for a slice without no raisins or nuts to $3.00 for a slice with both. A little part of me melts every time I take a bite. This hole in the wall establishment is easy to be overlooked, but you would really be missing out. The carrot cake is the main attraction, but Lloyd’s also offers Red Velvet cake which is equally delicious. Even if you don’t like carrot cake, you simply have to try this one. It will make a carrot cake lover out of you!