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Tuesday
Feb212012

Red Rooster

125th Street in Harlem has long been known as the “main street” in Harlem. The legendary Apollo theater is located there and I haven’t been there since my friend and TWM commenter, Biff was in town back in 2010. It’s time for an overdue visit to look and explore around 125th Street in Harlem, so it’s uptown we go!

And here we are at 125th St. a.k.a. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Let's take a look around.

I don't get to Harlem much, that's one of the things I like about doing this blog. It forces me to get outside of my comfort zone and take a look at things and neighborhoods in New York I normally wouldn't take the time to go to. I've never really walked around 125th street and imagined it would have a lot of Harlem-flavored stores, mom and pop shops, soul food diners, but when I got here that wasn't the case. It's pretty much just one chain store after another. There's the odd wig shop and hair weave/braid salon, but outside of that, pretty much all gentrified chain stores. Pretty disappointing. I wanted to get a shot of the Apollo Theater sign, but decided that would be a better shot for the nighttime. So I needed to improvise and salvage this Harlem post. And my one rule of thumb when a blog gets stuck—get thee to a bar toot sweet! There's one restaurant/bar that opened up about a year ago called The Red Rooster on Lenox and the couple times I've tried to go to the bar it's been packed. It's just about 5:00 PM now, so let's ditch these chains on 125th street and check it out.

And here we are, The Red Rooster. Let's go see if there's a spot at the bar to sit and wash the memory of those chain stores away.

Look at this, plenty of seats available at the circular bar in the front room, let's go snag a stool.

And here's friendly bartender Virgil with a bottle of Red Stripe, things are looking up!

Cheers from the Red Rooster in Harlem.

There's a wall of bottles and glasses behind the bar, separating it from the dining room.

The bar has a wooden base and a shiny copper top.

Okay, some time has gone by, Virgil's day shift is over and as the early evening sets in, Santiago takes over at the bar.

As you can see, the bar is starting to fill up now. I'm glad I've got my seat all locked away!

There's a group of women down at the end of the bar that have been laughing, taking pictures and having a good time. I have a feeling they're visiting from out of town. Let's go say hi and see if I'm right.

And I was right! They're here all the way from the other side of the country, Los Angeles. They've all been to New York before, but this was their first time in the Red Rooster. From left: Renee, Monica, Alice and Jomel. A lovely group of pretty women!

Here's the dining room behind the bar. It's a spacious and open area.

Here's the kitchen in the back of the dining room. Looks like they're gearing up for a busy night.

When I return to the bar, it's all filled up, luckily I've still got my space. Here's a shot to my right...

And to my left. This is a popular place!

And now the lovely Tiffany has come on board to bartend. No offense to Virgil or Santiago, but she's definitely the prettiest of the trio of bartenders on duty tonight!

Okay, time for dinner, I need something to soak up the beers I've had or I won't make it out the door.

I got the Mac and Cheese which comes with a salad. It looks great!

The Mac and Cheese has collard greens in it which gives it a nice soul food touch. Really delicious!

Wow, that hit the spot! Sylvia's is still my favorite Harlem restaurant, but this ranks a close number two.

Ah, night has fallen and it's out the door we go!

The sign looks a lot better at night, all lit up.

Okay, time to go get that shot of the Apollo Theater sign.

Here's a painting on a roll down gate on 125th Street, sure beats a Dunkin' Donut sign!

And here's the Apollo Theater sign, all aglow. There's a sidewalk shed covering the lower portion of the sign, so I just took the neon portion.

And I thought this would be a fitting closing shot, a woman on the corner in a Statue of Liberty outfit! Goodnight and see you all tomorrow!

Further Reading: Wikipedia, New York Magazine and Harlem World (bad news in this link!)

There is a rose in Spanish Harlem.

Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!

References (5)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (24)

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGENE

Hey Marty, Virgil looks like a major wiseguy from the Soprano's. That Mac and Cheese looks great, my girlfriend would love it. I haven't been up to Harlem in over 6 years. The Red Rooster is a good reason to go back.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanny the Freelancer

The women from Los Angeles reminded me of two beautiful black women, Lily and Barbra, who I worked with at the US Courthouse in Brooklyn in the 1980s. And they could drink me under the table then get up and go for more somewhere else. I dedicated my Lambda Award winning novel "Holy Communion" to them, that's one of the books I gave you. I really loved them. They sure could out drink me and in those days I was one of heavy drinker. Guzzle, guzzle, guzzle...

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMykola Mick Dementiuk

@GENE: I wonder why I wasn't invited to that shindig!

@Danny The Freelancer: When you get to Harlem, definitely check it out. You should try and get there around 5pm, unless you make reservations, the place really packs them in!

@Mykola Mick Dementiuk: I just went and re-read the introduction, very cool! Thanks again for sending that to me, a great book by a great writer!

February 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

That's a salad? It looks like a floral arrangement.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlegitimate beef

I used to go up to 125th street to buy music at The Harlem Record Shack, and to Bobby’s Happy House, around the corner on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Their selection of Jazz, R&B and Reggae Music was unparalleled.

“Mac and Cheese which comes with a salad”
That really looks good!

“From left: Renee, Monica, Alice and Jomel. A lovely group of pretty women!”
I’m thinking you could have scored with Monica, she’s giving you that “come-hither” look.

I’ll bet that Apollo show was SMOKIN”!!!!!! Big Sid Catlet was a drummer's drummer, Arnet Cobb on tenor sax was no slouch either.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

"Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem"

Meh.....

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAretha Franklin

@legitimate beef: Ha, you're right! Those are pickled vegetables, to go along with the pickled diner!

@Martin: I tried to find the Harlem Record Shack, but I'm pretty sure it's closed now, sadly, I think it's a tennis shoe store! I don't know about any "come-hither look," but they were a nice and fun group of women. And I think every show at the Apollo is smokin'! I need to get back there and see a show!

@Aretha: He did it first, but I liked your version too.

February 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

@Marty: Who's got a better set of "lungs"? You had better stop and think before you think, think!!

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAretha Franklin

@Marty - The Harlem Record Shack and Bobby’s Happy House, are both gone

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

‘Rethas’ so fat I had to take a train and two busses just to get on her good side

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBen E. King

This mac and cheese look delish and original. I like the collard greens addition. Maybe a sprinkling of bacon on the top would be great too. Never get too much of a good thing.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

@Martin: Well, that sucks! I swear outside of the Apollo, it's all chain and fast food places. And if you click on the last link in the "Further Reading" you'll see some really disturbing news!

@Melanie: Bacon would've definitely taken it over the top, great idea!

February 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

I need to try collard greens with my mac and cheese..that looks pretty darn awesome.
good post Marty!
and looks like a real good time!

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGidget

That looks like a great bar, Marty, and it's going on my to-drink list, toot sweet! And speaking of sweet tooting—or more accurately—HONKING: that surprise link today is a killer! What I wouldn't give to have seen that show… honking r&b at its finest in the Apollo? Great googdi boogdi I wish I was there right now.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNed Sparks

Another vote for the mac & cheese + salad looking awesome! It's been awhile since I've been up on 125th. My biggest memory is there are more double and triple parked cars on that street than any other I've ever been on. It's a nightmare going crosstown on bus.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpike

@Gidget: Thanks! It was a nice rebound from the disappointment on 125th Street!

@Ned Sparks: I hear you about he surprise links. I love old vintage Harlem photos, but it makes it even more sad to go today and see it littered with McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, etc.

@Spike: Sadly, outside of the Apollo, there's not much worth going to 125th Street. But it's worth the trip to go to nearby Lenox and try both The Red Rooster and Sylvia's. And the nearby Lenox Lounge, I'm going to go there as a separate outing some night.

February 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Great post!! Love the argument between Aretha and Ben bahahhahaha!!!!!! So sad what has been happening on 125th street!! I highly recommend Lenox Lounge, one of my favorite spots in the city, if it's still there (boooo)

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

@Lindsay: Thanks! Yeah, 125th St. is a sad sight these days. The Lenox Lounge is still there, I passed by it. I'm going to save it for its own individual post down the road.

February 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

The comments your audience leave usually have some really insightful observations. This is not one of them.
Red Rooster, nice cock.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercsp

Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington, 125

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLou

@csp: you had to go down that avenue, didn't you? Cock-a-doodle-doo!

@Lou: Say hi to the guys in Metallica for me!

February 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Ah, Harlem! I'd like to do a little more exploring up there (off the beaten, chain-filled path) and will definitely make a stop at Red Rooster. Your food looked absolutely delicious and everyone seemed super friendly. I really liked the bent wood around the bar and that signage above the open kitchen is pretty cool too. Glad you had a good night. And thanks for the picture of the other Statue of Liberty to remind me of the first one. I've been all over NYC, but she's still my favorite part of it.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

@Biff: I need to explore more around Harlem too, I know there's cool places there, but 125th Street was a bit of a disappointment. You definitely need to check out Red Rooster!

February 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

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