Today’s plan was to join a Spanish Harlem walking tour given by Museo del Barrio every Saturday. But it was raining when I woke up and did not stop until I would have had to leave. I had not bought a ticket in advance, so I postponed the tour to next Saturday and stayed at home to read and critique stories.
When it cleared up in the afternoon I thought about what I could do with the rest of the day. I decided to take the train to Penn Station, walk over to Koreatown at 32nd Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway and later on to Lexington to check out an Indian restaurant at 28th Street.
On my way to the train I treated myself to my very first Cupcake at the tiny bakery on Lenox Avenue. I selected one without icing but with cream on it. It was lemon with vanilla cream and a raspberry with some chocolate on top. But why are they so small?
Right behind Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue I stumbled across a landmark building I had not noticed so far, although I had been around earlier. It is hard, not to notice it though. Its Corinthian colonnade stretches over 2 full blocks. It is New York’s General Post Office. Amazing.
Koreatown in contrast was disappointing. It is just one block lined by Korean restaurants and businesses. Maybe nice for a lunch or dinner, but apart from that not so much worth a visit.
I followed 32nd Street to 5th Avenue, went south to 27th Street and over to Lexington. I had no idea that this part of Lexington between 27th and 29th Streets in Kips Bay is completely Indian. Nothing but Indian restaurants and Indian shops there. The restaurant I was looking for, Curry in a Hurry, looks pretty basic and a man without shoes was sleeping on the sidewalk next to it. But it got a lot of recommendations, so I will definitely try it.
Never having been to Kips Bay before I walked further up on Lexington. Kips Bay is mainly residential. A cityscape of apartment towers stretches out all the way over to the East River. The northern neighbor is Murray Hill. It shows a similar structure along the Avenues and to the East but at 35th Street I spotted a brown street sign on the left side, indicating Murray Hill Historic District. It covers just 5 streets between Lexington and Park Avenues. Tucked in Brownstones make a contrast to the high-rise buildings. That’s what I love about New York’s neighborhoods, these surprising contrasts. Especially in Manhattan, where surviving structures like these Brownstones can be found in so many urban areas. I walked north on Park Avenue towards Grand Central Station, what finally gave me the view of the now 100 years old station building squeezed between Midtown’s office towers. That’s New York.
From Grand Central I travelled home to Harlem and got off at 116th Street to have dinner at Amy Ruth’s. Southern cuisine, soul food. It is not as well-known as Sylvia’s on Lenox Avenue and does not have outside seating. I thought it might be more local. They have a doorman outside and you are not allowed in before they got a table for you. There were tables available when I arrived. When I left, the line outside was long. My table was in the middle room of three where pipes are running along the walls and black celebrities are painted on all sides. Sport stars, musicians, actors and politicians.
I recognized Barack Obama, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela (I think). I was helpless with the others. It was too noisy to ask the waitress. Music was playing, in the back room a birthday party was going on and people were talking. Mainly black people, locals probably. The table next to mine was occupied by four girls. They didn’t have much to talk about. They were all doing something with their smartphones. One was checking for emails or texts, another one was playing Candy Crush Saga. I could not see what the other two were doing, but they were holding smartphones as well. Modern communication.
I had come here because I was up to Chicken and Waffles. When I had tried it in Williamsburg after Time Out had proclaimed it the dish of the season I had not known that it is a southern dish and was pretty astonished to find it on so many menus here in Harlem. None of the places had been among Time Out’s suggestions. So now I needed to know if what I got in Williamsburg was real. There was no big difference though. Just that I got warm cornbread in advance and the wine was cheaper and generously filled. I got a waffle the size of a breakfast plate and a fried chicken breast and wing on it. Again it was served with syrup and hot sauce. I spread syrup on the waffle and lavishly poured hot sauce over the chicken. I started with a piece of waffle. It was soft and slightly salty. Not sweet at all. My teeth could sink in it. Then I nibbled the wing. The hot sauce bit my tongue. The wing might have got the biggest splash of it. Remembering that sweet and hot flavors have to merge I sprinkled some syrup over the chicken as well. Delicious. It is a simple dish. But the crisp chicken on the soft waffle and the combination of sweet and spicy make it a palatine surprise.
Five stars for Amy Ruth’s.