Come Valentine's Day, many of you will be searching for the perfect restaurant–one that's unique, intimate, and where guests rave about the food.
In Harlem, spots like Belle Harlem and Tastings Social presents Mountain Bird–small gems with glowing reviews–fit the bill perfectly. Risotto with butter-poached lobster, chanterelles, smoked corn, and black truffles, anyone?
Of course, Valentine's Day doesn't just have to revolve around restaurants. If you're looking for something else to do, here are eight great uptown spots to check out before, after–or instead of–that special meal.
Sugar Hill Creamery is the rare uptown dessert shop that's open till 10pm. Besides the made-in-house ice cream, there are also brownies, red velvet cookies, warm apple cider and hot chocolate. What's more, this Valentine's Day Sugar Hill Creamery is offering an after-hours (10pm-11pm) prix fixe tasting menu that will feature three exclusive desserts created by pastry chef Joey Stalling. The event is $50 and requires a reservation.
A night of music
Harlem's jazz traditions are legendary, and luckily you can still find some of the original joints among the newer offerings. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, local bar Paris Blues offers no-cover jazz seven nights a week; on Valentine's Day the Les Goodson Jazz Band will be the featured artist.
Over at Shrine World Music Venue, things are much more informal, and there are no fewer than four different sets this coming Wednesday, from jazz at 6pm to a live DJ from Senegal at midnight. Order the nachos and stay the whole night.
A romantic drink (or two)
In the last few years a number of intimate bars serving craft cocktails have opened in the Harlem area, and none is as fun as the retro suburban basement-themed The Honeywell. Come for the Love Potion No. 9 (a concoction of rye, blackberries, citrus, agave, bitters and rose water), and stay for all the other fantastic drinks, like the Vivi Con Fuego, the Mi Palabra and the Rubber Band Man. (There's a food menu too.)
Fun and Games
Photo: Regina Fleming for Hoodwinked Escape
Get your heart racing in a different way: at Hoodwinked Escape, groups of 2 to 8 people enter a themed escape room of their choice and have an hour to find their way out using various clues. Beginners might want to try the easiest room, "The Spirit of Harlem" (above), in which you use stories from a fictional local uncle's life to escape. Book on Valentine's Day and you'll also be offered champagne and chocolate fondue.
Join the fun at cafe/bar Silvana for The Poet WILL Be Televised! poetry jam session and open mic this Wednesday as poets, spoken word and hip hop artists, and neo-soul singers get up on stage to improvise with a live band. Now that's a Valentine's Date to remember!