Known forever as the Pandemic Year, 2020 has been filled with heartbreaking closings.
But it hasn't been all bad news.
A surprising number of businesses in Harlem and Washington Heights managed to forge ahead despite the serious headwinds.
From eagerly-awaited dining destinations to dessert shops, here are the most notable:
To no one's surprise, the first half of the year was a slow one. Cuban-influenced spot Havana Heights debuted at 4083 Broadway in January, right before the pandemic. After a very long pause, Baylander Steel Beach, a navy-ship-turned-restaurant moored at the West Harlem Piers, kicked off the summer season with a literal splash.
More spots began arriving in the fall, starting with Ethiopian restaurant Lalibela at 2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd. The Noodle, a new Chinese restaurant from the Handpulled Noodle team, opened at 370 Malcolm X Blvd. Ambitious craft pub Hamilton Hall bowed at 3489 Broadway, as did a preview of Belle Harlem's sister cafe, Ink Harlem, at 2363 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. Startup Harlem Biscuit Company also opened a small sandwich shop within cocktail lounge 67 Orange at 2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd.
The last months of the year had more in store. Vegan-friendly takeout spot Forever Yours Falafel opened at 502 W 167th St, followed by Bixi, the eagerly-awaited new restaurant from the Lido team at 2164 Frederick Douglass Blvd. After a three-year-break, comfort food spot Company on Edgecombe reopened for takeout at 537 Edgecombe Ave. And the Fumo team came in just under the wire with sister restaurant The Chick Inn at 3805 Broadway.
Cafes,dessert shops and juiceries
The year kicked off with the opening of French cafe Le Petit Parisien at 151 Malcolm X Boulevard, bringing lattes, crusty baguette sandwiches, and croissants to Central Harlem. Also arriving just before the pandemic were Belgian mousse bar Mojo at 177 E 100th St and coffee shop 9 Tails at 34 W 126th St. All was quiet on the coffee and sweets front until the fall when artisanal ice cream shop Sugar Hill Creamery opened its second location at 3629 Broadway. Pressed juice spot Root Juicery of Harlem arrived at 2073 Frederick Douglass Blvd.
The uptown bar scene welcomed just a few newcomers this year, starting with Ouaga, a sports bar from the Yatenga team at 2280 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd; it opened just in time for the Super Bowl. Beer bar Oh Craft! at 1739 Amsterdam Ave was the rare spot that managed to launch at the height of the first wave. Another notable newcomer was Lambda Lounge, a new Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar at 2256 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
Popular chains also made inroads into Upper Manhattan, including a new Krispy Kreme donut shop at 319 W 125th Street that still has lines out front five months after opening. The end of the year saw more arrivals, including a new Starbucks at 284 St. Nicholas Avenue and a new branch of fast-casual Mexican spot Chipotle at 3781 Broadway. The area around Columbia University also welcomed three big names in food and retail, including burrito maker Dos Toros at 2911 Broadway, Blue Bottle Coffee at 2901 Broadway, and yogawear brand Lululemon at 2935 Broadway.
Pilates and art
Two other new spots that deserve a special mention—both opened right before the pandemic—are fitness studio Harlem Pilates at 60 W 129th St and art space Claire Oliver Gallery at 2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. Each quickly pivoted to online programming as well as by-appointment-only visits later in the year. May 2020 bring normalcy to them and all their fellow brave new businesses.