My Neighborhood: Marcus Samuelsson’s Harlem

Culture Cache

My Neighborhood: Marcus's Harlem


When Chef Marcus Samuelsson moved to New York City in 1994 to begin his culinary career at Aquavit in Midtown, the 24-year old budding star lived out of two bags and moved in and out of different apartments, typically sharing living space with as many as four roommates. “Success,” he says, “was when you had [only] two roommates.”

When Samuelsson reached his early thirties, he found himself reflecting on his Ethiopian roots and his Scandinavian upbringing—and the importance of diversity. Samuelsson’s attention shifted to Harlem, where the vibrant community and rich history of African American culture offered him a platform to “add value to the food” and to “create a more modern dialogue.”

In 2002, Samuelsson moved to Harlem and has opened two restaurants there—Red Rooster (310 Malcolm X Blvd., 212.792.9001) and Ginny’s Supper Club (below the Red Rooster, 212.421.3821). He also founded Harlem EatUp!, an annual food festival that spotlights the community while supporting the people, cultures, and nonprofits in it. “It’s a true neighborhood in a giant city. It encourages you to walk around and see what’s happening,” the chef says of Harlem. “It’s a neighborhood that stands on the shoulders of its history, and that history is steeped in a culture I think is fascinating.”

The Real Deal

“Sitting at the counter at Sylvia’s Restaurant, especially for lunch, talking to the staff is authentic Harlem. Everything will be discussed, from church to the next Knicks game to local politics. But it’s not at one of the restaurant’s tables; it’s at the counter. We planned Red Rooster— the whole restaurant— from that counter. I was just in awe of that back and forth.”

Sweet Sounds

Paris Blues

“Parlor Jazz at Marjorie Eliot’s is completely different. Every Sunday afternoon, Marjorie hosts  a jazz concert in her two-bedroom apartment. I came to New York just to have these types of experiences. You’re in someone’s home, so it requires a higher level of hospitality from everybody.” (555 Edgecombe Ave., 212.781.6595)

“Another one of my favorite things is to go to Paris Blues, an oldschool bar, for live music. If you like music and you like people, you’re welcome. But you better behave. For example, you clap. Food is free and there’s a bucket you can drop money into, if you have it.” (2021 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., 917.257.7831)

 Modern Twist

My Neighborhood: Marcus's Harlem

“If you want a high cocktail, you go to 67 Orange Street. It serves traditional, vintage cocktails inspired by the Harlem Renaissance but made with new ingredients and a modern uptown twist.” (2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd., 212.662.2030)

—By Shaun Tolson

Find your next home in Harlem today.

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