Herb Karlitz has known Harlem star chef Marcus Samuelsson for over 20 years. So he didn’t actually have to say what they were both thinking at a 2:30 a.m. afterparty during the 2015 South Beach Food & Wine Festival.
“We basically thought it up at the exact same time,” he says of Harlem EatUp!, the weeklong festival of the neighborhood’s unique food and culture returning May 15. “It’s about celebrating what’s made Harlem, like Sylvia’s, and that today there are Michelin-starred restaurants, plus music and art.”
Tickets are on sale now for events from chef dinners that pair some of the biggest names in the food world, like Daniel Boulud, with the chefs of local restaurants, two days of walk-around tastings and seminars, and, as always, an outdoor festival that’s free to attend with food, live music (you might even get to do the Harlem Shake next to New York's first lady Chirlane McCray) and more.
We asked Karlitz where he likes to hang out when he’s not busy scoping out the latest and greatest in Harlem.
Hidden gem: I would put Savour Sichuan against almost anywhere in the city. I took two Michelin chefs there for dinner six months ago, and who walks in? Bernie Sanders, with 10 Secret Service agents. I asked him how he heard about it, and he said, "Somebody on my team told me it was really good and it was off the beaten path." 108 W. 39th St., Midtown West
Catching up with friends: I’m not going to say it’s the best pizza in the world, but Lazzara’s Pizza is fun and funky. You go up the staircase and it looks like you’re entering an abandoned tenement. It’s a square pizza place with a little bar, and it's always packed. 221 W. 38th St., Midtown West
New classics: Floyd Cardoz, I’m so happy he’s got a hit downtown with his place Paowalla. I love Indian breads, tandoor breads, it’s an amazing place. And even though I try not to just go for the latest and greatest, Daniel Rose has a hit on his hands with Le Coucou. It’s really good, fun and different. 109 Spring St., South Village; 138 Lafayette St., SoHo
Out-of-town guests: You want to see something old New York? We’ll sit at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. And there’s Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown. I’m so glad those guys took that to the next level, but they kept the original tea parlor that’s 100 years old. 89 E. 42nd St.; 13-15 Doyers St., Chinatown
Date night: Bohemian is fun because it’s in the back of a Japanese butcher chop, but it’s a wine bar. That’s where I told my nephew — late teenager, he’s got a new girlfriend but not a lot of money — to go and see if he can get a table in the back room. It’s just good value for great Italian food. 57 Great Jones St., NoHo
Late night: I had an event recently with Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and afterward we took them right across the street to Junior’s for cheesecake and chocolate egg cream. Of course, Ginny’s Supper Club stays open late, and they always have live music. 386 Flatbush Ave., Downtown Brooklyn; 310 Lenox Ave., Harlem
Best meal under $10: I go to this hole-in-the-wall takeout place with suckling pig called Cuchifritos. You get a whole roast chicken with a side of rice and beans for $10. It’s unbelievable. 168 E. 116th St., East Harlem
Insta-worthy: It’s been a tradition that I take my daughters somewhere special when they come home from school. This past year for Christmas, we took them to La Grenouille — the flowers when you walk in that room, it’s gorgeous. It’s an experience, it just is. Another that’s pricey is the brunch at Rockefeller Center in the Rainbow Room — it’s a sinful choice of everything you want, 60 stories up overlooking New York. 3 E. 52nd St., Midtown East; 30 Rockefeller Plaza