Our Weekend Stay in Harlem New York
My husband and I had a lovely weekend in Harlem.
We usually opt for a staycation in the touristy areas of New York, but this time, we decided to stay at the Renaissance Hotel next to the iconic Apollo Theater. As soon as we entered the main lobby, we were greeted by the security personnel before taking the elevator to the fifth floor, where the front desk and the bar/restaurant area are located. The hotel's aesthetic and decor are unlike anything we've seen before; it's unique, stylish, and designed by black artists of the 30's, 40's, and 50's.
The hotel features pictures of famous artists such as Lena Horne, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington, to name a few. Upon checking in, we were assigned our room on the 11th floor. However, it turned out to be a small open-concept room with no doors, and the bathroom was also in front of the bed and had no privacy. As we both like to have a nice bathroom for our private time, we headed back to the front desk to get the correct room. They assigned us another room, but the bathroom only had a shower this time, even though we had paid for one with a tub.
After some confusion, we finally got to the fitting room, which was worth the wait.
The room layout was very stylish, and the bathroom decor is one of the best bathrooms designs we have ever seen in a hotel. It had gold railing and great graphic design.
After checking in and resting for a while, we decided to head out and grab some lunch at Sylvia, an iconic soul food restaurant in Harlem. Sylvia was one of my husband's favorite soul food places when he moved to New York; he used to dine there weekly. However, we found the food bland and unimpressive. I ordered the fried chicken for my appetizer, which lacked seasoning, and my husband's chicken gizzard was scorched. For our entrée, I ordered the fried catfish with a side of collard greens and white rice, and my husband ordered the smother pork chops with mac and cheese and candy yams. Unfortunately, the restaurant was untrustworthy as they switched out the catfish for a cheaper type of fish, which my husband thought was swan fish. His pork chop was also very dry, so we decided not to return to Sylvia again.
After lunch, we did some shopping around Harlem at local small businesses before heading back to the hotel for a two-hour nap. The bed and bedding were very comfortable, and we slept like babies.
When we woke up, we went downstairs to the Victoria Bar for dinner and drinks. On Friday, they have a live band, and that sounds amazing. The hotel bar had a big crowd, and everyone seemed to be 40 and up, which was our type of crowd.
We sat at the bar for dinner and ordered the gumbo, a Lemon Drop Martini, and my husband's usual drink, Pinot Grigio.
We enjoyed listening to live music, meeting interesting people at the bar, and having a great night. We got back to our room at midnight and went to bed. The next day, we ordered some Uber Eats to hold us down until dinner. On Saturday, my husband and I had a lazy day indoors, sleeping, watching TV, and relaxing. As the evening approached, we started preparing for dinner. I decided to take a long hot bath in the hotel bathtub, which was surprisingly spacious. However, I noticed that the water wasn't as hot as I preferred, but it was still comfortable enough, so I didn't mind too much. After my shower, I started styling my hair with a flat iron and laid out my and my husband's outfits.
I always like to coordinate our outfits, and we wore matching colors this time. I chose a fashionable Nova green and brown sweater dress, Gucci suede heels, and a Fendi flower bag with a Fendi poncho. I picked green skinny jeans from Zara, a Burberry sweater, and a Burberry leather jacket with Louis Vuitton black and gold boots for my husband.
When it was my husband's turn to shower, however, we realized the water was cold. We initially thought we were turning on the wrong showerhead, as there were three of them, but after trying for about ten minutes, we concluded that the hot water wasn't working. So, we dressed and called for an Uber to take us to our favorite steakhouse in Harlem, Ricardo. It's located in Spanish Harlem, just ten minutes from our Renaissance hotel.
Ricardo Steakhouse has been a neighborhood staple since 2004 when brothers Jimmy Mateus and Eddie Mateus opened the restaurant. They combined the concept of a "Theater" open kitchen restaurant that showcases the out-bursting flavors of Angus steaks and house seasonings with a warm, sexy, nontraditional Steak House, creating a "New World" Latino Steak House that offers excellent, gourmet, healthy food at affordable prices.
We arrived at the restaurant and realized it was packed with customers celebrating their birthdays. Although we didn't make a reservation, we hoped to get a table. Unfortunately, as a walk-in, we had to sit outside in the heated tent that Ricardo provides for its customers. Thankfully, it was warm enough, and we didn't mind. Since our hotel room had no mini fridge, we decided to skip the appetizers and go straight for the entrée.
The restaurant offered the best warm garlic bread and marinara sauce, which we couldn't resist. I ordered the P-Y-T bone steak (22 oz), a T-bone steak made with basil, tomatoes, and golden truffle fries. My husband ordered the Porterhouse with mixed vegetables and potatoes. We both had Pinot Grigio for our wines, which was a perfect choice.
Our experience at Ricardo was exceptional, with excellent customer service and fantastic food. After dinner, we returned to the hotel, and I reported the hot water issue to the front desk. Unfortunately, they had known about the water system being down for the whole building, but they offered us drink coupons to compensate for the inconvenience. However, I turned them down since they should have taken money off the room price instead. So we went to the bar and had more drinks.
I switched to an espresso martini, and my husband kept sipping on his Pinot Grigio. We were having a great time at the bar, and I overheard another guest praising the Caesar salad, so I ordered one with grilled shrimp, and we shared it. It was so delicious.
After having two martinis and another meal, we left the bar at 11 and headed to our room. I watched a little TV and went straight to bed.
The next day was checkout time, which was perfect since the hotel offered a noon checkout. Many hotels have a 4:00 pm check-in time and an 11:00 am checkout, which can be inconvenient. Unfortunately, the hot water never came back on, and when we checked out, I mentioned it to the staff. All they did was apologize; they should have given us some money back in our room. Despite the hot water issue, our hotel stay was pleasant. I gave the Victoria bar a 10 out of 10 for customer service, their unique menu, and having a mixologist on board.
Finally, before leaving for Long Island, our Uber driver stopped at my all-time favorite restaurant, a soul food Buffett Jacobs, Harlem is a vibrant neighborhood in New York City that boasts of a rich cultural heritage. If you're planning to visit New York soon, we suggest you take a trip to Harlem to experience the soul of the city. The neighborhood has undergone a lot of changes since 2003, with the addition of franchise restaurants, stores, and a giant Whole Foods. You can now purchase fresh vegetables and meat at affordable prices in the area.
During my staycation in Harlem, I had the chance to explore the diverse food scene in the neighborhood. The food selection is impressive, with several soul-food classics, healthy fresh vegetables, salads, and fruits that also appeal to vegans. I purchased enough food for Sunday Dinner, lunch, and Monday night Dinner at just $93.00. The meals included jerk chicken, oxtail, short ribs, Bar B que ribs, stewed chicken, green beans, shrimp fried rice, salad, and candy yams.
Overall, Harlem is a great place to visit if you're looking to experience the culture and diversity of New York City.