Venturing north of Central Park is not a common pastime for many New Yorkers who live south of 110th street. The neighborhoods of Harlem and Washington Heights are hardly as concentrated with nonresidents as the rest of Manhattan, and it is about time that changed. Through the years Harlem has transitioned into a bustling hub of culture, cuisine and entertainment with international flavor. Nicknamed ''Le Petit Sénégal',' Lower West Harlem offers a rich array of African influenced businesses and restaurants.
Take an uptown train to West 116th and 8th avenue to be immersed in a little taste of the world's second largest continent. Senegalese patisseries and authentic jewelery stands line the colorful street corners of this thriving neighborhood and make it an excellent choice for a venture out of downtown Manhattan. ''Le Petit Sénégal'' consists mainly of the blocks surrounding West 116th between Lenox and Malcom X Avenue on the east and Frederick Douglas to the west. In the midst of this sits Silvana.
Silvana was created by couple Abdel and Sivan Baron Ouedraogo, who also own a world music venue, The Shrine, and a French bistro, Yatenga, in Harlem. The couple draws inspiration from their Israeli and African roots and feel very connected to the international community in Harlem. Silvana, located on 116th street between Frederick Douglass boulevard and Manhattan avenue, is a cafe, boutique and bar with live music everyday.
The neighborhood itself thrives on the energy of recent West African immigrants who have brought inspiration from French speaking Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and other nearby countries with them to Harlem. Listen closely and under the noise of traffic and city life, you're likely hear hear bits of French conversation floating around the avenues.
Patisserie Des Ambassades, a Senegalese bakery and cafe on Frederick Douglass Boulevard provides the delicate charm of Paris with the warmth and hospitality of a cozy kitchen. Order a pain au chocolat and a cafe au lait, grab a table outside and enjoy the movement of the neighborhood around this peaceful little spot.
For an authentic meal, Africa Kine restaurant on 116th between Frederick Douglas and Adam Clayton Powell offers live music, colorful décor and a delicious West African menu that changes every night. The owners are natives of Senegal and all of the dishes are traditional and inspired by their childhoods there.
Harlem is also home to thriving Middle Eastern and South American communities among others. If you aren't in the mood for Senegalese chicken and rice, there are plenty of other great international venues to explore in the area. It might take you a few extra stops on subway, but taking the time to seek out something new north of the park will transport you a world a way. So, the next time you're craving a little more spice than a pizza shop in the Village or a boutique in Chelsea, check out the blocks around West 116th.
--Copy & Video by Rose GunsonRead more »