Central Harlem’s Foodie Find: Native

My first few years living in NYC, I was an uptown girl…and by uptown I don’t mean “Upper East Side close to the MET”, more like “Inwood: the last neighborhood in Manhattan before reaching the Bronx.”  Needless to say, I was always on the lookout for up-and-coming restaurants ABOVE 96th Street…cause honestly, I didn’t feel like making a night of it every time I wanted a decent meal.  And when commuting to and from the tippy top of the island, you would DEFINITELY be making a night of anything below that Manhattan Mason Dixon Line.



That being prefaced, I was recently in Central Harlem meeting some girlfriends for lunch and was so pleased with the restaurant find, I just had to share.  Located on 118th Street and Lenox Avenue, Native is truly notable.  Our waiter was polite, attentive, and enthusiastic about sharing his menu faves.  I went with the Red Rice and Beans with sweet plantains and garlic spinach, and although it was a healthy portion, cleaned my plate to the last spoonful.  Lots of fun flavors happening in that dish.



The girls went with burgers, which they loved.  After all, the restaurant’s red neon sign in the window does boast that it has “the best burger in Harlem.

We played it safe with lemon water and cherry coke, since it was, after all, before noon.  But the bar is adorable, and they have 2 for 1 Happy Hour every Monday through Friday from 3-8.  Take note, stressed out teachers and inspiration seeking freelancers!  (Since I’m not quite sure who else would be able to take advantage of a 3pm happy hour!)  I’d suggest trying the “Hot Ghetto Mess”, a combo of Hennesy, Citron Vodka, Sugar and Lemon.  Flavors aside, I’m just kind of in love with the name.



The exposed brick decor, edgy paintings, upbeat tunes, and, oh yeah–spectacular food–definitely put Native on my list for best places to eat above 96th Street.

What are your go-to Uptown spots?  Share below!

WHERE: Native 
161 Lenox Avenue
New York, New York

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen




  • If my dinner plans fall through on Saturday night with the cuzin at Red Rooster, which only takes a “limited number of reservations on Saturday night” (according to the individual who answered the telephone when I called, we’ll head to Native. Have to admit though that my eagerness to visit Red Rooster is a little shaky…in scanning Twitter, when someone says about going “don’t bother” it’s a concern. When I probed why, they said the food was a salty mess. I am, however, going to try. Best to taste for myself. And I’ll also check out the suggestions by “Inside Journey” above.

    • Used York City says:

      Ohh, how was it?! I’ve never been there before, but agreed. Sometimes a place will have awful reviews on Yelp or via Twitter, but I couldn’t have been happier with the food (not always the case, but it has happened!). All a matter of your own personal taste:-)

  • Getting wonderful tips from the locals is always the best. :)

    • Used York City says:

      Agreed! Before I travel to a new place, I always check out local bloggers to get the inside scoop:-)

  • Native has always been a favorite, Jess. I haven’t been in a year but I’m glad to hear the food’s still good, the waiters are still enthusiastic and polite and the drinks have kicking names.

    I also like Ristorante Settepani, on Lenox a block above Native, Red Rooster, Chez Lucienne, Moca Lounge and Chocolat (across the street on Frederick Douglass Blvd), Melba’s a block of two south on FDB. I also like checking out the Senegalese restaurants on 116th Street, Africa Kine comes to mind, the Hudson River Cafe and a few the others on 12th Avenue – their names escape me now.

    • Used York City says:

      Thanks so much for these great suggestions! I’m definitely going to be checking them out!

  • Stevie says:

    seriously great mixology creativity there. wow.

  • Looks a lot like the Rev JW Simpson in London – same decor style at least! interesting trend

  • Cari Lorine says:

    I love the decor! I’m sorry to report that I don’t have any favorite uptown spots, but I now have one on my “must try” list for my next visit to the city. Native looks like a great place!

  • Those plantains look amazing!

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