Harlem's Big Apple Surprise

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TASTE OF THE CITY: The view from the Hudson River Café

Once one of the most downtrodden and dangerous areas in New York City, Harlem is in the throes of a serious rejuvenation. And to cater to everyone moving into and hanging out in the north Manhattan neighborhood, Harlem's culinary scene is blossoming with new restaurants and lounges.

One recent arrival is Talay (www.talayrestaurant.com) in Morningside Heights, where Laos-born chef Soulayphet Schwader — a veteran of Laurent Tourondel's BLT restaurant empire — turns out a mixed Latin-Thai menu. Schwader's signature small-plate dishes include grilled langoustine with sriracha aioli and lemongrass pork sausage, as well as South American classics such as ropa vieja (a dish of spiced, shredded beef) — all served in the sleekly hip dining room or the private, plush Buddha Room. (See 10 things to do in New York City.)

Next door to Talay is Covo (www.covony.com), a massive warehouse of a joint where the wood-burning ovens deliver around a dozen types of pizzas — from prosciutto crudo to Treviso (radicchio, gorgonzola and walnuts) — and the fresh sea bass is marinated in white wine and oregano before being baked whole in a brick oven.

Just moments away, there's the Hudson River Café (www.hudsonrivercafe.com). The split-level boite, set into a converted mechanic's shop right under the West Side Highway, serves up a "new American" menu heavy on comfort food: grilled pork chops, lobster quesadillas, Kobe-beef burgers. And to wash it all down, a selection of Harlem-inspired cocktails such as the Harlem Spice — a mix of tequila, fresh lime, fresh orange and jalapeño. (See pictures of New York City.)

Ten minutes south, on Broadway near Columbia University, Campo — "gathering place" in Italian — is living up to its name (www.camponyc.com). New York foodies congregate inside the rust-and-gold dining room (accented by exposed brick and pressed tin on the ceiling) to indulge in chef David Rotter's fresh takes on Italy's greatest hits, including fried risotto balls, monkfish milanese and chicken alla diavolo cooked under a brick.

And close by is Community Food and Juice (www.communityrestaurant.com), brought to you by the folks behind the Lower East Side's cult-favorite eatery Clinton Street Baking Company. With its pastry provenance, Community is good for mornings and even better for brunch, when chef Neil Kleinberg dishes up midday must-tries such as smoked salmon benedict and seven-grain waffles with roasted apples and pears. It's a mix as eclectic and exciting as Harlem itself.

See 10 things to do in Washington, D.C.

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