The Curators: Style Influencer Jamala Johns’ Harlem Hotspots
One of my favourite things about New York City is its patchwork of interesting neighbourhoods, all unmistakably different from each other, full of cool hotspots waiting to be discovered.
So, for this edition of The Curators, I wanted to put a spotlight on Uptown’s ever-evolving neighbourhood, Harlem. This convivial neighbourhood is home to some of the buzziest bars and restaurants in town and fully deserves its own city guide curated by a local Harlemite who has been celebrated for her stylishness and for her excellent taste.
Enter Jamala Johns, one of my most fabulously creative friends best known for her work on Le Coil, a curated online collection of natural hair imagery. Don’t worry, it’s not just me that thinks she’s fabulous – a whole slew of cool people like Refinery29, Vogue Italia, Ebony, Essence and Jezebel have all featured her and her stylish ways. To get an idea of her eye for style, join me and Jamala’s other 620,000+ Pinterest followers that she faithfully pins to each day.
I’m so excited to share with you my interview with Jamala about life as a style influencer, why being a Harlemite is so awesome and best bit of all, her carefully curated Harlem city guide!
MB – I’ve seen you being called a “Style Influencer” in and around the on and offline worlds. How does one even become a style influencer and how did it all start?
JJ – That’s really sweet that anyone would think of me in that way! I feel like everything has flowed from being really passionate about collecting and sharing great creative inspiration. That’s what led to the start of my blogs, Miss Modular and Le Coil, plus my boards on Pinterest. Between that and my design career, I’ve been able to develop a really strong eye over the years. I’m happy that sticking to my instincts has led me to so many wonderful people and opportunities!
MB – Has all the Internet attention brought you any cool projects that you can tell us about?
JJ – I’ve been lucky enough to work with great brands like J.Crew, Showtime and Macy’s but I’m most excited to be developing new personal web projects in the future. Stay tuned!
MB – Who is your style influencer?
JJ – Jenna Lyons, Tilda Swinton, and fellow Harlemite, Thelma Golden.
MB – You’re a native New Yorker and a long time Harlem resident, so you know it well! Tell me something about great about Harlem that the rest of the world might not know about it.
JJ – The dramatic natural light that we get uptown combined with the architecture makes it one of the most photogenic neighborhoods in the city. Afternoon strolls are pretty inspiring. I’m biased, of course.
MB – What draws you to Harlem over places like Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan?
JJ – Harlem is just my spirit animal and I feel completely at home here. It’s aesthetically stunning, culturally rich, and has an amazing history that I love being a part of, even in the smallest way.
JAMALA JOHNS’ HARLEM HIT LIST
This is hands down my favorite restaurant in Harlem. Their soul food-centric menu is really well done and has it’s own unique flare to it. To top everything off, it has a wonderful atmosphere, especially at dinner when the interior design glows with candlelight. They also have an EPIC brunch that includes sweet potato pancakes. Yum!
Best Bit: It’s a tie between the fried catfish OR the eggnog waffles with strawberry butter (both are served all day!).
67 ORANGE, HARLEM
67 Orange is an effortlessly cool speakeasy-style bar with an intimate vibe. The (smoldery) mixologists dole out a delicious selection of well-crafted cocktails and the crowd is very chill and welcoming.
Best Bit: If you bring a date or an out-of-towner here, they will basically think you’re magic.
This is a lovely Italian restaurant that continues to get better every time I go. Chef Serena Bass crafts a menu full of sumptuous dishes, one of my recent favorites being the gnocchi with truffle butter, pecorino, guanciale, and sage.
Best Bit: The salt cod fritter appetizer is beyond delicious!
THE WINERY, HARLEM
There are a few wine shops in the neighborhood but this is my favorite. It has a great selection, lovely interior, and a knowledgeable staff that loves their regular customers.
Best Bit: Excellent selection of sweet wines, right when you walk in.
LENOX COFFEE, HARLEM
This place is wonderful in two capacities for me: Firstly, as a former freelancer, I spent many an afternoon sipping on their delicious coffee whilst using their wifi. Secondly, they’ve developed consistently great evening events that include a bar, DJs and live performances.
Best Bit: They serve Stumptown!
RED ROOSTER, HARLEM
Marcus Samuelsson’s famous joint needs very little intro. I love and recommend it, of course! I’m mainly using this space to discuss the “best bit”….
Best Bit: Get the cornbread and a glass (or pitcher?) of the Starr Punch and prepare to win at life.
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