The Localist

Café Silvana and live music in Harlem


As most of you probably already know, New Yorkers are very attached to their neighborhoods. I live in Harlem/ Central Park North exit, so I consider my hood to be Morningside, West and Central Harlem.

The Frederick Douglas Boulevard (8th Ave) and Lenox Ave (6th Ave) are blooming with bars, cafés, lounges and restaurants. A handful of these restaurants and lounges also offer free live music every evening from as early as 6pm. Not only do these places offer amazing food, from soul food to Israeli cuisine, fusion food and modern American kitchens, they also offer cool, cozy venues for jazz players, singers and aspiring musicians to perform and reach out to the audience. At the same time, they bring a whole mix of people from the local community together. Restaurateurs and musicians collaborate, and the result is a unique and lively cultural side to the nightlife in the neighborhood.

I am particularly fond of Silvana Café/ Lounger on W116th and 8th Ave (Frederick Douglas Boulevard). It’s a café, boutique and bar with great Israeli and Middle Eastern food and free live music in the evenings. The café is on the ground floor, while the lounge bar and live music venue are in the basement. Jazz, world music, acoustic and group singers from all over the world can be found performing at Silvana. A daily schedule of performances is always posted on their website.

The long rectangular tables facing the stage have all been arranged so that the audience and diners are close to the musicians. The room extends to the back where people sit around low, round tables and along three sides of the walls. For me, the back is more cozy and relaxing than the front. It’s a little quieter and you can enjoy a bite without feeling rude or eating in front of the musicians. I enjoy going there with a couple of friends or neighbors early in the evenings on weeknights.

Other places that offer live music around Morningside, West and Central Harlem are Melba, Shrine World Music, Minton’s, Paris Blues, and The Red Roosters. Visit for weekly updates.





Image. Photo by Granville Mullings, Jr.

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