As Black History Month comes to a close, Zagat is highlighting Harlem's legendary Lenox Lounge. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
As February draws to a close, the Zagat Nightlife Guide pays homage to Black History Month by heading to Harlem's landmark Lenox Lounge, the 1939 speakeasy, jazz club and home of the famous Zebra Room.
288 Lenox Avenue
Zagat surveyors say a visit there is like taking a "trip back in time." A vintage space where legends like Billie Holiday, BB King and Miles Davis once performed, the lounge is nowadays more than a place to jam out and drink, as it's become a destination to eat as well. The menu's been re-designed with tradition in mind.
"We do a lot of homemade stuff, some of it has come out of my grandmother's kitchen or my aunt's cupboards. From the sweet potato pies to pecan pies and the homemade ice creams. We're also considering people are trying to be more healthy," said Lenox Lounge General Manager Sharron L. Cannon. "We have a beautiful grill. It's a Soul-American with a health kind of thing to it, I don't even have an adjective for it just yet."
There's seafood-filled chowder just like her family used to make and chicken, fish, ribs and steak dishes that come with Southern-style sides: cornbread, mac and cheese, candied yams and collard greens: staples which were passed down from generations of sharecroppers.
Perhaps the most popular item though is the classic Wells Chicken and Waffle...
"There was a place up here on Seventh Avenue and 131st Street called Wells," said Lenox Lounge Owner Alvin Reed Senior. "It was open all night, so he was trying to figure out 'What should I have when people come uptown at three in the morning, four in the morning, should I have dinner, should I have breakfast?' So he came up with chicken and waffles. So it was a combination."
From the original meal to the original decor, if you go, you'll be sitting at the same tables where the likes of Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Alex Haley did many years ago, but nowadays with a more diverse crowd.
"People come for the experience," said Cannon. "When they enter the Zebra Room, a lot of them say they feel something. I like to say that they feel spirits that were there before them."
As for the ratings, out of a possible 30, Lenox Lounge received a 23 for appeal, a 19 for decor, a 21 for service and the cost is listed as expensive.