That evening, we went to Orbit East Harlem on 116th Street, an intimate bistro with exposed-brick walls and dim, flattering light. One of the partners in Orbit is Minnie Rivera, the owner of the landmark downtown lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson—a longtime neighborhood pioneer. She opened Orbit in the former space of the beloved Italian restaurant Andy's Colonial Tavern, which closed just last summer. Some of the old crowd from Andy's is still here. And there was a group of Puerto Rican couples as well as regulars from Henrietta Hudson. Toward the end of the meal, a short septuagenarian in a three-piece suit walked in the door, and a young lady shouted, "Hey, it's Little Vinnie." And the bar crowd, all the tables, the Andy's crowd, the ladies, shouted, "Hey, Vinnie!" Vinnie made his rounds, shaking hands. We were miles from home, but it felt like the same small town. "Hey, Vinnie," we said and shook his hand.
WHERE TO SHOP
Whether you're looking for a Raymond Loewy-inspired frame or vintage Dizzy Gillespie memorabilia, in Harlem, the service is relaxed, personal, and without a hint of attitude.
The Brownstone This restored town house has a nail salon, clothing store, tearoom, and jewelry shop (whose house design is a silver Harlem charm bracelet). 2032 FIFTH AVE.; 212/996-7980
Djema Imports The ne plus ultra among African fabric and fashion shops. 70 W. 125TH ST. 212/289-3842.
Grandview A small boutique with big names (Vivienne Tam, Byron Lars), a half-block away from Striver's Row. 2531 FREDERICK DOUGLASS BLVD. 212/694-7324
Harlemade, Inc. Smart, graphic street wear and Harlem collectibles, including classic movies like Gone Harlem. 174 LENOX AVE., BTWN. 118TH & 119TH STS.; 212/987-2500
Hats by Bunn Bunn has been making hats in Harlem for the past 30 years. His brand-new store and workshop on Adam Clayton Powell has racks of his signature styles: sleek grey felt fedoras, feathered Sunday bonnets, and colorful lids of woven straw with balloon-like crowns designed to harness a bundle of dreadlocks. 2283 ADAM CLAYTON POWELL JR. BLVD.; 212/694-3590
Xukuma Reasonably priced housewares, aromatherapy products by Elizabeth W and Votivo, and the shop's own line of Harlem-themed T-shirts. 183 LENOX AVE., BTWN 119TH & 120TH STS.; 212/222-0490