First Look: OH in Harlem
Last night was the grand opening of the new posh lounge, OH, located in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem. The lounge is a beautifully restored townhouse filled with antique furnishings. OH was kind enough to invite members of the media and Harlem bloggers to join them for a tour of the newly renovated space and to sample some of their dining options.
One improvement that OH made was adding a double door entry to keep the guests who are seated on the first level from freezing each time the front door opens. The new well-lit awning and projection on the building across the street, replace the old recessed entrance which hide the restaurant from street view.
The first and second level are open to the general public. At the rear of the first level is the main bar which has a tin plated ceiling above it. The back door leads out into the garden that has been enclosed and will have heat lamps to keep patrons warm on chilly nights.
A twin row of two-seaters line the brick walls as you enter the establishment. The ceiling is painted with bold black and white stripes, which coordinate with the black and white tile floors. It is all tied together with exposed brick walls and twin garden doors that open out onto 145th Street.
The second level is the dining area where members of OH and members of the public can social together. There is a second bar located on this level, as well as a retro-inspired parlor where guests can lounge on the custom made red vinyl benches and antique sofas and chairs. The room is decorated with a blown up Jet magazine cover that reads, “Sex in Bottles” balanced on the opposite wall by a colorful pastel painting of a woman in silhouette.
The Operations Manager, Marilyn Bowman, patiently waiting for everyone to finish snapping pictures before leading us up the next set of stairs where the members only lounge is housed. While the second floor was elegantly appointed, the third level added a contemporary twist to the period decor we saw on the second floor. It was also noticeably more masculine, especially after being enveloped in the overwhelmingly pastel decor of the lower level. It would be safe to say that each floor of OH has its own style and flavor, yet somehow still maintains an overall air of sophistication.
The third floor is exclusively open to members and their guests. There are two levels of membership available at OH. The black card allows members and their guests access to the third floor, where they have a private bar and are served by a personal wait staff assigned to that floor. They will also have private dining, access to the cigar terrace, state of the art high tech entertainment, and special invitations to members only events.
The VIP level has all of the benefits of the black level, with the addition of a personalized lock box where they can store their complimentary cigars and cigar cutter provided by the house. VIP members will also receive a complimentary bottle of liquor of their choice. All members of OH receive discounts on food and drinks and memberships are good for one year.
There are a total of 136 memberships available, however only 36 of those are VIP status. Presently, close to half of those slots have already been filled by well known figures in Harlem like Pierre Sutton and the publishers of Uptown Magazine (not affiliated with UPTOWNflavor.com). Membership to OH is open, however a selection process is required. Ms. Bowman informed us that this is to ensure that the club remains sophisticated, while catering to a mature crowd. The VIP members are tastemakers who now have an upscale place in Harlem where they can relax and socialize with contemporaries.
I found the space to be very warm and inviting. Ms. Bowman says that OH hopes to offer a top notch experience to all guests, whether they are VIP members or average Joes from the down the block ordering coffee. Some people are concerned about OH being pretentious. However, the first two floors are open to public. The only level that is exclusive is the top floor and membership does have it privileges.
Once the tour was over, we were offered another glass of Nuvo (the event sponsors) while we waited for the appetizers to come out. Unfortunately I had to leave for another event so I did not get a chance to taste the offering prepared by Chef Emilio Drake.
OH will be offering brunch on the weekends and dinner on weekends. The menu includes a diverse selection of food that offers everything from thin crusted pizza, to roasted free-range chicken, to grilled salmon, to chicken and waffles, to three cheese mac and cheese. The prices are very much on par with what you’ll pay downtown. For example, you can get French toast for $6.50 and grilled salmon for under $15.00.
The OH business model doesn’t seem to diverge much from other restaurants where investors receive VIP special treatment; this model just adds a slight twist to it. The first tier membership is $500 and the VIP level is $1000. When you consider how much many New Yorkers spend on dining out and entertaining each month then the membership prices are not as exorbitant as you might think.
People in Harlem often complain about paying cab fares upwards of $20.00 to get home after socializing downtown. With the crop of new lounges and restaurants in Harlem, perhaps it will eventually be a distant memory of the past. We might one day say…‘remember when we had to go downtown to party and eat?‘ It’s a new day in Harlem!
OH will be open for business tomorrow. Reservations are strongly suggested.
458 West 145th Street
www.ohloungenyc.com (coming soon)