After spending an afternoon in Mott Haven and Port Morris, it was easy to see what all the buzz is about in this corner of the South Bronx. From the burgeoning art scene to cafes, restaurants and bars, there’s a bevy of cool places to explore across the Harlem River. As we’ve said earlier on this blog, “All you have to do is head north,” and you’ll discover the northernmost borough of New York City.
Mott Haven and Port Morris have a strong identity, and the true-blue locals have contributed to shaping that identity. What’s more, they remain incredibly proud of South Bronx history and culture. Make no mistake – they want the best for their neighborhood as it continues to evolve. Although further development is inevitable, Mott Haven and Port Morris should retain their small town, industrial feel. (Unlike some New York neighborhoods that have been revamped at the cost of driving out locals and small businesses only to be replaced by chain stores.) The truth is – no one wants the South Bronx to lose its flavor.
Curious about Mott Haven and Port Morris? Here’s what to do in these side-by-side Bronx neighborhoods.
Start your day off right with a cup of Joe and a light breakfast at Filtered. You’ll see locals buried in books, pecking at their laptops, or chatting with friends in the second location of the NYC-based cafe (the original is in Hamilton Heights). Opt for a New York bagel and cream cheese and a cup of chai, or a croissant and macchiato. With great light, high ceilings, and a modern interior sporting plenty of seating, Filtered has introduced New York’s famed coffee culture to the South Bronx.
Now that you’ve loaded up on caffeine, you should have plenty of energy to continue your neighborhood tour.
Let’s face it – there’s no ignoring the bold and colorful street art throughout the entire borough. After all, The Bronx was one of the pioneers of the graffiti movement, and several world-renowned artists still live and work there. Huge murals will catch your eye as you wander around, but don’t miss the chance to step inside Wallworks (39 Bruckner Blvd). World-renowned street artist and Bronx native John “Crash” Matos founded the contemporary gallery with Robert Kantor. The duo aims to bring art uptown and they’re doing a bang-up job. This fall, well-known artist Valeri Larko, who paints Bronx industrial landscapes that look so real you’d think they’re photographs, exhibited her work at Wallworks.
Anna Matos (daughter of “Crash”) manages the gallery, so expect to see her smiling face when you stop by. Wallworks rotates exhibitions regularly, and they host events and have an online shop as well.
Continue on Bruckner and you’ll stumble upon 9J (41 Bruckner Blvd), where Jerome LaMaar houses his brand 531Jérôme. The Bronx-born stylist, trend forecaster, and couturier has dressed Beyonce, Rita Ora, and Kim Kardashian, so don’t be surprised if you feel as if you’ve stepped into the studio of a star’s designer, because you have. Launched in 2013, the 531Jérôme space was formerly an antique store (similar to its next-door neighbors), but has become more than a clothing and accessory boutique promoting “street glam” style, and “defining South Bronx luxe.” Aside from his fashions, he makes hand-made scented soaps (love these!) and fragrant soy-based candles to boot. Jerome La Maar and his team are unusually friendly and charming, so you won’t find any attitude at 9J. That’s all the more reason to check this place out.
While you’re wandering around the neighborhood, you won’t be able to miss the historic Clock Tower (now loft apartments) on Lincoln Avenue between Bruckner and 134th Street. Charlie’s Bar & Kitchen (112 Lincoln Ave) made its home on the ground floor of this landmark building beginning in 2012 and is a favorite among locals. The weekend brunch menu features dishes like Churrasco Steak & Eggs (chimichurri, potato hash, arugula salad), and Country Fried Chicken (waffles, sunny side up egg, maple syrup). Hungry yet? Charlie’s also has well-rounded (and well-priced) lunch and dinner menus, as well as wine, cocktails and local brews.
Now that you’re awake, feeling cultured, and stuffed from that fried chicken and waffles, you might be in the mood to hang with the locals. Enter Mott Haven Bar & Grill (1 Bruckner Blvd.) Upscale and hip, the pub provides a full menu, beer, cocktails, and good wines by the glass. Be sure to make your way through the back room, which feels more like an art gallery than a bar. I was there around 4 p.m. on a Friday and the place was busy but I managed to snag a table. There were lots of friends meeting up at the end of the workweek –– this watering hole is definitely a cool neighborhood joint where everybody knows your name. Expect a mixed crowd, great service, and also happy hour at some point every day –– my generous pour of wine was $4. I only wish I had a place like Mott Haven Bar & Grill closer to my apartment, but that might be dangerous. 🙂
How to get to Mott Haven and Port Morris…
If you find yourself in East Harlem, the South Bronx is a hop, skip, and jump away. Cross the Third Avenue Bridge and you’ll arrive. Or, take the 4/5 subway to 138th Street/Grand Concourse or the 6 train to 138th and Third, and walk south through the neighborhood. Check with the MTA since schedules change depending on the day and time.
I want to thank my friend Alex Maruri, who spent her day with me and showed me around Mott Haven and Port Morris. If you’d like to visit the Bronx, she offers wonderful and informative tours to various neighborhoods. Find more info on her website: Bronx Historical Tours.
9J photos via Instagram.
Also, a guide to Little Italy in The Bronx, and a few moments with author and photographer Arlene Alda, who grew up in The Bronx. And an interview with “Sexer,” a South Bronx artist who got his start tagging NYC subway cars in the 1980s.