Today is Veteran’s Day, so in honor of our country and our veterans, I suggest you travel to Harlem to celebrate with the vets at a place that’s one of the most special in New York City. For an evening of pure, basic food and music, The American Legion Post 398 on 248 West 132nd Street, organized in 1922 by Colonel Charles Young, is your destination. The organization has a mission to honor and serve veterans and their families and their community. It has 200 hundred members today and it still actively attends to its mission of service. http://colchasyoungharlempost398.com
Why go? “The Post” is run by its members as perhaps the most authentic jazz/blues bar left in Harlem, with live jazz on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and a DJ on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Surprise guests are frequent. Take your chances, and just pick a night to visit.
Travel to Harlem any way you can (take a taxi or take the A, B, C, 2, or 3), “hear” your way to the brownstone with the music, go downstairs, ignore the sign that says “Only Members and their Guests Allowed,” and enter this hidden gem of a place. There is no cover charge, but you must sign the guest book. (If you go regularly, you’ll soon realize that everyone is a guest).
It’s cash only, and the drinks are cheap, and strong: airline mini bottles, neat, or beer or mini wine bottles are the way to go. It’s also a soul food joint. $10 gets you a meal cooked up in the kitchen in the back. Meals vary but you might be lucky and get one of the best, the fish fry, a big piece of whiting, a couple of sides of greens, and mac and cheese. Enough to fill you up and then some.
What’s special is the feeling of community in these tight quarters, the fact that the old timers of the neighborhood and the veterans mingle with the young hipsters who have made the trek from Brooklyn to hear the jam. Everyone’s there for the same reason, to have a good time, together, and listen to some phenomenal music.
They say it’s one of the last great music institutions in New York. The crowd is warm and welcoming and you’ll have an experience you won’t forget.
How to get home? Call for a car from Hi-Class – 212 -926-1111 – and they’ll pick you up in two minutes and take you almost anywhere for about $15 cash. American Legion Post, 248 West 132nd Street , 212 283 9701, http://colchasyoungharlempost398.com