At the leafy end of 118th Street, just off the corner of Frederick Douglass Boulevard, is a brownstone on whose stoop neighbourhood men gather to discuss Harlem politics, interest rates, hoops at Rucker Playground, a recent ‘fire alarm’ over the heat of passion radiating from somebody’s bedroom—whatever—and across the street is Lee Lee’s, next to an old sidewalk bridge whose purpose is to protect pedestrians from falling bits of masonry.
A red and white striped awning shades Lee Lee’s slap-screen door that allows venting of the heat created in the home-like kitchen, whose hot pastry fragrance drifts as far away as those men across the street, keeping them close, defending their stoop.
Across the narrow bakery are the glass fronted display cases to the left and right of the cash register, showcasing Lee Lee’s warmest offerings, where on the right, lie the fruit filled rugelach, flaky, buttery and so dark they resemble a southern-fried chicken leg.
Filled with apricot or raspberry, their fragrance intensifies that warm feeling of, seriously, fresh baked goodness. How overused seems that term when confronted with the genuine thing.
On your left hand is the kitchen; on your right two high stools and two round tables where you can take the weight off your feet, lean on your elbows, drink coffee and nosh.