A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 07, 2008
Gospel Brunch

The “gospel brunch” was a regular feature at Lola’s, a Cajun/Creole-style restaurant at 30 West 22nd Street in Chelsea from 1985-2004; in 2007, Lola’s reopened at 15 Watts Street, near Thompson Street. The Sunday brunch (breakfast/lunch) was accompanied by a gospel performance.

Gospel brunches quickly spread to Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and many other cities in the United States.


New York Magazine Restaurant Guide
Lola
15 Watts St., New York, NY 10013
nr. Thompson St. 
212-675-6700
Profile
No one ever said opening a restaurant in this town was easy. Or quick. It took Lola owners Tom Patrick-Odeen and his wife, Gayle, two years to claw their way to victory over a litigation-happy neighborhood-activist group that made the American Temperance Society seem like a bunch of pushovers. Along the way to re-creating their popular soul-food restaurant in Soho (the original Chelsea location closed in 2004), there were State Liquor Authority flip-flops, private dicks, charges of racism, countercharges of intimidation tactics, and a smoking-gun Zagat blurb. Oh, and two week before opening, their executive Top Chef toque Dave Martin packed up his knives and left. Stepping into the breach to oversee Lola’s Cajun-Creole-inspired kitchen and resuscitate its much-missed 100-spice fried-chicken-and-Sunday-gospel brunch is Jennifer Printz, a veteran of Payard and Le Cirque. — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

7 November 1983, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Discussing the Plight of Black Musicians” by Ken Tucker, pg. C1:
The official theme of the fifth annual Black Music Association (BMA) conference, held over the weekend at New York’s Sheraton Center Hotel, was ‘’Black Music Is Universal.”
(...)
The BMA also hosted a “Dancin’ in the Streets ‘83” concert Friday, featuring break dancers and rap artists, and a “Gospel Brunch” yesterday. 

New York (NY) Times
Diner’s Journal
By BRYAN MILLER
Published: May 8, 1987
(...)
The popular gospel brunch at Lola, the Caribbean-style restaurant at 30 West 22d Street, has been expanded to Sunday evenings. Gospel singers perform from 7 to 8:30 P.M. Telephone: 675-6700.

New York (NY) Times
Published: December 31, 1989
LEAD: This is a summary of reviews of Manhattan restaurants by Bryan Miller that have appeared in The New York Times. Ratings are followed by the date of original publication. Prices are current.
(...)
Lola
*(Dec. 20, 1985), 30 West 22d Street (212-675-6700) - A rousing way to while away New Year’s Eve afternoon is the gospel brunch at this stylish restaurant. While perusing the menu, which features some spirited West Indian fare, you can be priming your palate by sharing an order of fried onions, a mound of light, cayenne-spiked shreds. Then, there are such choices as deep-fried calamari served with a tart-sweet sauce, plump hallah French toast with minted orange butter and breakfast sausage, pecan silver-dollar pancakes with sausage and a cheddar omelet with crispy bacon. Brunch dishes start at $10.50 and go up to $16 for Lola’s highly popular spiced chicken served with black-eyed peas and collard greens. Seatings at 12 and 12:30 for the 1 P.M. gospel performance, and at 2:15 and 2:45 for the 3 P.M. performance. 

New York (NY) Times
Diner’s Journal
By BRYAN MILLER
Published: March 1, 1991
(...)
Gospel Brunch
Delta 88, the rollicking Bayou music club and restaurant at 332 Eighth Avenue, near 26th Street, in Manhattan, has gospel singers at its Sunday brunches, 11:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. The $14.95 brunch includes omelets, french toast, hamburgers, grilled chicken and grits. Telephone: (212) 924-3499.

New York (NY) Times
Diner’s Journal
By BRYAN MILLER
Published: October 18, 1991
A New Sunday Gospel Brunch
Tatou, the restaurant and nightclub at 151 East 50th Street in Manhattan, has begun a Sunday gospel brunch. The $19.50 brunch and show is put on by Lola Bell, who held rollicking gospel brunches at the Manhattan restaurant Lola, at 30 West 22d Street. Miss Bell is no longer associated with Lola, although gospel brunches continue there. Tatou reservations: (212) 753-1144. 

6 November 1994, Washington (DC) Post, “Soul Food; Gospel Brunch: Having Your Church and Eating It Too?” by Paula Span:
You can see why the idea made sense.

The quiet of Sunday mornings ... some people seeking spiritual grace and others yearning for leisurely, high-cholesterol meals ... the prospect of nourishing both the body and the soul. Voila` - the gospel brunch.

It started, like so many other cultural hybrids, in New York. It’s spread to Miami and - via a theme-restaurant chain - to Los Angeles, New Orleans and Cambridge, Mass. And it’s arrived in Washington, which claims more than 500 African American churches with gospel choirs. In the past year and a half, at least three local establishments have decided that what this town needs is a way to simultaneously praise the Lord and pass the ...

5 April 1998, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Destination: New York; Gospel on the Menu; Weekend brunch with church-bred song satisfies body and soul” by Leslie Gourse, part L, pg. 17:
Sunday in Harlem. The pianist warms up with a forceful touch on the keys. Then, with a pleasant smile, the Rev. Andrea Vereen takes the mike and swings into the morning’s songs. First up, “This Little Light of Mine.” Her contralto is strong, with a warm vibrato, as well suited to rousing Pentecostal interpretations as to the softer style of “Amazing Grace” and Billie Holiday’s jazzy “God Bless the Child.”

But this isn’t a church service, though many of us feel joyously moved. It is Sunday brunch at Copeland’s, a restaurant in Harlem, where for $15.95 the customer is fed body and soul—a Bloody Mary included.

The gospel brunch was born 13 years ago when a midtown Manhattan restaurant, Lola’s, hired singers from Pentecostal and Baptist churches in Queens and Brooklyn to entertain at Sunday brunch. It was such a hit that Lola’s had to expand the brunch to accommodate three seatings.

New York (NY) Magazine
Off the Menu
By FLORENCE FABRICANT
Published: June 13, 2007
(...)
LOLA Gayle and Thomas Patrick-Odeen have relocated their restaurant and lounge from Chelsea to SoHo. Jennifer Printz is the executive chef; the gospel brunch survived: 15 Watts Street (Thompson Street), (212) 675-6700.

GO Magazine
Lola Restaurant and Rhythm and Blues Bar
Lola is open for lunch weekdays and dinner nightly. With or without live music, Lola is a beautiful space with exceptional food, and an environment welcoming to all. Go there!

by Sharyn Jackson
July 9, 2008
15 Watts St, 212-675-6700
Beneath a purple and gold canopy pinned up in the center by a crystal chandelier, an installment resembling a lush and luxurious circus tent, Lola Patrick-Odeen discusses inclusivity and friendship with as much warmth as is exuded by the dark woods and glowing lights in the room. Quotes about the responsibilities of friendship are hand-painted throughout the sprawling, multi-tiered space, and for someone who founded the first gospel brunch in the city 20 years ago (at her original space on 22nd Street), being a beloved beacon in a community comes with such responsibilities. That is why, upon Lola’s relocation downtown, Patrick-Odeen and her husband Tom, made the commitment both to continue and expand their renowned musical offerings in a neighborhood they believed valued the arts and diversity as they did. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, August 07, 2008 • Permalink