Harlem in New York City is a hot spot for cultural, artistic, and political expression among the African American community and beyond. In recent years, the neighborhood has enjoyed recognition for a different aspect of this rich culture, its culinary scene. From El Barrio of East Harlem to Little Senegal in Central Harlem, from the exotic to the down-home, Harlem serves up a global smorgasbord of goodness. Here is our guide to the 10 best restaurants to try in Harlem.
Walking through the front door of Amy Ruth’s, your eyes are assaulted by a color scheme of clashing orange and yellow hues offset by painted collages of MLK, MJ, Obama, and other influential African Americans. The visual cacophony is quickly overpowered by another sense as the aroma of fried chicken and sweet, syrupy waffles overwhelms you. For going on two decades, Amy Ruth’s has been serving up no-frills, home-style Southern cooking. And while the food is consistently good across the board, if you’re a first timer here, it would be considered blasphemous by regulars and the Rev. Al Sharpton to not try the famous chicken and waffle that bears his namesake.
In further fowl-focused fare, Chef Marcus Samuelsson brings Ethiopian/Swiss sensibilities to his latest Harlem restaurant. Decked out from floor to ceiling with early hip-hop memorabilia, Streetbird elevates the rotisserie chicken to Jay Z level. The grand opening this year generated a lot of buzz thanks to the following that Samuelsson has built up around his much-venerated Red Rooster on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Keeping the home-cooked, poultry-focus alive at Streetbird, Samuelsson serves a selection of chicken-centric dishes in addition to more global-infused selections like doro wat and a curry veggie noodle. And just for fun, there’s a red velvet chicken and waffles entrée.
2149 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, New York, NY, USA +1 212 206 2557
The Handpulled Noodle
Take a Xi’ang Noodles, hipsterfy it with reclaimed wood and vintage signage, cut out the long lines, and you have The Handpulled Noodle in Harlem’s Hamilton Heights. This recently opened ‘North Western Chinese Soul Food’ restaurant serves a variety of dense, handpulled noodles, ribbon, lagman, and ding ding, as well as a selection of soups, salads, and dumplings. Mix and match noodles and pairing styles to create your own veggie or meat stir-fry or soup. Or leave it to the pros and go with one of the ‘native picks’, the old Beijing Bolognese (zhajiangmian with lagman) is a stand out here.
3600 Broadway, New York, NY, USA +1 917 262 0213
What’s better than Caribbean jerk chicken, oxtail stew, and callaloo? Caribbean jerk chicken, oxtail stew, and callaloo with a Southern twist. Sisters Caribbean on 124th and Madison delivers on both fronts. The sweet and spicy flavors characteristic of Caribbean cuisine come to life in dishes like the curried goat and the vegetable roti, while sides of collard greens, candied yams, and mac and cheese evoke a taste of Southern comfort food. Since its opening in 1995, Sisters Caribbean has been an island of eclectic down-home cooking for Harlemites hungry for a little slice of paradise.
47 East 124th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 410 3000
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