Those willing to head uptown to Harlem in Manhattan will be rewarded with snacks with soul. From decades-old establishments defining the classics to trendy destinations feeding future generations, here is where to find the best soul food in Harlem, New York.
People come from all over the country for a taste of Sylvia’s southern fried chicken, saucy barbecue ribs and famous peach cobbler. Since it served its first fried pork chop back in 1962, this family-run business has become a pillar of the neighborhood thanks to its gospel brunch Sundays, live-music Wednesdays and homestyle cooking.
Restaurant, North American, African, French, Fusion, American, $$$
The best bistro in town isn’t in Francophile-favorite Midtown, but in West Harlem, where chef Marcus Samuelsson opened Red Rooster in 2010. Cooking up a mix of Southern, East African, Scandinavian and French flavors, this trendy destination is known for rich dishes such as parmesan and cheddar mac and greens, hot honey yardbird with dirty gravy and biscuits and gravy soup. An infectious jazz soundtrack and memorable craft cocktails are the icing on the cake – or cobbler.
Even with two stories of eating space, Amy Ruth’s regularly has lines out the door. The local favorite, known for its dishes named for famous African-Americans, has become something of a celebrity itself, thanks to menu items such as The Rev Al Sharpton (a plate of fried chicken and waffles), The President Barack Obama (a barbecued chicken platter) and the perennial fan favorite mac and cheese.
Discover modern takes on classic dishes at Melba’s
Restaurant, North American, $$$
Brought to you by a Sylvia’s alum, Melba’s is at the forefront of what’s been called the area’s modern-day ‘Harlem Renaissance’. Here, contemporary riffs on soul-food classics include spring rolls stuffed with black-eyed peas and collard greens, fried chicken and eggnog waffles and rich buttermilk mac and cheese.
Enjoy no-frills flavors at Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken
Restaurant, North American, $$$
Not every hole-in-the-wall eatery can earn praise from The New Yorker, cookbook authors and the most discerning judges of all, Harlem’s elderly eaters. All of these fans rave about Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken, a Harlem buffet serving flavor with no frills. Hard-to-find southern staples are regulars here (along with most of the neighborhood), where smoked neck bones, banana pudding and pan-fried chicken (in fried, barbecued, smothered and other varieties) all make an appearance.
Putting the soul back into soul food, the mother-and-son team behind Seasoned Vegan creates cruelty-free fare with eaters and animals in mind. These longtime Harlem residents and vegans have reinvented southern favorites such as fried and smothered chicken and barbecue ribs using convincing meat alternatives, generous seasoning and a whole lot of soul.
With its generous portions of down-to-earth dishes, Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too gives the impression that you are eating as a guest in someone’s home. Bestselling southern fried chicken, homemade meatloaf, baked turkey wings and peach cobbler round out Miss Mamie’s menu of affordable, unforgettable soul food.
Bring the whole family to Jacob Restaurant, a soul-food buffet and salad bar with something for everyone. Veggie options such as vegetable rice and broccoli salad balance out deep South dishes including oxtail, collard greens flavored with turkey and pineapple coconut cake.
Go big, go home, or just go to BLVD Bistro, where a husband-and-wife team serves larger-than-life dishes in a homely environment. Here, fan-favorite biscuits, which are known to sell out, are made from scratch daily using flour sourced from Tennessee. You can enjoy them in pan-fried chicken and biscuit baskets alongside seven-cheese macaroni topped with smoked bacon, or on a plate all on their own.