In Harlem, you are probably at the best place for soul food. Even though New York is rapidly becoming overwhelmed by fancy new restaurants offering small-portioned, low-carb, vegan dishes, Harlem is staying faithful to its roots and keeping the delicious meaty, mouth-watering food part of its everyday diet. And how grateful are we for it, because fancy meals are fine, but sometimes you just need a plate full of chicken, mac & cheese, and irresistible waffles.
This little diner guarantees you will feel like home when you come for a meal. The restaurant is very traditionally set, you will feel like you were taken back in time to the 1960s. The atmosphere is indeed very homely, and you might even run into the owner Ms. Norma herself who likes to make sure her guests are comfortable and satisfied.
When it comes to food, don’t miss the Fried Chicken which is the bestselling item on the menu. And if you’re a vegetarian, you won’t feel left out either, there are some excellent veggie specialties too. Don’t worry about the prices, you will definitely get your money’s worth here, and you will go home with a full belly and a smile on your face.
Melba’s call themselves American Comfort Food, because you are bound to feel better after a meal in their restaurant. However, Melba’s isn’t such a typical soul food restaurant. While others mostly keep it simple and classic, Melba’s ventures into edgy. Keeping the best from soul food like chicken, waffles, and mac and cheese, Melba’s dares to experiment by adding unusual ingredients.
So for example, here you can get your crispy chicken together with eggnog waffles and strawberry butter. Everyone who visits this restaurant swears they would come back. But be prepared to have a lot of patience because the restaurant is always packed, so you might have to wait for your food or check a little longer.
3. Amy Ruth’s
If you just want to let loose and stuff your face with excellent chicken or pork, Amy Ruth’s should be your next stop. You won’t see anything fancy about this restaurant, so don’t expect an elegant interior. Amy Ruth’s bases its quality on food and service and it’s one of the favorite places of the locals. So if you want to eat where locals eat, it’s at Amy Ruth’s.
Their fried chicken and waffles called Rev. Al Sharpton are a serious challenge, so take some time and enjoy. According to customers, their waffles are the best in all Harlem and you can get them in savory and sweet combinations so knock yourself out. Aside from waffles, they are famous for their cornbread and fried okra.
4. Red Rooster
Maybe you are more in the mood for something trendier and cozier. Then, may we suggest Red Rooster, which is definitely the most modern soul food place in Harlem. The owner, Marcus Samuelsson, who is an Ethiopian-Swedish chef, brings soul food to the next level.
The comfort food you love is there, but it’s upgraded with a whole bunch of innovative techniques and flavors. Their most popular item on the menu is the Yard Bird, which is basically fried chicken and mashed potatoes. But there are so many excellent options to choose from, you might feel a little lost. Luckily, the pleasant staff is always happy to help you decide. You also might want to dress up a little, because this is indeed one of Harlem’s hot spots.
This little restaurant is very easy to miss, but if you do find it, you will be amazed at their huge portions and cheap prices. Whatever you decide to order, you won’t make a mistake. Whether you go for something classic or something exotic, the mix of Caribbean and soul food is excellent.
Their most popular dishes are definitely all that include jerk chicken which is perfectly seasoned and tender. It was described as authentic and delicious. If you are looking for a crowded, trendy place, don’t bother coming to Freda’s. But if you appreciate a private ambience and homely atmosphere, with some of the best food you’ll ever try, Freda’s is a must-visit.
And finally we come to the most popular soul food restaurant in Harlem, and probably the entire country – Sylvia’s Restaurant. Sylvia’s is so famous that it gathers tourists from all over the nation. However, it’s interesting that locals all recommend and eagerly visit the place as well, and that says a lot about the quality of a restaurant.
Suffice it to say that its founder, Sylvia Woods, is nicknamed “Queen of Soulfood”. Literally anything from the menu will blow your mind, so choose wisely between Southern Fried Chicken and Grits, Meatloaf, Oxtails, Barbeque Ribs and a dozen other meals. Don’t forget to pace yourself while you’re here, and make it easier for yourself by ordering a whole pitcher of sweet lemonade. One thing is certain – once you eat at Sylvia’s, you are definitely coming back.