Being from the South, I know good soul food. I mean, I really know good soul food. Whether it was my upbringing in Maryland, or my latter years in Texas, soul food, southern cuisine and home-cooked everything is almost a religion to me. That said, it’s hard to get really good soul food up north unless you happen to have a grandmother from Alabama living somewhere within the New York City Metropolitan Area. For those of you who don’t, there are still a few havens that get the five star nod on soul food—most of them even compete with your Grandmother’s homemade dishes.
Here is our list of the Best Soul Food in New York City, “Black Listed” style.
Londel’s Supper Club
2620 Frederick Douglas Blvd, Harlem, Manhattan
If you’re interested in trying a different take on soul food, Londel’s has exactly what you’re interested in. With a find-dining take on the soul food experience, Londel’s takes southern cuisine to another level, mixing gourmet flavors with the soul food experience, combining to create one of the most palatable menus in all of New York City. Leave the jeans and t-shirts at home though; Londel’s is an upscale restaurant with upscale clientele. But they will make you feel right at home with live R&B or Jazz music on the weekends, and who can’t get comfy when you’re enjoying one of the best chicken & waffle platters you’ll ever have in your life?
113 116th Street, Central Harlem, Manhattan
“Soul Food at its finest.” That’s a quote from the Black Oak Night’s restaurant reviewer, and we haven’t heard anything to the contrary yet. Open for just a mere 12 years, Amy Ruth’s has managed t change the soul food landscape in Harlem with relative ease. From heapings of cornbread to pork chops smothered in heaven’s own gravy, Amy Ruth’s will fill you up with southern-food staples that will make you forget you’re stuck in the concrete jungle of the northeast.
Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too
366 West 110th Street, Central Harlem, Manhattan
When it comes to soul food, it’s hard to bet Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too. Norma Jean Darden is a former model and the owner of this place, and boy does she continue to draw a crowd in her post modeling days. Everyone from lowly Columbia students to VIP’s like Bill Clinton have frequented this area establishment, and the reviews have been nothing short of amazing. Spoonbread takes you back to a time when the kitchen actually was the best place in the house, because the food in the kitchen was actually worth eating. Since most of us young, working, New York City professionals are too busy to stir it up in the kitchen, Miss Mamie’s is taking caring of us one plate at a time. Try the Louisiana Catfish, or even give the meatloaf a try. But of course, you can’t have a real soul food spot without smothering something; thus their smothered chicken platter is a staple at this fine establishment.
225 W 28th St, Fashion District, Manhattan
Remember that episode of Seinfeld about the “Soup Nazi?” Eh, who am I kidding. Black people don’t watch Seinfeld. Anyway, trust me, this place reminds of that episode. Not because the service is bad, because it’s quite the contrary. However, the food is worthy of standing in a long line, in a bland building, with a bland interior. Fortunately, the food is anything but bland, which is why the line is so long in the first place. After you’re done with their huge portions of barbeque spare ribs or their succulent meatloaf, you won’t be able to stand, so you mine as well get it in while you can.
459-461 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn
If you’re looking for a nice, heaping plate of soul food, look no further—but do travel far. Brooklyn’s own Five Spot Soul Food Restaurant serves up huge platters of smothered chicken, pork chops and catfish. You would be hard pressed to find a soul food diner with bigger servings and larger selections; so if you’re hungry, this is the place to be. After all, your boy Biggie Smalls used to eat here, and with no disrespect to the deceased, he looked like a brotha who knew a thing or two about a good meal.
Not Included on this list: Sylvia’s
328 Lenox Avenue, Central Harlem, Manhattan
I used to love Sylvia’s when I first got here, but over the years, they have started to let the success go to their heads. And look, I’m not going to fault them for that. What’s good for the business of Sylvia’s is good for Harlem as a whole, and as long as people keep coming in their doors, Sylvia’s is doing the right thing for Sylvia’s. But from a non-business standpoint, and as a true southerner at hear, Sylvia’s current service and quality of food is from what it used to be only 6 or 7 years ago. Hopefully, Sylvia’s will get back to its roots in the near future, but until then, they don’t get the pleasure of being “Black Listed!”
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