If it is Sunday morning in Manhattan, and you are hungry for something more substantial than a bowl of organic granola, take the A train north to 125th Street. You will find exactly what you are looking for in the table-bending weekend feasts on offer in historic Harlem. Brunch is hot, filling and served with soul.
Manhattanites looking for their soul food fix find it at one of two venerable
weekend haunts: Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s. The former, tucked discreetly in a shop
row on broad Lenox Avenue, likely takes credit as Harlem’s most famous soul
food address, and Sunday brunch here sees gospel singers serenading diners as
they put away sinfully large plates of southern-fried chicken and sweet potato
pie, washed down by massive jugs of iced lemonade. Open on Sundays from 11 am,
reservations are recommended since there is nothing quite like a tortuously
snaking queue and the sweet scent of honey-roasting ribs – outside a restaurant
which seats, at a push, just 35 or so – for building up an unholy hunger.
Sylvia’s seems just too busy – or you simply cannot wait until 11am for a table
– Amy Ruth’s, open on Sundays from 7:30 am, comes in as a close contender for a
soul-food spread. Less frequented by out-of-towners than Sylvia’s (which,
admittedly, sees the occasional tour bus pull up for lunch), order a smothered
pork chop with fried eggs and grits, a vast plate of fried chicken and waffles,
or for the insatiable appetite, a “Lloyd Williams”: waffles with rib-eye steak,
supplemented perhaps by a side or two of corn bread. Then sit back and loosen
your belt accordingly.
venture just a little further uptown to Miss
Maude’s Spoonbread Too for Sunday brunch amid the chequered
tablecloths and Motown soundtrack of a Harlem that is long gone. Munch on
popcorn shrimp, homemade meatloaf or Louisiana catfish in a place named after
owner Norma Jean Darden’s Sunday school teacher, Aunt Maude. Across town at
110th Street, its sister restaurant, Miss
Mamie’s (this one named after Darden’s mother) dishes up the same
comfort fare, with guests such as Bill Clinton stopping in sometimes for its
family recipes. And vegetarians need not feel left out of the Deep South fun:
choices for the piled-high veggie platter include oozing mac ‘n’cheese, candied
yams, collard greens and a helping of good old fashioned mashed potatoes.
as if all that were not more than enough to tide you through ‘til lunch, the
now locally legendary Dinosaur Bar-B-Que opens its Sunday doors at
midday to provide patrons with the rib-sticking tastes of the south. Start off
with fried green tomatoes and Creole-spiced devilled eggs, muster up the appetite
to follow with a massive plate of pulled pork or brisket, rounded off with
sides of barbecue beans and simmered greens.
you have finally polished off your last bowl of grits, ribs, or peach cobbler,
there is plenty of ways to walk it all off. Praise the Lord for your brunch at
the Cathedral of St John the Divine, on which work
begun in 1892 and is still going strong, take a tour of the Apollo Theater where legends including Charlie
Parker and Duke Ellington have variously taken to the stage, wander the area’s
historic Hamilton Heights and St Nicholas districts, or catch the gospel choir
in action at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. After all, there is
always room for just one more helping of southern-style red velvet cake to
reward you at the end of it.
The article 'A Harlem soul food fix' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.