I love discovering new New York finds if you haven’t noticed and have been exploring off the beaten path neighborhoods outside of traditionally known Manhattan restaurants or the more trending little bistros in the East and West Village.
Over the past six months, we’ve been diving into the Bronx, from Charlie’s in the South Bronx to to Portofino in City Island (there’s more we plan to cover on Arthur Avenue and City Island btw). I love Brooklyn and recently took on the brunch and foodie scene in Harlem.
Meet 5 wonderful picks for cuisine in an up and coming trending Harlem neighborhood on the East Side (around 125th and Malcom X/Lenox Avenue). In that area, the quality of cuisine is going up as the demand for it does. While it may still cater to clientele who love comfort food, there are some surprises along the way. Parking is fairly easy and you can also get there via the 4,5 and 6 trains and get off at 125th Street.
Located in the heart of Harlem, Red Rooster serves comfort food celebrating the roots of American cuisine and the diverse culinary traditions of the neighborhood. The chef behind this ever so fun and slightly older hipster restaurant is Marcus Samuelsson who brings his passion for food to the neighborhood he calls home.
The restaurant was named after the legendary Harlem speakeasy that was located at 138th Street and 7th Avenue, where neighborhood folk, jazz greats, authors, politicians and some of the most noteworthy figures of the 20th Century – such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Nat King Cole and James Baldwin – would converge to enjoy drinks and music in an inviting atmosphere.
They want to offer a platform to celebrate local artists, musicians and culinary talents and support the success of Harlem by hiring people from within the community; inspiring better eating through neighborhood cooking classes; and buying from local purveyors. Bravo!
What’s so magical about the place however in addition to the cuisine is the ambiance. We went for Sunday brunch recently and there was over an hour wait. In front of the restaurant, there’s a bar section where you can hang out, order a bloody mary or margarita while you’re waiting for your table. It’s a bit loud in both sections of the restaurant, but the music is fun and festive and those who show up, seem to be the neighborhood fashionistas.
From blackened catfish and mac and greens to lighter healthier options like the market salad (below), there’s plenty to keep you enticed. They also offer a delicious lentil soup with yoghurt and barbecue chicken and fried delta catfish sandwiches.
310 Lenox Avenue
New York, NY 10027
Perched at the northwest corner of 126th and Lenox is Corner Social, which has a warm, inviting, vibrant, pulsing scene. Corner Social offers late night dining, outdoor seating, special DJ nights, in addition to daily lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, a 18-brass tap bar and year round custom catering for events.
They source ingredients from local vendors that serve the community and partners with local organizations that further the interests of the Harlem neighborhoods it serves and holds cooking classes.
I ordered a healthy kale salad with bacon however they offer a lot of southern comfort style cuisine. Some options include Butternut Squash Lasagna, with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, eggplant, spinach, tomato basil sauce and toasted parmesan baguette, a Jumbo Lump Crabcake, Sweet potato salad, soy bean succotash,”Old Bay” aioli, Sauteed Montauk Flounder, Artichokes, fingerling potatoes, organic spinach and a lemon-caper sauce, a Grilled Hanger Steak and the yummy Grilled Atlantic Salmon. Below is one of their burgers.
I loved the ambiance and the service was a grade above what you’d expect – gracious and timely.
321 Malcolm X Blvd
New York, NY 10027
Head to Amy Ruth’s roughly ten blocks away from Corner Social and Red Rooster for classic traditional southern fare. What’s so fun about this place is its down-to-earth ambiance and its fabulous names for its dishes.
For example, the President Barack Obama is fried, smothered, baked or Bar-B-Q chicken, the Reggie Harris, which is Southern Honey-Dipped Fried Chicken, or the Gabrielle Union, which is fried or smothered pork chops. You get the idea — lots of fried or smothered meats. OR order The Nate Robinson for your BBQ spare ribs.
113 W 116th Street
New York, NY 10026
Sylvia’s call themselves the Queen of Soul. It’s been around since 1962 and serves traditional southern style food. From corn meal dusted fried catfish with grits and home fries and Salmon Cakes with eggs, to Shrimp & Grits golden fried, to classic Southern Fried Chicken and eggs, served with grits or home fries, you won’t be burning any calories here. And, how about those fried chicken livers?
This is where you head when you want a little comfort food day or night, although their brunches are notorious – you can even get a bloody mary with your meal. A must stop!
A must to try in addition to those artery hurting dishes is their Gospel Sundays.
328 Malcolm X Blvd.
New York, NY 10027
For French cuisine, head over to Chez Lucienne, also on Malcom X Boulevard. While their menu includes burgers and fries, and you can order eggs and omelettes (think herbs, onions, mushrooms, tomato, kale, cheese and ham), there’s also a twist to their menu, such as the veal sausages with scrambled eggs and of course eggs benedicte with smoked salmon and caviar.
More classically styled French dishes include the ever so renowned Croque Madame and Coq au Vin, but there’s also a lobster ravioli a la Vodka in a light tomato sauce.
So, if you don’t want all the batter and grease, then this may be a more compelling brunch choice on the infamous boulevard. That said, remember it’s still French cuisine, so they’re not going to skimp on the butter and cream. You can also get French Toast, crepes and cheese sandwiches.
308 Malcolm X Blvd.
New York, NY 10027
Photos: Red Rooster, taken from their website and Instagram feed. Corner Social photos, first one from their website and second one AHT.seriouseats.com, Amy Ruths from their website. Sylvia’s – tripadvisor.co.uk and onfoodandtravel.com, Chez Lucienne from their website.