Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
May 23, 2001 05:18 PM

Best Soul Food In NY?

  • p

Any suggestions? I'm from Oakland, CA and we have some great soul food out here, curious to try some of yours while I visit this week. -P

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. d
    Dick Campbell

    In order of the ones we go to:
    The Spoonbread Cafe on 110th off Columbus
    Pink Tea Cup 42 grove in the Village
    Silvia's Lenox between 126 and 127th now an institution, once some of the best food in NY.
    We read about Amy Ruth's 113 w 116 st. but haven't made it there yet. Supposed to have a chef from Wilson's which had been one of the best...

    11 Replies
    1. re: Dick Campbell

      I used to eat at the Pink Tea Cup when it was at another location (Bleecker?). I loved the smothered chicken and smothered pork chops.Is it still a bargain?

      1. re: hobokenhenry

        Is the Pink Tea Cup still a bargain? In relative terms, yes. The dinner prices range from $9 - $14 and include a cup of soup (homemade and usually good, a small chef salad, meat entree w/choice of two sides and dessert (choice of bread pudding or jello - get the bread pudding - it's not great but better than jello). I like their chopped barbeque beef or pork better than anything else - the sauce is served on the side. The fried chicken I've seen appeared to be cooked in oil that was past its prime and the smothered pork chops my friend ordered were a bountiful size but overcooked and a bit tough. Still... not a bad deal for an inexpensive meal in a casual atmosphere. Service has been okay - not great - typically very rushed.

      2. re: Dick Campbell

        Dick, no hard feelings, but while the places you mentioned are foodie faves, I have dissenting opinions.

        Sylvia's is an overly-commercialized caricature of a soul food restaurant. It's a tourist trap, with busloads of 'em constantly unloading into the place. Prices are high, cooking is perfunctory (though some things are surprisingly ok...unpredictable, though).

        I've never liked Spoon Bread Cafe; I find the cooking unsoulful and the service unpleasant.

        Pink Teacup is in my book, but for a couple of specific things: breakfast (esp. cheese grits) and pork chops. I wouldn't send people there for any sort of general soul food experience, food is spotty and prices are a rip-off.

        I like Soul Fixin's on 34th and 9th, for everything but fried chicken. I love Charles Southern Kitchen on Frederick Douglas and 151 (but, important: when Charles himself isn't there, it's merely very good). In Jamaica, Queens, I like Seamorhan (118-29 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard). In Brooklyn I like Soul Food Kitchen (84 Kingston Avenue 363-8844) and Gaither's Place (1664 Atlantic 771-1748).


        1. re: Jim Leff
          Dick Campbell

          I stand reproved. The only way to find out is try some of these others. Will do.
          Sylvia's clearly has become the Carnegie of Soul food, I went the first time when it was still a luncheonette, and for years afterwards, I would die with every bite. Now, I just wolf down the food-- good, but no ecstasy.
          At the Spoonbread service has always been good (and a bit show off-- but in a good way) to us... but then, I can never understand what this thing is about service. This is NY after all. Only a NY'er finds Parisian's generally polite. If a waiter doesn't insult me 3 times before the soup arrives how do I know he cares?

          1. re: Dick Campbell

            Wasn't trying to reprove at ALL, Dick...just help readers-along find the best chow. And my choices, too, will eventually disintegrate into unsavoriness (both Sylvia's and Pink Teacup were great once...a long time ago). We've got to all be on our toes for good places, as the old ones invevitably fall victim to entropy...

          2. re: Jim Leff

            Jim, is Gaither's still up and running? I went out there last fall with a couple transplanted southerners, on your advice. The bar next door was open but the takeout biz seemed shuttered. Hard to tell if it was an exception or if it's truly gone, but I've driven by more recently and saw no signs of life. This was a Friday night, too, around 8pm, so you'd think they'd try to open up.

            In despair, we went down the road to Carolina Country Kitchen, which was just dreadful. Ugh. I don't even want to think about it.

            1. re: pete wells

              The good news is they're back open. The bad news is that they're advertising West Indian fare. So it's apparently a whole different thing.

              yep, Carolina Kitchen's food is completely, utterly inert. I can't believe food writers still write it up. But you had another choice from my book just a couple blocks from Gaithers: Soul Food Kitchen. Sorry you missed it! Also, simply chowhounding around in that nabe will reliably bring happy results.

            2. re: Jim Leff

              I love soul food, and was virtually raised on it. I haven't been to many restaurants in NYC that serve it yet (just moved here last year), but Soul Fixin's in really really good. That said, I find the food at its best if its been freshly prepared (sometimes it sits around). The service is more often than not very friendly. Usually, I get the fried catfish, which is always made to order. It's just incredible....I've already converted a friend who is a confirmed catfish hater to loving it.

              1. re: Aaron J

                Their fried catfish is the only fried fish I've ever eaten in NYC that recalls the best I've had in New Orleans. And that's high praise!

                As you say, stuff can be uneven (though never bad). The fried chicken is just ok, the ribs are not smoked (and those, of course, are the dishes most midtown customers order, hence the place's relatively unlofty esteem). One of the most common food mistakes people make is confusing soul food with barbecue. They're completely separate things, and the twain rarely meet (at equal quality) in one place.

                Have you tried the iced tea or lemonade? They're just unbelievable. Soooo smooth. Sweet though, but properly so.

              2. re: Jim Leff

                And I don't mean to be too patriotic about my own neighborhood, but it makes sense that the soul food is best where the residents have it more often. There's always a line outside Amy Ruth's, and I do agree that they're quite better than Sylvia's, but whenever I have a craving, I think M&G over on 125th and Morningside is almost as good, without the pretence and the prices.

                1. re: Jim Leff

                  I see this is a really old thread, but to give an updated recommendation of Soul Fixins-- I went there a few nights ago and loved it!-- The bbq chicken and chicken and dumplings namely. Mac and cheese a little bland but everything else was delish. didn't try the fried chicken.

              3. Pink Teacup is better than Silvia's, but my undisputed favorite is Charles Southern Kitchen. Take the B/D to 155 St (it's at 8th Ave). Walk south a few blocks (you'll go underneath a steel viaduct) and it'll be on your right.

                Their fried chicken can be absolutely amazing. There's a buffet room (sep. entrance), not open Mon. or Tues. I think. The take-out place (in the middle) serves the fried chicken. The one on the right serves other soul food (never been inside).

                Often times I get the take-out, either a "sandwich" which is really a few pieces of fried chicken on a piece of white bread, or the platter that comes with sides.

                1. To the list of best soul food I would have to add Rack and Soul on 109th street and Broadway in Morningside Heights. The fried chicken is on point and the collard greens are the bomb!

                  THe decor is also nicer than Charles', or Miss Mamie's if that is important to you.

                  1. M&G's on 125th St is my favorite soul food place in Manhattan. It's really plain - looks like they haven't made any changes since 1945. They've usually run out of at least three standard things on the menu, and the service is, well, not turbo-charged. But they have delicious food, low prices, and are open very late at night. I used to go there at 4in the morning after a party for smothered chicken or grits and eggs. It's also nice to eat in a place that doesn't feel in any way self-consciously themed. They're just serving some good food, no pretenses.

                    1. Jezebel on 9th - haven't eaten there in years. Is it someplace to go?