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Best Soul Food Places in Harlem

We are looking for a good soul food place in Harlem with great corn bread and a nice atmosphere.

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  1. My advice: Run to Amy Ruth's and Charles' Southern Style Kitchen (note that Charles makes up for zero ambiance with terrific all-you-can-eat buffet) and run AWAY from Sylvia's. Also, great little cornbread bites at M&G Diner, and hole-in-the wall on 125th).

    8 Replies
      1. re: drumwine

        Are these places authentic? I'm looking for a place that serves catfish too.

      2. re: smcgill

        Charles gets trotted out every time this question is asked, but have people been recently? I have, and the buffet was weary. The chicken had been sitting around, and was pretty dry. The ribs, with very little meat, were in a sauce so heavily sweetened it might have been dessert. The cornbread was fine, but there was nothing else there I'd readily eat again. Now, I'm prepared to believe the chicken is better when it's fresh out of the kitchen - but since Charles is not about to cook a new batch until what's there is gone, I have no idea how you time your visit to hit the good stuff.

        Much, much better food at the fast-turnover, big kitchen branches of Manna's - but the ambience makes Charles look fancy.

        1. re: Wilfrid

          I agree that you have to time it right, but when you do, that chicken is pretty great. As with any buffet, there are hits and misses, but the collards and porkchops are favorites also (especially the collards).

          1. re: Wilfrid

            I'm glad someone else agrees about the food at Charles'. Blech! I tried them about 3 times -- just in case I was missing something. I wasn't. Go down about 10 blocks to 144th Street at try Margie's Red Rose Diner. A step up from Charles'. As for Manna I heard that the newest location on 125th near 5th has a bit more ambiance than the other two locations on 125th Street.

            1. re: Uptownflavor

              OK--I have to say I don't get the over-fascination with Charles' chicken either. However, if someone is looking to try Charles' chicken, I send them to Rack & Soul on 109 St. & Bway. It is the very same recipe and terrific ambiance compared to the 158 st location.

              1. re: Ora

                I still haven't gotten over there. I have to try them out. Heard mix reviews about the food...seems to be inconsistent.

        2. I'm not sure where is the best place, as I haven't been to Harlem for food in a long while, but I can tell you that it's NOT Sylvia's!

          I don't know how Miss Mamie's Spoonbread II is these days, but I used to love it, and I love her cookbook.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ChefJune

            Not to be contrary because I do like Miss Mamie's for some things, but IMO it is kind of lightweight soul food not where you go when you want something like homecooking. For that you want something like M&G where you get that greasy, gritty experience. LOL

            1. re: ChefJune

              Unfortunately Miss Mamie's hasn't been good for a while! Must have gone downhill.

              I second Amy Ruth's. Always delicious and definitely authentic Harlem.

              Does Charles' Kitchen serve the same fried chicken as Rack & Soul? If so I gotta say I wasn't impressed.

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              Rack & Soul
              258 West 109th St., New York, NY 10025

              Amy Ruth's
              113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

            2. I'm going to throw in a few more options:
              Copeland's which has been around forever. I've only eaten the cafeteria side so I can't comment on the restaurant side. Assuming they have the same cooks they may be worth considering. Londel's which has ambiance but the food isn't usually anything to write home about. A couple of fairly new places you may want to try out are Melba's (the short ribs are incredible) and Billie's Black (I recommend the catfish).

              1. The original comment has been removed
                1. does anyone have updates on any of these places? been recently?

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: corinnerose

                    Copeland's is closed. Amy Ruth's is on downhill alert. Charles' Pan Fried Chicken is the best, but atmosphere-lacking. Haven't been to Melba's or Billie's Black. Rack & Soul is very good, though not in Harlem. Ditto Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too on 110th and Columbus.

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                    Rack & Soul
                    258 West 109th St., New York, NY 10025

                    Amy Ruth's
                    113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

                    Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too
                    366 W 110th St, New York, NY 10025

                    Billie's Black
                    271 W 119th St, New York, NY 10026

                    1. re: salvati

                      What about Sylvia's? Still not worth a visit?

                      1. re: salvati

                        Did spoonbread last week. Great fried chicken, great beans and collards. Mac n cheese was good enough. The pork ribs were nothing special though. FWIW this was my first time there.

                        Had Charles the week before and got it to go, just before closing time. Not sure how long the chicken had been under the light but it was still pretty damn good, warm but not hot. The mac there was a little better and had sucotash (1st time) with rice.

                        Any other recs? On my list: Amy Ruth's, Manna's, Margie's Red Rose (closed?). Preferences?

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                        Amy Ruth's
                        113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

                        1. re: 2slices

                          Margie's is indeed closed, sorry to say.

                        2. re: salvati

                          Amy Ruth's is still really good .... but it's downhill for Amy Ruth's.

                          They still serve chicken with actual meat on the bone.

                          -----
                          Amy Ruth's
                          113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Any word on Manna's? I passed it on the way to Charles'. What's best at Amy Ruth's along with the fried chicken? Will probably go tonight.

                            -----
                            Amy Ruth's
                            113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

                            1. re: 2slices

                              Depends what kind of sides you like personally, but keep in mind if you order the classic chicken and waffles, you'll want to avoid the sweeter sides, or sweet tea. The mac n' cheese is dry style, which isn't my favorite. Truthfully, I haven't had their sides in a while because it's too much food. The sweet potatoes are always good, but too sweet with the waffle. Everything else is really decent, and if they're in old form, outstanding. Let us know what you think.

                              I've never tried Manna's. I never knew which location was best, or what time to go.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                Overall it was very good. I liked the mac n cheese better than spoonbread and charles', it was the same style but I didnt find it dry. Collards were real good as were cheesy grits. I liked the cole slaw but mom found it too sweet.

                                The chicken was hot, moist and crispy. I really liked it, but it wasnt mind blowing. I would have liked more spices in the crust.

                                I find sweet tea is gross anywhere, Mom ordered it and mixed with a full glass of water and it was still extremely sweet. I think you have to be from the south to like that stuff.

                                Wish we had room for desert.

                                I would come back but it'll take another trip to Spoonbread before I can say which is better.

                                Charles' needs another trip cuz I went at close and everything had been sitting for a while.