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Best Soul Food Places in Harlem

j
jackieparis Jun 27, 2007 05:50 PM

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

  1. ChefJune Aug 13, 2012 12:45 PM

    We went to Amy Ruth's for brunch yesterday. The only time I can remember having a worse meal was at Sylvia's.

    The people were lovely, the atmosphere was fine. The food was all but inedible. Mine was okay, but one friend received seriously undercooked eggs (the whites were runny and the yolks looked raw) and very overcooked chicken with cold gravy and unseasoned grits.

    The friend whose idea it was to go there didn't touch his catfish and waffle.

    Before we got home we were suffering from serious gas pains and constipation ensued.

    I would not recommend this place to anyone. Dine at your own risk.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune
      salvati Aug 13, 2012 01:52 PM

      It's a tourist trap.

      1. re: ChefJune
        s
        sugartoof Aug 13, 2012 03:49 PM

        As someone who shares your opinion of Sylvia's but always loved Amy Ruth's, I'm letdown to read this.... Brunch isn't the time I would have picked to go for some reason, but if the quality was that low it probably wouldn't have mattered.

      2. j
        jfranzel Nov 7, 2011 08:25 PM

        We eat at Spoonbread at least have a dozen times a year - a favorite. The short ribs are fabulous, with collards and mashed. Friends of ours loved the fried chicken, mac and cheese and sweet potatoes. My husband goes for the trout or catfish and sometimes and babybacks. Excellent corn bread comes with the meal. All delicious. And it's fun and unpretentious, the servers are friendly and warm, and they serve a local Harlem ale, Sugar Hill, that we enjoy. All in all, a great spot.

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

        1. c
          corinnerose Jan 13, 2011 08:03 AM

          Just to update, I went to Charles' sometime this past fall (2010) and I thought it was amazing!! I admit to being pretty skeptical because of the heat lamp situation, but seriously... damn good chicken.... plus a whole slew of other things in the buffet.

          1 Reply
          1. re: corinnerose
            s
            Stuartmc910 Jan 13, 2011 10:05 AM

            I was at this place http://www.jacobrestaurant.com/ once and I thought it was OK.

          2. c
            corinnerose Jul 13, 2010 06:12 AM

            does anyone have updates on any of these places? been recently?

            8 Replies
            1. re: corinnerose
              salvati Jul 13, 2010 02:29 PM

              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.

              -----
              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
                c
                corinnerose Jul 14, 2010 09:34 AM

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

                1. re: salvati
                  2slices Jul 26, 2010 08:41 AM

                  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?

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

                  1. re: 2slices
                    DaveCook Jul 26, 2010 09:40 PM

                    Margie's is indeed closed, sorry to say.

                  2. re: salvati
                    s
                    sugartoof Jul 26, 2010 11:54 PM

                    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
                      2slices Jul 27, 2010 08:54 AM

                      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
                        s
                        sugartoof Jul 27, 2010 11:08 AM

                        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
                          2slices Jul 28, 2010 06:38 AM

                          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.

                2. Uptownflavor Jun 28, 2007 12:22 PM

                  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. ChefJune Jun 28, 2007 11:27 AM

                    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
                      Uptownflavor Jun 28, 2007 12:19 PM

                      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
                        u
                        uwsister Jul 13, 2010 11:53 AM

                        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.

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

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

                      2. s
                        smcgill Jun 27, 2007 06:14 PM

                        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: smcgill
                          d
                          drumwine Jun 27, 2007 08:56 PM

                          second Amy Ruth's

                          1. re: drumwine
                            j
                            jackieparis Jun 28, 2007 04:24 AM

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

                            1. re: jackieparis
                              s
                              smcgill Jun 28, 2007 05:51 AM

                              Never had them there, but according to Menupages, they do:

                              http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...

                          2. re: smcgill
                            Wilfrid Jun 28, 2007 07:41 AM

                            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
                              s
                              smcgill Jun 28, 2007 08:15 AM

                              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
                                Uptownflavor Jun 28, 2007 10:39 AM

                                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
                                  Ora Jun 28, 2007 11:25 AM

                                  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
                                    Uptownflavor Jun 28, 2007 12:23 PM

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

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