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Dec 30, 2009 09:03 AM

Say It Isn't So - Margie's Red Rose Diner: The closing of a Harlem legend

According to Harlem One-Stop ( Margie's is closed. I phoned the number, and it was out of service. If anyone has any info - if she's relocating, contrary info, etc. - please serve it up here.

If this is indeed, the last we see of this great little eatery, and of Margie's wonderful gracious service, homecooking, jukebox and screen door, I feel all the more fortunate for having experienced it. I only hit up Margie's a handful of times over the years, my last visit having been almost a year ago, on one of the coldest days of the year. Freezing. I hadn't been in over a year at that point, but was welcomed as if they knew me. Margie and her staff were always earthy, humorous, so good to be around. The joint was just that, a joint. Crawlspace, really. Done up in red, with a few tables, adjoining napkin dispensers, and a juicebox near the street window with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Lester Young and Magic Sam. Only Rudy's on 9th Avenue could compare for good background music. Margie's fried chicken was, to my recollection, a Georgia style of frying - thin skinned, crispy, moist and juicy. To my taste, only two other NYC joints, (newly reopened) Charles and the long -defunct Carmichaels, could touch this chicken. It did the trick for me every time, as did her terrific, gut-busting breakfasts: fluffy scrambled eggs, light-as-air flapjacks, Georgia sage sausage, biscuits and coffee. Good for the soul.

I emerged from last year's visit into the blistery, cold air, feeling great, warmed inside and out, renewed. Margie had been telling me how business was down during the week, and, as I walked down Frederick Douglass and noted several shuttered and boarded storefronts, the impermanence of it all was driven home loud and clear. I was glad to have at least one more excellent time and meal at Margie's, and did not take for granted that it could be my last.

I sure as shit hope it wasn't.

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  1. I headed up that way on Wednesday, Polecat. I regret to report the sad news that chef-owner Margie Foster passed away on November 24, 2009. Her daughter Ayoka has told me that she's not yet sure about the future of the restaurant.

    1. Margie's Red Rose Diner has reopened, as of October 2:

      It has more polish inside and out (no more screen door, no more jukebox), but the menu seems largely untouched. Still missing are the peach cobbler (try the sweet potato pie instead) and the biscuits, which Margie McCray made by feel rather than from any recipe. Margie's daughter and son-in-law, Ayoka and Michael Bell, hope to restore both soon.

      Margie's Red Rose Diner
      275 W 144th St, New York, NY 10030

      1 Reply
      1. re: DaveCook

        Thanks for the report, Dave. R.I.P., Margie. I have to admit that I'm one of the flock that hasn't eaten there in a few years.