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Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food

328 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY - (212) 996-0660
Posted By Patti Moed on 4/14/2009 8:14:00 PM
"How can you stay in Harlem and not go to Sylvia's?" our friend John said to us a few weeks ago. He's right. Sylvia's has been a Harlem mecca for legendary Southern-style home cooking since the 1960's. Contrite and perpetually hungry, we agreed to go.

Sylvia's Restaurant at 328 Lenox Avenue is owned and operated by the Woods family. Sylvia and Herbert, who met in a bean field when they were eleven and twelve years old, married in 1943, and had four children. In 1962, they opened Sylvia's Restaurant in a storefront on Lenox Avenue with enough room to feed 35 people. Now it occupies nearly a city block and can seat up to 450 people. Since its inception, it has been a family-run place guided by the motto of love for God, love for family, love of good food, and dedication to hard work.

It's an eclectic place with counter service and takeout in one room, which opens into larger, more formal dining rooms with pale green walls and signed portraits of celebrities who want to be immortalized as fans of the ribs and chicken. R took one look at the menu and found a perfect meal--smothered chicken served with a waffle. "A waffle?" I said and he replied, "How can anything with a waffle be bad?" Good point. The chicken, covered in brown gravy, was moist and succulent and fell off the bone. And the waffle was perfect, according to R.

I opted for the ribs, a specialty of the house, and so did John and Joyce. As you can see in the photo, she clearly enjoyed her choice. The meat was succulent and delicious and slathered with Sylvia's sauce, a famous savory blend of tomatoes and pungent spices. Delicious. Aly, who opted for a meatless meal, chose four side dishes--which included candied yams, collard greens, string beans, macaroni and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, and black-eyed peas.

Although I wasn't thrilled with the collard greens, I absolutely loved the corn bread, which was hot and buttery. We sampled the desserts too, despite claiming that we couldn't eat another bite. The peach cobbler and banana bread pudding were fantastic. And so was the fried chicken and turkey, judging from the satisfied smiles of the couple next to us. Well, we'll just have to wait for our next visit.

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Scorecard

3 - Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
Overall: Excellent - Worth a Detour
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

A little maple syrup and hot sauce on top and this is a perfect meal in Harlem.
"A little maple syrup and hot sauce on top and this is a perfect meal in Harlem."
Bill Homan





Smothered chicken, served with a savory sauce and a hot, crisp waffle.
"Smothered chicken, served with a savory sauce and a hot, crisp waffle."
Patti Moed


Moist and just sweet enough, this cornbread is a winner.
"Moist and just sweet enough, this cornbread is a winner."
Bill Homan


While baked soul food ribs lack the smoke found in ribs from barbeque establishments, the tender and flavorful meat has a taste that can't be denied.
"While baked soul food ribs lack the smoke found in ribs from barbeque establishments, the tender and flavorful meat has a taste that can't be denied."
Bill Homan


Warm, homey, and comforting, Sylvia's mac and cheese, candied yams, and collard greens are the epitome of soul food vegetables.
"Warm, homey, and comforting, Sylvia's mac and cheese, candied yams, and collard greens are the epitome of soul food vegetables."
Bill Homan


Succulent ribs with Sylvia's famous sauce.
"Succulent ribs with Sylvia's famous sauce."
Patti Moed


The tomato-based barbeque sauce at Sylvia's is unlike any other I have ever tasted. Spicy, sweet, filled with aromatics, and packing a tart lemony flavor, I found myself putting it on almost everything I ordered.
"The tomato-based barbeque sauce at Sylvia's is unlike any other I have ever tasted. Spicy, sweet, filled with aromatics, and packing a tart lemony flavor, I found myself putting it on almost everything I ordered."
Bill Homan


There is a full dining room available but I do love sitting at the counter to watch the staff in action, and I welcome the chance to chat with them.
"There is a full dining room available but I do love sitting at the counter to watch the staff in action, and I welcome the chance to chat with them."
Bill Homan


A Harlem institution since 1962
"A Harlem institution since 1962"
Bill Homan


A beacon for great soul food eats in New York City
"A beacon for great soul food eats in New York City"
Bill Homan



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