Soul food in harlem: New York City is a melting pot of cultures, traditions and flavors.
From the Korean BBQ restaurants in Murray Hill, to the taco stands in Queens and the authentic Italian markets in Greenwich Village, there’s something for everyone.
But when it comes to delicious soul food dishes, Harlem has them all beat. Famous for being home to a vibrant African-American community at the turn of the 20th century, visitors will find plenty of mouthwatering culinary delights and hidden gems when exploring this historic neighborhood.
This post will introduce you to the top restaurants serving up soul food in Harlem, as well as tips on how to get the most out of your visit by eating like a local.
So if you’re looking for an authentic taste of home or an insider’s guide to some of Harlem’s tastiest eateries – keep reading!
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The 50 Best Soul Food Places in Harlem: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking For Your Body
Harlem is the capital of black culture, with a rich history of African-American art, music and food. This neighborhood has produced some of the most famous artists in history such as blues legend YMCA, soul singer Bill Withers, jazz pianist Fats Waller and gospel artist Clara Brown. But for years, it’s been losing its original residents because of gentrification. The cost of housing has skyrocketed (up to $1 million for a brownstone) forcing many Harlemites to move to other boroughs or even leave New York City completely. The loss of authentic culture is problematic, which is why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to eating soul food in Harlem if you live nearby or are visiting soon.
What is Soul Food?
Soul food is the traditional cuisine of African-Americans, consisting of a wide variety of foods. The term may refer to both the food itself, and the people and communities that traditionally prepare and consume it. People of many cultures have added their interpretations of soul food, including Southern Native Americans, Caribbean people, and West Africans. Soul food is not a specific type of food. It’s a general term for food that is traditional in quality and often in flavor. This can be both old-school Southern cooking and newer dishes that have been influenced by health and culinary trends.
The History of Harlem’s Cuisine
Harlem was one of the first places in New York where African-Americans could live. In the 1890s, it became known as a home for black artists, musicians and writers. While the original inhabitants of Harlem were Irish, German and Italian, African-Americans began to move in during the early 20th century when the city began tearing down tenements in the Lower East Side. Many Harlemites found low-cost housing here and also freedom from the discrimination they faced in other parts of New York. During the 1930s, the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to Northern cities like New York took place. Harlem’s population exploded from 90,000 to 150,000. Many Southern families brought their Southern cuisine with them and adapted it to their new surroundings. While some of Harlem’s original eating places vanished, many new culinary delights were added to the neighborhood’s menu.
The Best Places to Try While You’re In Harlem
One of the best places to start your culinary tour of Harlem is Sylvia’s, a famous Southern-style restaurant that’s been in business since 1962. The fried chicken is a must. One of the great things about soul food is that there are no strict recipes or rules. You can order anything you like, as long as it’s not Chinese food. Don’t Forget to Try Some Steamed Cornbread – The main thing that makes Southern food Southern is that everyone puts cornbread in everything. You can order cornbread as a side dish or even use it as a utensil to eat your main course. Get Some Ribs and Red Beans and Rice – New Orleans is perhaps the best-known Southern city. Get a taste of the Big Easy with some red beans and rice, followed by a plate of ribs.
El Barrio: A Spanish Harlem Restaurant
Harlem is also home to the Spanish Harlem neighborhood. If you want to try some Spanish Harlem food, head over to El Barrio. They serve tapas, a Spanish style of eating where you eat small servings of different dishes. Their most popular tapas are patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce), salted cod fish and albondigas (a meatball dish). You can order some Spanish Harlem food while sitting in one of the sidewalk cafes or inside the indoor seating area. If you want to sit outside, you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes. There are no mosquitoes in New York City.
Sylvia’s: An Iconic Harlem Restaurant and Dessert Place
There’s a lot to love about Sylvia’s Restaurant. In addition to being a great Harlem eating place, it’s also one of the most famous soul food restaurants in New York. To get there, take the 2/3 train to 148th Street and walk three blocks to 134th Street. Sylvia’s is open for business every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving. If you want to try the best thing on the menu, order the Southern fried chicken. It’s so tasty, you’ll be licking your fingers. But if you want something sweet, try the banana pudding for dessert. While you’re sitting in the restaurant, you can enjoy the live music that’s played there every day. And if you’re lucky, you might run into Bill Withers, who’s been known to drop by the place when he’s in town.
Uji: An Authentic Japanese Restaurant in Harlem
If you’re looking for a true Harlem eating experience, you can’t go wrong with Uji. This Japanese restaurant is located in Harlem and has been operating since 2002. It’s one of the best authentic Japanese restaurants in New York. You can sit at the bar or in the dining area. The décor is simple, but the food is excellent. Be sure to order a sushi roll. The chef creates new sushi rolls every day to keep things interesting. You can also order Japanese noodles, rice or sashimi. If you’re not sure what to order, ask one of the waiters or waitresses. They’re very helpful and can recommend a dish that’s just right for you.
The next time you’re in Harlem, don’t forget to order some Southern food. If you’re not sure where to go, check out this guide to the 50 best soul food places in Harlem. You can’t go wrong with any of these restaurants. Whether you’re eating tapas, Southern fried chicken or Japanese noodles, you’ll be sure to enjoy your Harlem culinary experience. If you want to learn more about Harlem and soul food, don’t hesitate to ask your waiter or waitress questions. After all, they’re experts on Harlem’s cuisine.