Thursday, January 8, 2009
"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 4 side dishes--which included candied yams, collard greens,string beans, macaroni & 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, and melted in my mouth, just like the desserts, which we sampled, 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.
328 Lenox Avenue near the corner of 127th Street