Eat, Monica Byers, New York — June 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm



Welcome to Sylvia’s (photo by Monica Byers)


NEW YORK – Sylvia’s has been famous for as long as I can remember.  This Harlem soul food institution was founded in 1962 and has been going strong ever since.  Because it was so famous and so sought out by visitors, I was expecting a disappointing tourist trap. You know – overpriced, lousy service, mediocre food.   Yes, the years have made me cynical, and I didn’t hurry to make a trip here.

When I finally did make my way to Sylvia’s, there was a flashing outdoor sign there to greet me (uh-oh).  But enter the restaurant and – after passing the cabinet chock full o’ Sylvia’s products – there is a rather unassuming and somewhat homey dining room.  Kind of like the den at your folks’ house crossed with a conference room. The only thing in the decor that really gives away Sylvia’s exalted status is the array of famous faces gracing the photos on the wall, featuring politicians (including our current President), entertainers and other celebrities.

Sylvia’s dining room (photo by Monica Byers)

But what about the food?  My skepticism immediately melted when I took my first bite of the amazing fried chicken.  The biscuits, mac & cheese, ribs and cornbread here are also notable.  Online reviews of Sylvia’s tend to be decidedly mixed, but I suspect those that are negative are down to sky high expectations and, more likely, making the mistake of arriving during peak hours (especially Friday and Saturday nights) thus dealing with the crowds and resulting slowdown in service.  My tip if you want to visit and enjoy Sylvia’s:  aim for a Saturday morning on the early-ish side (we arrived at around 9 am on a Saturday and the service was prompt and friendly). Whatever time you choose, do make the trip – Sylvia’s is totally worth a visit uptown.

Chicken & waffles at Sylvia’s (photo by Monica Byers)

What is the little thing that makes it worth visiting?  Forget about the lore.  It’s all about the food at Sylvia’s.

Where is it?  328 Lenox Avenue (corner of 127th Street) in Harlem. By subway, take the 2 or 3 train to 125th Street – you will be two blocks away.

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