Harlem Soul Food: Your Ultimate Guide

Soul food has its origin in African American culture and is popular in the American south.  Some say the term “soul food” originated in the 1960s when “soul” was a widely used adjective to describe African American culture.  As New Yorkers, there’s no need to travel south to get your fill of authentic American soul food.  Instead, you can head north to Harlem, where soul food reigns supreme.

Amy Ruth’s is one of the most famous soul food restaurants in Harlem and is known for serving authentic home style southern cuisine.  Amy Ruth’s is located at 113 West 116th Street

amy ruth's

Cornbread is a soul food staple.

amy ruth's

As is mac and cheese.

amy ruth's

Perhaps the oddest and most iconic mixture of ingredients found in soul food are fried chicken and waffles. Complete with butter and syrup, it’s like a heart attack on a plate.  But sometimes you have to indulge.

amy ruth's

If you’re interested in heading to Harlem for some down home southern cooking, you have lots of options.  In addition to Amy Ruth’s, here are some of the best spots to satisfy your soul food craving:

Melba’s Melba’s touts itself as “cozy but elegant” and is perhaps the most upscale soul food restaurant in Harlem.  Melba’s is located at 300 West 114th Street.

Sylvia’s Restaurant – Founded by Sylvia Woods (known to some as the “Queen of Soul Food”), Sylvia’s has been a Harlem institution since 1962.  Sylvia’s is home to Gospel Sunday Brunch and is one of the most well-known soul food spots in Harlem.  Sylvia’s is located at 328 Malcolm X Boulevard.  

Spoonbread – Spoonbread has two bright and cheerful locations, and both serve a variety of soul food staples in a casual and friendly environment.  Miss Maude’s Spoonbread Too is located at 547 Lenox Avenue.  Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too is located at 366 West 110th Street.

Jacob Restaurant – Jacob is a soul food and salad buffet where you can eat a belly full of soul food at an affordable price.  Jacob is located at 373 Lenox Avenue.

What’s your favorite spot for Harlem soul food?

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16 comments on Harlem Soul Food: Your Ultimate Guide

  1. Jess @UsedYorkCity
    January 3, 2013 at 8:04 am (5 years ago)

    My favorite part of soul food has to be the mac-n-cheese! Fantastic round-up of places, thanks!
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted..New Yorker MomentsMy Profile

  2. Dee
    January 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm (5 years ago)

    Nice pictures.

  3. blackcotton340
    January 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm (5 years ago)

    Has anyone tried MAMA’s Soul Food on east 125th street?

  4. Abby
    January 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm (5 years ago)

    Sylvia’s is awesome! I lived pretty far uptown for a year and got to go to these places. Great to see them getting some love!
    Abby recently posted..Why I am not a Farmers Market GirlMy Profile


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