One of the places I most wanted to visit more than any other when we went to New York in August was Harlem.
And the dining establishment I wanted to eat at more than any other in NYC was Red Rooster Harlem. I had been reading Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s memoirs, Yes, Chef on the flight over and was fascinated that a man born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and now living in the US was cooking US soul food in Harlem. I was instantly intrigued.
My previous visit to NYC had been over 20 years earlier. Pre Rudolph Guiliani becoming the city’s 107th Mayor (in 1993), and most definitely before his determination to clean up crime. Somewhere in my collection of past-holiday-paraphernalia is the flyer I was handed when I arrived in NYC in the summer of 1992. It clearly stated “avoid making eye contact” if you wanted to avoid being the victim of crime. Sheesh! Needless to say, Harlem wasn’t somewhere I was keen to venture on my own.
This time couldn’t have been more different.
Harlem is known for many things, but when I think of Harlem I think of music, architecture and food.
From a food perspective, Red Rooster Harlem did not disappoint. It was easily one of the best meals of our holiday. My only regret is that we didn’t go back for a second meal. Or a third.
We had booked a walking tour of Harlem (with the fabulous Free Tours by Foot) for a Monday afternoon, our second day in NYC. My plan was to have lunch at Red Rooster Harlem before hand. We hadn’t booked, but luckily Monday lunch is not the most popular time to dine out. Even at a restaurant with an award-winning chef who had cooked for a $30,000 a head fundraiser for President Barack Obama.
As was to become a theme of our holiday, we over-ordered quite significantly…
Luckily we had our walking tour to help walk some of this off. What I hadn’t counted on, was that I would desperately need a nap to sleep some of this food off. Don’t forget, day two. Jet lag. Ugh.
However we pushed on and our tour was sensational. Easily one of the best tours I’ve ever done (we did three walking tours in NYC and all of them were excellent – all with Free Tours by Foot – can’t recommend them highly enough).
What surprised me the most about Harlem was the incredible architecture. Stunning brownstones, exquisite churches and beautiful murals. Harlem has undergone a very impressive gentrification over the last 10-15 years, which has increased its beauty, but made it unaffordable for many of its original residents.
I loved our day in Harlem. Next time I go to NYC I definitely plan on spending more time there and exploring more of its sights and sounds. And of course, more food.