226 W 150th st.
45 W 139th St
40 Pinehurst Ave.
Photo By: Mathew Henry
by David Ellis
There are so many restaurants in NYC that you could eat out every night and hardly scrape the surface of all that the city has to offer. In your search for the perfect culinary experience, you can reference guide books, ZAGAT'S, or even yelp . . . . but not everything you read is true. Some places just don’t live up to the hype. I live uptown, and for me, the real fun begins when I look for a restaurant above Central Park - that gem of a café, diner, or bar that may be so well hidden that finding it is an adventure on its own.
The first place I would go to the moment I step into Harlem would be SYLVIA'S RESTAURANT at 328 Lenox Ave. (@ W. 127th St.) Sylvia’s is featured in many guide books and on TV programs, and it lives up to its reputation. Founded in 1962 by Sylvia Woods, it is the place to go for traditional American Soul food. But be warned! Sylvia’s is no longer just a local hang out and gets very busy. If you can brave the crowd, the food is amazing - you even get scrumptious cornbread muffins right when you are seated. I suggest going for an early lunch to catch their breakfast menu, which stops at 1pm M-F and 2pm on Saturday. In good weather, you can sit outside on the sidewalk and enjoy the random music being played on a street vendor’s boombox. Sylvia’s chicken and grits are delicious and well priced at $9.95, as are the chicken and waffles for $12.95. Their dinner menu is just as yummy with fall-off-the-bone ribs and an array of sides that remind me of my Southern grandmother’s cooking.
The second place I would go to, and keep going to over and over and over again, is DINOSAUR BBQ at 700 W. 125th Street (between 12th Ave & W. Riverside Drive). This amazing BBQ joint got its start in Syracuse, NY, but the food tastes like it comes from the deep south. (The menu is so good that my brother used this company to cater his
wedding in Syracuse.) Walking west past the famous COTTON CLUB, you can smell the smoke and roasted meat, a sign that you know your meal will be incredible. To avoid the chaos of people and long wait for a table, either order take-out or make a reservation. I usually choose the take-out route and alwa ys get the same thing for two people: the Big House Special. This includes ½ chicken, ¼ Ribs and 2 sides. Add on the Drunken Spicy Shrimp and ¼ pound of pulled pork (it is not on the menu but they will give you just the meat by the pound). Then, I go to the bar and have a drink while waiting for my food. If you love BBQ, you will adore this place!
The final place I recommend is a little hard to find and is in the northern tip of Inwood. There are several great new eateries that have opened up in this neighborhood of Manhattan but none quite as nice as INDIAN ROAD CAFE. It’s located at 600 West 218th Street at Indian Road, right next to Inwood Hill Park (the last natural forest in the city) and across the street from Columbia University’s football field and crew marina. This restaurant is a great place to have a drink, relax, and listen to whatever live musician is playing at the time. They even have their own menu for their types of beer – always a win in my book!
Granted, people’s taste in food and restaurants is quite subjective. So if you don’t like my taste, go forth and find the food in your neighborhood that makes your taste buds happy.
David is proud to have called New York his home for over a decade. And while he's performed on stages from the Caribbean to China, these days he's happy to show you wonderful apartments in neighborhoods from the Upper West Side to Inwood.