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NYC: Brunch at Sylvias – Soul food in Harlem

by Sanne
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Sylvia's in Harlem, New York


In New York, Sunday is brunch day and New Yorkers really know how to brunch. Sunday afternoon, I therefore met with some friends at Sylvia’s in Harlem. Sylvia’s is an old favorite of mine. In fact it was the very first restaurant I dined at in Harlem, and I love the genuine neighborhood feel of that place. Even if you’re just a visiting tourist without a clue about soul food, they’ll treat you like a regular and make you feel at home.

If you are unfamiliar with Harlem and soul food, a visit to Sylvia’s will introduce you to both. At Sylvia’s the food is tasty and the servings are huge. A lot of the meal offers come with two sides of your choice, so there’s no way you’ll be leaving this place hungry.

Southern food is a bit on the heavy side and can be quite a mouthful for Scandinavian palates, but I can only recommend that you visit Sylvia’s anyway. Just watching how locals gather in the restaurant and spend hours chit-chatting over a plate of baked ham with buttered corn, is quite an experience and provides you with a unique sneak peek of real life in Harlem.

On Sundays, there’s live music in the afternoon, but we were seated outside, so we couldn’t hear the music inside. Instead we had sunshine in our hair and front row views of the vibrant Malcolm X Boulevard.

The brunch set menu includes a drink and two sides. I had the fried chicken/BBQ ribs combo with black-eyed peas and mac ‘n’ cheese. The fried chicken at Sylvia’s is awesome. It’s crispy on the outside and really juicy inside. I was advised to eat it on top of a waffle sprinkled with syrup and melted butter and from now on, this will be my preferred way to eat fried chicken. It was delicious.

While black eyed peas turned out not to be my thing, the mac ‘n’ cheese was so good I’m considering scheduling another visit to Sylvia’s before I leave.

Sylvia’s Sunday Brunch is really popular, so be prepared to queue, if you haven’t booked a table in advance.

• Sylvia Wood opened the restaurant back in 1962 and she authored several cookbooks. She even had her own food product brand. Sylvia Wood passed away in 2012.

A little further down the road is Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant, which also serves southern food.


Sylvia’s Restaurant, 328 Malcolm X Boulevard, Harlem, New York

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