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Soul Food

March 14, 2008

My roommate, G, and I finally made it to Sylvia’s for dinner. Sylvia’s is a famous soul food restaurant in Harlem. There was a big broohaha a couple months ago when Bill O Reilly said that he really liked Sylvia’s when he went there. His comments came across as racist, so it was big news, but whatever- he isn’t the subject of this post. Soul food is. Good soul food. Which I’m not sure includes Sylvia’s. I mean don’t get me wrong, the food was good, but it wasn’t great. Isn’t that so typical of the more famous restaurants?

The only stand out item was ironically the free stuff- the cornbread. Holy leggings, Batman, that cornbread was awesome.
Sylvia’s is actually right around the corner from my apartment, so one of the first questions I get asked, when people find out where I live, is about the restaurant. My roommate gets the same question as well, so we decided it was time to have an opinion on the matter. The funny thing is she is a Jewish girl from Minnesota/New Jersey, so she freely admits she might not be the best judge of soul food. However, we both agreed the collards has a funny sweet taste that didn’t work. We think it was the turkey juice they added.
I ordered the fried chicken, collards, and candied yams. She ordered the smothered chicken (not fried), collards and the macaroni. They don’t have fried okra, and they only have black eyed peas on two days a week. This automatically put them in the suspect category for me, so I didn’t start off on the right foot, but the cornbread quickly set me back to right.
The food arrived and it was OK. The fried chicken was good, but nothing spectacular. The collards as previously stated were too sweet. The macaroni didn’t have enough cheese. The candied yams were good, but I make better. They were oily, although I don’t know why. Overall, not bad but nothing to write home about.
I had another piece of cornbread.
At the end, we decided to go for broke and order a piece of red velvet cake to split. It was G’s first taste of red velvet cake. It was very good, but it turns out they buy their cakes from a bakery down the street, so they don’t even make them. This turned into a full on discussion of red velvet and why it’s red, although our waiter didn’t know. I ended up Wiki-ing when we got home. Fun fact: although the red usually comes from dye, it used to come from beet juice or an older version of cocoa that when mixed with vinegar turns the batter a deep brownish-red.
Anyway, I give Sylvia’s a three out of five. The food was moderately good. The service was good, especially compared to other NYC resto’s. However, I was disappointed. At least I can say I’ve been there now. And it was good enough, that I’m sure we’ll eat there again, but I’m not rushing to do it.
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