New York City is a melting pot of cuisines from around the world. With so many options, it can be hard to know where to find authentic soul food that tastes like home. We’ve done the research for you and compiled this guide to the top soul food restaurants in NYC. Whether you’re craving juicy fried chicken, flaky biscuits, or hearty collard greens, these spots will satisfy your soul food cravings.
Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem
Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem has been serving up soul food classics since 1962. Often called the “Queen of Soul Food,” Sylvia’s is a must-visit for fried chicken, mac and cheese, candied yams, and other Southern favorites. Their World-Famous Gospel Brunch on Sundays even adds live gospel music to the soulful experience. With its warm hospitality and delicious food made from old family recipes, Sylvia’s offers an authentic soul food meal.
Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem
Another noteworthy soul food joint in Harlem is Melba’s Restaurant. Open since 2005, Melba’s homestyle cooking and scratch-made dishes have made it a go-to spot for soul food in NYC. Their chicken and waffles, catfish, oxtails, and collard greens are among the standouts. And be sure to save room for their sweet potato pie or red velvet cake. With its cozy ambiance and hearty portions, Melba’s is a top choice for Southern comfort foods.
Amy Ruth’s Restaurant in Harlem
Known for its flavorsome fried chicken and waffles, Amy Ruth’s has been dishing up soul food in Harlem since 1998. Their chicken and waffles even earned a visit from Oprah! Beyond this signature dish, Amy Ruth’s serves up mouthwatering ribs, oxtails, mac and cheese, fried whiting, and more. And the warm, welcoming environment makes you feel right at home. Amy Ruth’s is certainly worth a visit for those craving delicious soul food in Harlem.
Manna’s Restaurant in Harlem
For some of the most authentic and flavorful soul food in Harlem, head to Manna’s Restaurant. Family-owned and operated since 1969, Manna’s offers comfort foods straight from the soul – juicy baked or fried chicken, smothered pork chops, seafood gumbo, and the list goes on. Their lunch buffet offers a chance to sample a variety of classic dishes. And everything is made from scratch with care and love. For delicious home-cooked soul food, Manna’s is a go-to.
Ponty Bistro in Brooklyn
In Brooklyn, Ponty Bistro has earned a reputation for serving up excellent soul food with a West African twist. Their signature Jollof rice, peanut stew, and Plantain Fritters bring unique flavors to traditional dishes. Other favorites include their Jerk Chicken, Brown Stew Chicken, and Smothered Pork Chops. The cozy atmosphere and flavor-packed food make Ponty Bistro a top choice for soul food beyond Manhattan.
Peaches Restaurant in Brooklyn
With two locations in Brooklyn, Peaches Restaurant has been praised for its hearty Southern cooking since 1999. Their slow-roasted barbecue ribs fall right off the bone. Other specialties include fried whiting, smothered chicken, oxtails, and shrimp and grits. Daily specials and weekly brunches add to the appeal. For lip-smacking soul food in Brooklyn, Peaches hits the spot.
Cee’s Homemade Soul Food – Queens
In Queens, Cee’s homemade soul food serves up piping hot plates of Southern comfort. Their fried chicken is juicy and flavorful with a crispy coating. Other favorites include their smothered pork chops, oxtails, ribs, and cornbread. Top it off with a slice of their sweet potato pie or red velvet cake. The welcoming staff and generous portions make Cee’s a go-to for crave-worthy soul food in Queens.
The Cecil – Harlem
For a trendy take on soul food in a lounge setting, check out The Cecil in Harlem. Small plates like their famous chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and fried okra fritters allow you to sample multiple dishes. Don’t miss their mouthwatering ribs, oxtails, and collard greens either. With live music and inventive cocktails, The Cecil puts a modern spin on Southern cooking.
Red Rooster – Harlem
From acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster in Harlem celebrates the roots of American cuisine. Their fried yardbird chicken, honey cornbread waffles, and shrimp and grits put a creative spin on soul food. The speakeasy-style downstairs bar, live music events, and modern art displays add to the unique vibe. For an elevated soul food experience in Harlem, Red Rooster delivers.
No matter where your soul food cravings take you in NYC, these spots offer authentic flavors and hospitality that will satisfy your appetite and warm your soul. So grab a seat and get ready to feast on mouthwatering fried chicken, savory sides, and sweet desserts that taste like home. From classics to creative takes, you’ll find plenty of options for the best soul food in NYC.
Frequently Asked Questions About Soul Food in NYC
What are some signature soul food dishes to try in NYC?
Some must-try soul food dishes in NYC include:
- Fried chicken – juicy and crispy from places like Sylvia’s, Melba’s, and Amy Ruth’s
- Chicken and waffles – a soul food staple at spots like Amy Ruth’s and Red Rooster
- Mac and cheese – creamy and cheesy comfort food
- Collard greens – simmered low and slow with smoked meat
- Black-eyed peas – flavored with smoked ham hocks
- Cornbread – served sweet or savory as a perfect accompaniment
- Sweet potato pie – smooth, spiced custard in a flaky crust
- Red velvet cake – an iconic Southern dessert
Where can I find the best-fried chicken in NYC?
The best-fried chicken in NYC can be found at:
- Sylvia’s – their World-Famous Fried Chicken is juicy with a crispy coating
- Melba’s – their Fried Chicken and waffle combo is a top-seller
- Amy Ruth’s – their fried chicken is juicy and flavorful
- The Cecil – their small plates allow sampling of their famous fried chicken
- Red Rooster – Marcus Samuelsson’s Yardbird Chicken with honey cornbread waffle
Which restaurants offer live music or entertainment?
Some soul food restaurants with live music and entertainment include:
- Sylvia’s Gospel Brunch on Sundays has live gospel music
- The Cecil has nightly live music with soul/jazz/blues bands
- Red Rooster hosts regular DJs, dance parties, and other events
- Melba’s sometimes has live jazz performances
What are the best spots for authentic soul food in Brooklyn?
Top picks for authentic soul food restaurants in Brooklyn include:
- Ponty Bistro – Senegalese/West African-influenced soul food
- Peaches Restaurant – tried and true Southern specialties
- Cee’s homemade soul food – classic plates made from scratch
What restaurants offer a modern twist on soul food?
For creative takes on classic soul food, try:
- The Cecil – lounge area and small plates format
- Red Rooster – upscale setting with chef Marcus Samuelsson’s cuisine
- Ponty Bistro – West African flavors added to soul food favorites
- Melba’s – contemporary vibe with live music sometimes
From longstanding Harlem mainstays like Sylvia’s and Melba’s to Brooklyn spots like Ponty Bistro and Peaches, New York City offers plenty of incredible options for soul-satisfying soul food. Combining Southern hospitality with mouthwatering fried chicken, smothered meats, flaky biscuits, and sweet desserts, these restaurants deliver comfort food that warms your heart and fills your belly. Whether you’re seeking an authentic down-home meal or a modern twist, NYC’s talented chefs put their stamps on this beloved cuisine. So next time your soul food craving hits, consider this guide and head to one of these local gems for a heaping plate of the best soul food in NYC.