Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sylvia’s – Gospel, Comfort, and then Some

Just a few weeks ago, my family and I paid a visit to the vibrant neighborhood in Harlem. Totally wowed by the burgeoning food and cultural scene, it’s certainly a place we’ll return to in the future – especially when it comes to checking out new restaurants. During this visit, we dined at the old dependable Sylvia’s, which was an experience I’d gladly repeat.

Since it was Sunday, we were eager to check out Sylvia’s for their Gospel Brunch. The restaurant was quite busy, as during this time they feature live music by a talented gospel singer, so we had to wait outside for a bit to be seated. Unfortunately they don’t take reservations, but since they’re organized, it didn’t take long to get a table, and waiting on line was an experience on its own. We enjoyed hanging out with the other soon-to-be diners and made some friends during our wait.

Once inside, we were glad we waited, as the atmosphere is friendly, social and warm. The space is divided into several dining areas, some larger than others and some more private. We were happy to be seated in one of the prominent rooms, situated to the left of the entrance, which seemed to be where most of the action was taking place (including the singing). The room itself is simple, no frills, but the energy of the restaurant and all the happy people inside added to it.

We came for the comfort food, and the fried chicken to be exact. Most of us ordered this dish in one form or another, while I decided to be the oddball and chose the ribs instead.

Chicken and Waffles – Simply a good ol’ classic, this chicken and waffles had it going on. The chicken drumsticks and breasts were on the bone, which made them super moist and juicy while the batter remained crispy but not oily. I liked that the batter had a little bit of a kick to it, and the waffle was soft and fluffy on the inside, but also had a slightly crunchy crust you had to get through.

Ribs and Sides – Since I knew I’d get a generous helping of Dan’s chicken and waffles dish, I decided to order something different and went with the BBQ spare ribs and two sides. The ribs were smothered in a slightly sweet BBQ sauce, (aka Sylvia’s Original Sassy Sauce), and the ribs themselves were tender and falling off the bone. They were a little fatty for my taste, but whatever meat I got off of them, I enjoyed.

The sides of collard greens and the candied yams were amazing. Collards can be a hit or miss, but these were perfectly cooked in a fragrant stock that made them taste like home. Out of this world sweet and tender, the yams tasted more like dessert than a side dish. It reminded me of something I’d have on Thanksgiving, except I’ve never had a yam dish this delicious – and for the record, no marshmallows were needed.

Dessert – Even though we were full, we couldn’t resist the temptation of a down home comforting dessert, and ordered a portion of the peach cobbler and the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Both things were scrumptious, but I had a strong preference for the red velvet cake, which was really moist. While the cake itself was pretty sweet, the cream cheese frosting gave it a hint of tang that cut the richness. We all agreed this was a pretty stellar take on a Southern classic.

Service and Cost:
The service at Sylvia’s reflected the personal, family oriented vibe of the restaurant. From the lovely hostess (who I think was the late Sylvia’s daughter) to our nice waitress, we felt comfortable and well taken care of. Looking around the room, other diners seemed to have the same experience, and it’s no wonder that Sylvia continues to be the popular foodie landmark in this thriving part of the city.

Costs are fair and certainly not overpriced for what you’re getting. A hearty meal with drinks, entrees and dessert set us back about $28/person including tax and tip.

3 down home Mmmms
Sylvia’s – 328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York NY 10027
2 Train to 125th Street

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