Where To Eat Soul Food In NYCGreat places to get some down-home cooking in the city.
With roots in the American South, soul food is an important part of the culinary scene in NYC—and the rest of the country for that matter. You probably already know about some soul food institutions in Harlem. Those places are on this guide. But you can get fantastic smothered pork chops, fried catfish, mac and cheese, and a lot more at restaurants all across the city.
Leaving Sylvia’s off this guide would be like making a list of the best all-time singers without Aretha Franklin. For soul food, you can’t find a more famous place in Harlem—and for good reason. They’ve been open since 1962, and achieved NYC Institution status long ago. If you haven’t already eaten here, their gospel brunch on Sunday is the perfect introduction. It features a live band backing singers who weave between tables. Get some catfish, ribs, or fried chicken with a side of mac and cheese. And bring lots of friends because the space is huge, making this spot one of the better options on this list for big groups.
Melba’s is a classic that makes some of the best soul food in the city. Founder Melba Wilson (who used to work at Sylvia’s) was born and raised in Harlem and opened this place in 2005. It’s usually easy to get a table, the service is quick and friendly, and don’t be surprised if your neighbor strikes up a conversation with you. Once you’re seated in the room with colorful artwork everywhere (including a few portraits of Basquiat), order the chicken and waffles. (They’re mandatory.) The short ribs are also great, and the collard greens are some of the best we’ve ever had. Those collards are also stuffed into fried spring rolls with rice and cheese. Go ahead and order those as soon as your server says hello.
Mitchell’s is our go-to spot in Prospect Heights for crispy fried chicken, mac and cheese, and juicy collard greens with just a hint of sweetness. They also serve things like fried catfish, oxtails, a bunch of sandwiches, and a large selection of cakes and pies for dessert. This small soul food restaurant has been around since the '70s, and the dining room has an old-school diner feel with classic black-and-white tiles and booths. If you’re not looking to spend a lot, you can get a great meal for less than $15. Just be aware that this place is cash-only.
Any discussion about the best fried chicken in the city needs to include a mention of Charles Pan-Fried Chicken. The original Harlem storefront that was open for more than 30 years on 132nd Street relocated to a space about 15 blocks away, and this takeout-only outpost is located on the Upper West Side. Made in a cast iron skillet, the fried chicken is tender, juicy, and never too greasy. We also love the humongous turkey wings smothered in brown gravy as well as the collards, black-eyed peas, and grits.
If you aren’t into the fried chicken at Amy Ruth’s, you need to get your tastebuds checked. The Harlem restaurant, just down the street from Sylvia’s, holds its own thanks to big chunks of fried chicken with thick, heavily-seasoned skin and fat waffles. Carl Redding named this place after his grandmother who taught him all the Alabama cooking he brought up North. This place is also very big, which makes it great for groups and kids. It’s a good alternative If you want a big plate on a random weeknight without all of the hubbub (and higher prices) of Sylvia’s or Melba’s up the street.
At Greedi Vegan—the revamp of longtime vegan mainstay Greedi Kitchen—you can eat life-changing soy fish and grits with country gravy in a dining room packed with stylish Bed-Stuy residents. They keep all kinds of dietary restrictions in mind with their comfort classics. Anything soy can be swapped out for something soy-free, the fried okra and cornbread are both gluten-free, and all their house cocktails can become mocktails. Stop by for a crispy oyster mushroom soul bowl when you need a quick lunch, come for Happy Hour, or check their Instagram for weekly specials like Wine Wednesdays, when regulars come out for a mid-week party.
This soul food spot with three locations in Harlem won us over with their mac and cheese. A great Southern-style mac is a rare find in New York, but the one here has just enough of that custard-like quality to keep you from moving to Atlanta. You can get a seductive pile of pasta swimming in a semi-congealed pool of cheese sauce with plenty of black pepper mixed in, and a bunch of fried things (shrimp, catfish, okra) to complete the meal. There are only a couple seats at every location, so plan to get takeout.
95 South Soul is a bit of a party spot. Regulars hold court along the big bar for 2-for-1 Happy Hour and there’s always a DJ. But don’t just come for drinks, because they also have some of the best soul food in Brooklyn. We usually go for the jerk chicken or the fried catfish, which is fluffy inside with a crispy outer crust. You can get both of those as a sandwich with salad or fries, or go for the plate so you can get candied yams and a big portion of mac and cheese on the side.
Named after the chef’s mother and grandmother, this Crown Heights spot has only been around since 2021, but it’s well on its way to becoming a soul food mainstay. This is mostly a takeout spot, but there’s exactly one table for two in front of a wall of quotes from artists like Outkast and Nas. We’re into the fried catfish and fall-off-the-bone turkey ribs, and they also have pretty much every side you would want. There are vegetable options like yams and collards as well as heavier sides like mac and cheese and coconut rice with beans. You should absolutely end your meal with banana pudding every time.
Located just south of Morningside Park near Columbia University, Miss Mamie’s is a soul food restaurant where you’ll want to try as many things as possible. So come with a group and get a sampler plate, which comes with fried shrimp, chicken, ribs, and three sides. One of those sides should be the collards with smoky ham hocks, and we recommend subbing the subpar ribs for fried catfish that tastes like it’s encrusted with hushpuppies. If you eat in, there’s lots of seating in the relaxing dining room that has a miniature red piano, and Norma Jean (the owner who opened Miss Mamie’s in 1997) will probably come around and check in during your meal.
Do you have your heart set on eating precisely one big spoonful of mac and cheese along with a single rib, a fried chicken wing, some candied yams, and four to five green beans? If so, go to Jacob’s. At this Harlem buffet, you scoop your own food and pay by the pound, and you can get everything from okra and oxtails to beef short ribs and sweet buttered corn. Throw a sauce-slathered pork rib over your bounty like a cherry on top of a sundae. Most people take their food to go, but we like finding a seat in the dining room, watching some news on the TV, and eating our custom-built hodgepodge of soul food while it’s hot.
If you want some deeply satisfying food—perhaps when you need something to soak up the remains of your night out—Kori’s Eats should be your go-to spot in Mott Haven. They have many variations on chicken and waffles, so if you want a combo of chicken tenders and bacon-infused waffles with a Fruity Pebbles milkshake on the side, you can get it here. They also have a steam tray filled with things like oxtail, mac and cheese, and some of the best sweet, spicy, fall-apart braised ribs we’ve had. This place is mostly takeout, but there are a few tables if you want to eat in.
Opened by a chef (who grew up at the nearby Cooper Park Houses) and his wife, Taste of Heaven is a soul food spot in East Williamsburg where “home of fall-of-the-bone meat” should be the motto. There are different specials every day, and each plate comes with two sides. We like the tender-but-not-mushy Jack Daniel’s ribs alongside cabbage and yams. If you want enough leftovers for the next few days, add fried shrimp and a jerk chicken that’s not too spicy in case you don't handle heat well. Just know that this place only has one table and closes at 7pm. They do run out of stuff too, so plan to come for lunch for the best selection.