Southern Cooking in Harlem

Imagine waking up on a Sunday to the smell of delicious food cooking, and fresh corn bread baking in the oven, while listening to family members chattering noisily in the kitchen, while a song you vaguely remember hearing from your childhood plays softly in the background.

Dining at Amy Ruth’s is as nostalgic as having a huge Sunday dinner in a lively, friendly atmosphere. Located at 113 West 116th Street in Harlem, New York, Amy Ruth’s is known to some New Yorkers as the desired destination to go if you’re craving classic southern soul food.

The restaurant’s lackluster outside appearance might make potential diners walk by the establishment without ever batting an eye. The dated brick-red awning with the name “Amy Ruth’s” in a simple white font is a bit of an eye sore and the colorful, yet simple mural painted on the outside windows, has definitely seen better days appearing quite weathered. The restaurant’s dull appearance detracts from the eatery’s overall quality making it look an average establishment you could find in any neighborhood.

The restaurant’s interior décor is simple but pleasant with neutral colors, hardwood floors, and a few pictures strewn about. Classic r&b and soul songs from past decades are played reminding diners of a time much simpler than our world today.

Though Amy Ruth’s appearance might be in need of a facelift, the food served inside is definitely the silver lining. Diners can expect to choose from an array of classic southern dishes including barbecue chicken, chicken and dumplings, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese.

Diners might also get a kick out of the fact that dishes are named after people. If you’re in the mood for chicken and waffles your request to the waiter will be for “The Rev. Al Sharpton.” If you have the taste for barbecue you might want to try the ribs by ordering “The Nate Robinson.” There is even a dish named after the country’s current president, “The President Barack Obama” consisting of your choice of fried, smothered, baked, or barbecue chicken.

The prices and portions offered at the restaurant will please diners. Entrées are around $15, give or a take a few bucks and come with a choice of two side dishes. Additional side orders are affordable and under five bucks. The dessert menu is also reflective of the restaurant’s southern roots, containing peach cobbler, country bread pudding, and sweet potato pie.

The barbecue sauce used on both the chicken and ribs is a great balance of sweet and tangy, though the tough texture of the ribs is disappointing and difficult to bite into, making eating them feel more like a chore than an enjoyable experience. The collard greens are a perfectly blend of tartness and bitterness with just enough salt.

Although southern food might be foreign to some New Yorkers, the diverse make up of patrons at the establishment, show that good food is universal and can be appreciated by people from all walks of life.
A downside to eating at Amy Ruth’s, though this is common with all notable restaurants, is that you’ll probably end up waiting about 25 minutes to be seated. Be patient though because after all the line of people waiting outside should indicate that you’re in store for a memorable dining experience.

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