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Where to Eat in Harlem: Best Restaurants

There's no better way to get to know the authentic side of a neighborhood than to mingle with the locals and eat where they go. I'll tell you where to eat in Harlem!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

9 min read

Where to Eat in Harlem: Best Restaurants

Harlem neighborhood | ©Stefano Brivio

Harlem is the heart of African-American culture and one of the places to visit in New York, not only from the artistic and musical point of view, but also gastronomically. In the kitchens of this neighborhood located in Upper Manhattan are cooked some of the best dishes that you can taste during your stay in the city.

Do not hesitate to leave Manhattan to enjoy the soul of New York, the neighborhood of Harlem. If after attending a gospel mass or after a tour of Harlem you feel like staying for lunch in the neighborhood, here are 10 great restaurants where to eat in Harlem to lick your fingers.

1. Amy Ruth's Chicken & Waffles

Amu Ruth's Waffles Menu| ©Jeff Keyzer
Amu Ruth's Waffles Menu| ©Jeff Keyzer

Amy Ruth's is famous for serving one of the tastiest Chicken & Waffles in New York. If you want to try the best dishes of southern cuisine, this restaurant located in the center of Harlem is the place to be.

Its most famous recipe is the fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup. A combination that at first may sound a little strange but when you take a bite you will be surprised to see that it works. In fact, Amy Ruth's Chicken & Waffles are a legend in the city.

But if you're still not convinced by this dish there are many others on the menu. I recommend ordering the hot chicken sandwich or the barbecued ribs with barbecue sauce. And as a side dish, a portion of battered shrimp or sweet potato. To drink, a super refreshing glass of sweet tea and lemonade called "Half & Half".

You'll love the experience at Amy Ruth's. Sometimes you have to wait a bit in line to get a free table because the restaurant tends to fill up (especially on Sundays) but the service is quite fast.

Useful Info

  • Address: 113 West 116th Street, New York, NY 10026
  • Recommended dish: Chicken & Waffles
  • Ideal for: Friends and families

2. Red Rooster Harlem Crab Cake

Entrance to the Red Rooster in Harlem| ©Maria Eklind
Entrance to the Red Rooster in Harlem| ©Maria Eklind

The Red Rooster Harlem restaurant is an institution in Harlem. Located a few meters from the famous Apollo Theater, throughout its history artists such as James Baldwin or Nat King Cole have passed through here to taste the delicious dishes of traditional American cuisine prepared here.

Red Rooster Harlem's kitchens are in charge of the prestigious chef Marcus Samuelsson, who reinterprets Southern food with locally produced ingredients to give it a unique and special touch.

I recommend ordering the crab cake, the chicken nuggets dipped in bbq sauce, the chicken & waffles and some cornbread. For dessert, the Strawberry Shortcake will take you to seventh heaven.

At Red Rooster Harlem you will love not only its food but also its bohemian spirit, as the restaurant is open to local musicians and artists who would like to show their work there.

Useful information about the Red Rooster

  • Address: 125th & Lenox Avenue
  • Recommended dish: Crab cake.
  • Ideal for: Friends, couples and families

3. Ruby's Vintage Southern Breakfast

Southern Breakfast| ©Malcolm Manners
Southern Breakfast| ©Malcolm Manners

If during your visit to New York you feel like trying the famous American brunch, Ruby's Vintage is the place to go. A tiny place located in Central Harlem, perfect to relax on the weekend with friends or to have a drink with your partner and enjoy a good atmosphere at night.

Besides the traditional eggs Benedict (or "eggs Bennie" as they call them), their popular Southern Breakfast (scrambled eggs with turkey sausage, bacon, potatoes, grits and cookies) or their Devil's Mess (scrambled eggs with pepper jack cheese, chorizo and cheese and caramelized onions) are a hit, although there are many others on the menu. You will leave Ruby's Vintage with your batteries charged to enjoy the day to the fullest!

The restaurant is named after the playwright and civil rights activist, Ruby Dee, who lived in Harlem. The atmosphere of the restaurant with its vintage design that looks like a living room, decorated with old records and beautiful portraits, transports you for a moment to another era.

Useful information

  • Address: 2340 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd New York, NY 10030
  • Recommended dish: Southern Breakfast
  • Ideal for: Friends, couples and families

4. Melba's Southern Chicken

Famous Waffles and Chicken dish.| ©Jeff Keyzer
Famous Waffles and Chicken dish.| ©Jeff Keyzer

If during your route through Harlem you are looking for a restaurant where to eat Chicken & Waffles with a more discreet profile and that is not full of tourists like Amy Ruth's or Red Rooster Harlem, you should definitely note Melba's in your agenda.

It's a fantastic place to eat on weekdays and although the restaurant is usually crowded because the food is delicious, the service is fast and attentive and they quickly find you a free table in the dining room.

Take a quick look at the menu at Melba's because you will be drawn to all the dishes immediately and will want to order them all. The Chicken & Waffles are the star dish but taking advantage of the occasion, I recommend you also order other dishes such as Melba's spring rolls, Fish & Chips or the southern chicken.

Useful Information

  • Address: 300 W. 114th St., New York, NY 10026 at Frederick Douglass Blvd.
  • Recommended Dish: Chicken & Waffles or Southern Chicken
  • Ideal for: Friends, couples and families.

5. Addictive bagels from Bo's Bagels

Bo's Bagel's Black Russian,| ©Dave Cook
Bo's Bagel's Black Russian,| ©Dave Cook

In case you prefer to have a quick snack that won't take you too much time to continue your sightseeing tour of Harlem, I recommend you try the bagels from Bo's Bagels, they're to die for!

It's the typical place where you went to get something to snack on and you leave with a bag of food for later, so watch out because Bo's Bagels products are deliciously addictive!

There are over a dozen varieties, from the more traditional to specialty options although you can also create your own bagels yourself with whatever fillings you like. If you don't know which one to choose, buy an egg and cheese sandwich (it's a sure hit!) or let the sales clerks advise you, but remember to accompany the bagels with a coffee because they prepare it very tasty here.

Bo's Bagels is a very popular place in Harlem and sometimes you can find queues at the entrance but the service is quite fast so you will be served quickly. You will want to come back!

Useful Information

  • Address: 235 West 116th Street 10026 New York, NY
  • Recommended dish: Egg & Cheese Sandwich
  • Ideal for: Friends, couples and families

6. The best fried fish in Famous Fish Market

Fried Fish Dish| ©Andrea Lai
Fried Fish Dish| ©Andrea Lai

If you feel like varying the menu a bit and moving away from meat to give fish a chance, in Harlem you will find restaurants like Famous Fish Market that prepare delicious fried fish and seafood.

Run by the same family for almost 50 years, it is one of the best places to eat fresh fish in New York, a real find! The menu is simple but the flavors are captivating. The dishes come out warm, crispy and well seasoned. Ready to eat and enjoy.

At Famous Fish Market I recommend ordering the whiting sandwich or if you prefer, they can also serve it in a basket with a side of potatoes with tartar or spicy sauce. If you still have some room left in your stomach, accompany it with a plate of clams and shrimp that will make your mouth water.

Useful Information

  • Address: 684 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY 10030
  • Recommended dish: Whiting Sandwich
  • Ideal for: Friends and families

7. Harlem Biscuit Company's Biscuit Sandwiches

Langston sandwich from Harlem Biscuit Company| ©Harlem Biscuit Company
Langston sandwich from Harlem Biscuit Company| ©Harlem Biscuit Company

Harlem Biscuit Company is another one of those restaurants where you can grab a quick bite to eat if you don't have much time to sit at a table and tablecloth during a tour of this New York neighborhood. It's famous for its southern cookie sandwiches that are delicious!

There is quite a variety on their menu, so it won't be difficult to find the best one for you. I recommend the Langston sandwich (fried chicken, pickles, onions and chili with garlic honey) or the Bodega sandwich (bacon, egg and cheddar cheese). However, if you arrive at Harlem Biscuit Company with an empty stomach and a craving for breakfast, you have to try the hearty Biscuit Breakfast with southern cookie, French omelet, grits, bacon and fried chicken. You'll leave with a smile from ear to ear!

Useful Information

  • Address: 67 Orange Street 2082 Frederick Douglass Boulevard New York, NY 10026, US
  • Recommended dish: Langston Sandwich
  • Ideal for: Friends, couples and families

8. Pizza By Lucille's Crunchy Pizza

Pizza, fast food in New York| ©Jeremy Keith
Pizza, fast food in New York| ©Jeremy Keith

Everyone likes pizza and this list of restaurants where to eat in Harlem could not be missing. In the heart of the neighborhood you will find Pizza By Lucille's, a place where you can enjoy this Italian delicacy.

Pizza By Lucille's is just a take-out counter but it is quite appropriate if you want to grab a quick bite to eat before going to see a baseball game, as it is located about 15 minutes from Yankee Stadium.

However, if you prefer to sit down to rest for a while while you eat, its sister restaurant Lucille's coffee & cocktail bar is just two doors down. There you can try different dishes such as the roast beef sandwich, the salmon burger or the lobster mac & cheese. And to drink, a tasty cocktail! The Flamingo Coloured Punch or the Sup Mango are a marvel.

Useful information

  • Address: 67 Orange Street 2082 Frederick Douglass Boulevard New York, NY 10026, US
  • Recommended dish: Pizza Grandma2
  • Ideal for: Friends, couples and families

9. Barawine's burger with a French twist

Barawine's Harlem location| ©Eden, Janine and Jim
Barawine's Harlem location| ©Eden, Janine and Jim

Located in the historic Mt. Morris district of Harlem, Barawine is a charming Parisian-inspired restaurant where you can sit down to enjoy a nice glass of wine with a cheese plate at the bar or move to the dining room for a hearty French-American style meal. Whatever your body desires!

The interior of the restaurant is very nice and has a fantastic intimate atmosphere. However, there is also a terrace if you prefer to eat outdoors. On Sundays the Barawine restaurant gets very lively because there is live music. If you don't have a plan for that day, you know, drop by because you will have a great time.

As for the food, I recommend ordering the French onion soup, the fried goat cheese with Portabello, the mussels a la marinera or the Barawine burger. For dessert, tiramisu, it's a marvel! They also have vegan and gluten-free options on their menu.

Useful information about Barawine in Harlem

  • Address: 200 Lenox Avenue New York City, NY 10027
  • Recommended dish: Barawine Burger
  • Ideal for: Couples and friends

10. The southern potato salad of Bistró BLVD

Southern potato salad| ©Olga
Southern potato salad| ©Olga

For those travelers who have not yet tasted the delicious Soul Food in New York, a visit to the Harlem neighborhood is the best opportunity to visit the BLVD Bistró restaurant, specialists in this gastronomic style associated with the African-American Southern community.

BLVD Bistró is one of those little gems tucked away in a historic brownstone in Harlem that you'll be glad you discovered. As you walk by you'll find a small dining room with a pleasant and lively atmosphere. Especially on weekend nights when there is DJ music.

You will feel at home at lunchtime, especially for the rich menu inspired by the traditional cuisine of the southern United States. I recommend you try the Southern potato salad, the barbecue pork sandwich or the BLVD cheeseburger. And to top it all off, a slice of banana pudding.

  • Address: 2149 Frederick Douglass Blvd (corner of 116th St) New York, NY 10026
  • Recommended dish: Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich
  • Ideal for: Couples, family and friends