I admire chef Marcus Samuelsson so when I planned a trip to NYC this summer, eating at the Red Rooster Harlem restaurant was top of my list of ‘must do’s’, along with touring the Guggenheim, seeing a Broadway show, and visiting the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. I recently added to my growing cookbook collection, Samuelsson’s beautifully illustrated cookbook, Red Rooster Harlem, which includes his recipes, stories about his life in Harlem, but he also provides an eclectic playlist to accompany each section. For example, there is the The Bar Playlist for the cocktail section, the Big Day Playlist for the entrée section, and it goes on like that throughout the book. Songs by Wynton Marsalis, Roberta Flack, Miles Davis and Erykah Badu make his list of favorites.
The Red Rooster did not disappoint. I loved the vibe of the place with the multitude of bright and colorful paintings all over the walls, tons of homage to the red rooster in the decor, hip and helpful staff, amazing and creative dishes and oh, yeah, awesome soulful live music. We met for brunch on a Sunday and the place was hopping with customers of all stripes and sorts dining in twos, fours, eights and more. There was even a family celebrating a reunion down in Ginny’s Supper Club (downstairs from the Red Rooster, and on my list for next visit to the Big Apple) with matchy-matchy t-shirts. And everyone was so happy in the space – some places just make you smile and the Red Rooster is such a place.
We ordered the cornbread first. Correction, I ordered the cornbread, a core recipe at the Rooster, the minute we sat down at the table. I had recently poured over the chef’s cookbook for items I had to taste. This decadent cornbread topped the list. I didn’t even ask my table mates what they wanted to order. I said, “an order of cornbread, please,” to our attentive waiter. The bread, filled with fresh corn, aleppo pepper and coarse yellow cornmeal arrived quickly to our table, warm and crunchy, served with honey sage butter and an amazing tomato jam. I tried to share.
We sampled several items off the brunch menu including the Fried Yard Bird, Chicken and Waffles and the Mac and Greens – all were superb – cooked to perfection. The Yard Bird came with sweet potatoes and collard greens, the waffles and perfectly fried chicken were paired with smoked maple syrup, rooster hot sauce and house made pickles. The bird is the heartbeat of the restaurant and grounds their menu. They make use of every part including chicken liver butter, chicken liver omelette, and Wild Wild Wings. They even fold cracklings into their deviled eggs and serve it with duck salami. Yes, I am definitely trying that hat trick.
Chef Samuelsson is also a pickle guy so of course this Czech girl is enamored with his cooking. For dessert, we shared a bowl of mini-donuts filled with strawberry-orange preserves which was paired with chocolate dipping sauce and whipped cream. So damn good.
The live jazz, including a strolling songstress, upped the funk of the place. Every race and every hue is welcome at the Red Rooster. The legendary Apollo Theater is just around the corner from the restaurant and there are several Metro stops nearby to make your trip to the Red Rooster an easy journey from other parts of NYC.