The name Harlem is evocative, conjuring up images of a vibrant community of music, arts and food. Long a lover of jazz, blues and gospel, Harlem was at the music’s epicenter for quite some time. It was a vibrant arts hub, a place to eat soulful meals and then dance the night away. And for many years the Harlem renaissance was a thing solely of the past as the community became a hardscrabble portion of New York skipped by most. Today, Harlem is and has been making a comeback. Rejuvenated by new business and opportunity. So when the possibility of at eating at Red Rooster presented itself, The Monster was in.
It’s a hip, packed room that is a melting pot of New York. Where else besides the subway does the cross section of the city present itself more fully? Hipsters, Asian tourists, Jamaican expats, longtime Harlem denizens, The Monsters. Even the open kitchen is a showcase in multiculturalism. African-Americans besides caucasions beside latinos. And with a Southern inspired menu it’s a place built for The Monster.
The order on this day is the fried yard bird, dark meat, white mace gravy, hot sauce and shake (that’s fried chicken to the rest of us); shrimp and dirty rice with raisons, curry leaves, almonds; corn bread, honey butter, tomato jam. This is southern comfort food through the lens of a chef born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden.
The cornbread is sort of a cornbread/ toast mash-up and when smothered with the sweet tomato jam flecked with mild capers its closest relative may be southern inspired pizza left out on the counter so everything seeps together and then is happily noshed the next day. Love.
The shrimp are off the chart. Perfectly grilled, plump tasty morsels. Wish the dish had more than four of them because The Monster would go to town. The aged basmanti rice is crispy and crunchy with just a touch of sweetness from the raisons.
The yard bird’s skin is dark and molten and glistens enticingly , the inside dark meat juicy. With the hot sauce, shake and bitter collared greens it’s a plate that garners near 100 percent Monster approval as it doesn’t overwhelm with salt the way some fried chickens tend to.
Devil’s food cupcake with caramel and pretzels is the call for dessert. That combination cannot help but be good but the cupcake is a little dry. Still, a sweet end to a sweet meal.
The local artwork presents Harlem of today, yesterday and tomorrow which is reflective in the restaurant as a whole. This quickly gentrifying neighborhood may not have supported such a place in the past in the same manner in which those outside the community may not have ventured to this side of town until recently.
Always a sucker for a taste of the south, The Monster enjoyed Red Rooster immensely.
Why go? You might be in the north but you have a hankering for the south.
Monster rating: 4/5 Monsters
310 Lenox Ave
New York, NY 10027