How Sylvia’s Dishes Out Harlem’s Most Legendary Soul Food | Legendary Eats
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How Sylvia’s Dishes Out Harlem’s Most Legendary Soul Food | Legendary Eats

December 10, 2019

– When you’re in New York City and you’re craving soul
food, you head to Harlem, and anyone that grew
up in this neighborhood knows that Sylvia’s is
the place to get it. Hey guys, we’re in Harlem about to try some of the
most legendary soul food in New York City, Sylvia’s, and we’re even gonna see how they make it, so let’s dig in! From ribs and collard greens
to chicken and waffles, Sylvia’s has been dishing out Southern comfort food for 57 years, and people love it! – I love, love, love,
love the fried chicken. – [Alana] Seven days a
week, locals, tourists, and even celebrities crowd
around these famous tables. – Our barbecue ribs and our pork chops, big fan, Whoopi, hands
down, she loves it. Chris Rock, candied yams,
macaroni ‘n’ cheese. Everyone loves our cornbread from the Clintons to President Obama. – [Alana] The list goes on: Jennifer Lopez, Nelson
Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Beyoncé. So what’s the secret to almost six decades of Sylvia’s success? Sylvia, herself. – She was the mother of Harlem. She was the perfect mixture of best friend, confidant, cheerleader, grandma, mentor, everything
just rolled into one beautiful, beautiful, chocolaty package. – Sylvia’s like, she’s Mama
Harlem, Queen of Harlem, and coming in here was
always like going home. – [Alana] Originally from South Carolina, Sylvia Woods moved to Harlem in 1944 and got a job working as a waitress at Johnson’s Luncheonette. Eighteen years later, Johnson offered to sell the restaurant to Sylvia. With a loan from her mother, she opened Sylvia’s Restaurant in 1962. Sylvia passed away in 2012, entrusting her family with her tradition of persistent hospitality and
love cooked into every bite. Today, Sylvia’s children and grandchildren run the restaurant. This is her grandson Marcus,
one of the chefs dishing out Sylvia’s original recipes. I asked him to show me how it’s done, starting with one of my favorite dishes. We are here in Sylvia’s
kitchen with Chef Marcus. He’s gonna show me how to make their famous, world-renowned ribs. All right, what’s the first step? – First things first, I like to just give ’em a little pat dry…
– OK. you have a lot of stuff still on them. You wanna just make sure
that they’re nice and clean. – [Alana] How long have
you been making these? – My whole life, honestly, as long as I can remember, I’ve
been tryna help season food with my grandmother. Now you wanna make sure you rub it like you’re putting lotion on a baby. You want it to get in each
little crevice, all right? – OK, all right, I’ma lotion the baby now. – Yes, absolutely, you
treat it like it’s yours. That’s, for me, the love,
that’s how you really get involved with your food and really make it a love type of thing. Very, very intimate. – [Alana] The ribs then go into a brine of water, vinegar, and
some secret ingredients for four and a half hours. Then they’re baked. Next step, Sylvia’s most popular dish, the chicken and waffles. Is this your grandmother’s recipe? – Yes, this is her recipe. That’s all her. I mean, everything down
to how you seasoned it, we all learned from her. – [Alana] Each chicken breast is seasoned and drenched in flour by hand,
excess flour is knocked off, and then it hits the fryer
for about seven to 10 minutes. Those pieces come out
crispy, golden brown, perfect for topping on waffles. – Everyone that’s coming in is like ordering chicken and waffles. We cannot fry the chicken fast enough. The poor waffle machines are just like constantly, “Ah!” Like
if they had a voice, they’re just screaming like,
“Oh, my God, leave me alone!” – [Alana] Sylvia’s is also known for their collard greens,
a Janet Jackson favorite. To get rid of the pesky sand or grit that the greens grow in, they have to be washed multiple times. Finally, they’re cooked
in the same big pots Sylvia’s has been using
for almost 60 years. But no meal is complete without a side of their four cheese mac ‘n’ cheese and their classic cornbread. Now that I’ve played my part in serving up a little Sylvia’s love, I had to go eat! This looks incredible. I’m getting so many
flavors just in my nose without even tasting it right now, and I just literally smell the love coming off of this plate. The ribs are what’s grabbing me right now. The meat is completely
fall-off-the-bone tender, and even though they
were cooked three times, they’re still so incredibly juicy, which is astounding to me. I just need another napkin. I need the whole stack of napkins. Soul food isn’t meant to eat daintily, you just gotta, you gotta go for it. The ribs were phenomenal, and that chicken had me singing, so crispy, so juicy, and stacked
on top of a thick waffle. It’s been great. It’s
still gonna be great, and, I mean, I guess you guys can leave. You probably don’t wanna
see what I’m about to do to all this food right now. See ya! The last time I came to Sylvia’s, I was 10 years old, but the
flavors haven’t changed. The energy and the comfort
inside hasn’t gone anywhere, and even as Harlem keeps
changing around it, I’m confident that with
some d— good food and a whole lot of love, this restaurant will
continue to be an anchor for the community, and Sylvia, forever
the Queen of Soul Food.

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  1. I’m from the south and now I live in Bronx I ate here and its definitely not the hype what people make it seem I’m southern it’s definitely not soul food like I’m use to it’s just my opinion

  2. Sylvia's was way better in the 90's and early 2000's but portions have been getting smaller and it just does not have the same homemade taste. Don't get me wrong, it is good but it is not the same. I used to go when they had a counter location and a restaurant next to it. Anyway, I still go, when I visit, but, again, it is not the same.

  3. Omg the best ribs at a gas station that's how I felt about Spanish foods the corner store got the best Spanish food cut up peppers n their potato balls

  4. Omg I went to the mosque n had stuffed grape leaves,potatoes, n mac n cheese with an okra mango salt fish dish I made n that's how ima do it

  5. Just because it looks good and taste's good doesn't mean it's good for you.
    I would check with my Doctor before I eat there.
    Should skin the chicken to much fat
    The waffles and syrup to much sugar.
    The ribs had to be pork
    Xpect high blood pressure
    Trigger Finger
    and diabetes.

  6. If you survive not getting mugged or raped on your way to this place or back, then bon appetite to you guys

    The girl in red has awesome jugs


  8. I’m sorry but me and my best friend went here and it didn’t taste bad but my soul food is better. This is def for ppl who don’t cook soul food and maybe don’t have family who cook it but this place was very mediocre at best.

  9. Years ago this place was quite delicious.
    Last time I ate there (before i became a vegan) it was bland, sorry, and a waste of my time. Not sure what happened.

    Edit: My guess is the food went downhill after Ms. Sylvia passed.

  10. I'll be damned if I head up to NYC in order to get really good soul food . . . foh . . . everyone knows you gotta go down to the Black American South. New Yorkers be trippin' . . .

  11. Me being a southern black person….those ribs a no no….that mac and cheese…yes your supposed to bake it but it still need to be creamy….that chicken looked like Popeyes chicken that sat in the fridge and you microwaved it the next day

  12. ive never tried collard greens before in my life. but i would like to take them with grit. makes em more natural y'know?

  13. I felt blessed to eat in such a iconic black restaurant. Being from the south don't expect large portions of food like I did. HA

  14. Im From The South, went there a few months ago and got chicken and waffles. The chicken had no season, waste of money. worse food i had while in NY.

  15. Funny. The chicken looks dry and ribs don't look tender at all. Anyway – I was there once. I had fried chicken. Was ok. Greens were very good 🙂

  16. 4:30 "I just literally smell the love coming off this plate". No thats metaphorical. Damn Americans and everything being "literally"

  17. don't go to sylvias anywhere else in harlem is better than overpriced sylvias that place is just gentrified black culture at its finest

  18. Ever notice every time a celebrity goes to a restaurant what ever they order all of a sudden gets advertised to the world as there “favorite” 😂😂😂😂😂😂

  19. I lived in Harlem from 1997 to 2011 and Silvia's always sucked when it comes to good food in the neighborhood. I mean literally cheap assed powdered orange juice and instant pancake mix!! bleaH!! No spice anywhere. Like eating at a low grade public school lunch.

  20. Best in the city 💙 Sylvia’s treats you right. After Sylvia’s, walk to Leelee’s Bakery for a slice of carrot cake… you won’t regret it!!

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