Supper Club: Red Rooster Harlem
It seems as though Marcus Samuelsson is everywhere, no? I was at Solé East in Montauk where he was on his way as part of his book tour. We took a meeting a couple of weeks later at Soho House -- he had just been there. I was reading Arrive on a recent Amtrak trip and there was an article about, you guessed, Marcus Samuelsson. You know him right? The Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised, Top Chef, White House State Dinner menu-creator, married to gorgeous supermodel Gate Maya Haile. His star is super bright and an inspiration to anyone in the culinary business, especially to people of color. He is playing a big part in the New Harlem (food) Renaissance, or so I read (in the aforementioned Arrive article)
THE BIRTHDAY GIRL
In honor of, BFF Khalilah's (who is also taken with MS) birthday we headed north for dinner. Just up the street from soul-food mainstay Sylvia's, there it was: Samuelsson's Red Rooster & Ginny's Supper Club. We stepped inside and the bar was humming. It could have been an editorial shoot with all the beautiful people and their beautiful drinks. This was no ordinary soul food spot. It was hipper, stark, fresh, and diverse. Nouveau Harlem? The banquettes - chic. The chalkboard hand-drawn graphics - so now. You could get lost in the bathroom where vintage pictures hung. I was feeling the place. But we had come for the food. So order we did.
To start, we had the Dirty Rice and Shrimp and the Red Caesar. Both were nice. Not wow, but not bad. We ordered on. Khalilah had the Mac & Greens, Fareed had the Fried Yard Bird, and Jon and I had the Catfish and Grits. Khallilah, you should know, is a perennial optimist. She enjoyed hers, using words like "different" and "tasty." Everyone else -- silent. I mean who wants to ruin someone's birthday dinner with complaints? Surely, dessert - the sweet potato donuts - wouldn't disappoint. It did, much to our chargrin. We had to search the little nugget to find the sweet potato part – a bit of crème at the center, but hardly enough to satisfy. The only person that was happy was BFF Maygen who had joined late and ordered a nice glass of prosecco. And that was that. We paid a large bill and were on our way.
I was hesitant to write this post. Don't you feel guilty when you don't love what everyone says you should? I do. And I mean this is Marcus Samuelsson?! He is kind of a big deal -- a culinary god, even. Who am I to judge? Who cares what I think? I am no food critic. But I am a lover of soul food. I know fried chicken when I taste it and catfish and macaroni and greens, for that matter. These are not things that should leave you feeling "ehh," especially when eaten in Harlem on the storied corner 125th and Lenox.
So, what's my point? Marcus Samuelsson is an inspiration. He has the Midas touch when it comes to big-name kitchens. And you should go to his handsome Red Rooster. Yes. Go. Sit at the bar. (Speaking of bars, I should say we ended the evening at Tillman’s, which was super-cute and deserves its own post.) Get a beautiful drink and sip it among beautiful people. Why not? Order a small plate, perhaps, but if it is soul food you are seeking (and not just "soul food" by name), maybe it's best to go visit your momma instead.
Red Rooster is open Monday to Friday, 11:30 am to 3:00 pm; Monday to Thursday, 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm; Friday, to 11:00 pm; Saturday, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm; Sunday, 11:00 am to 9:30 pm. Reservations are strongly recommended, although the bar is first-come, first served. All major credit cards accepted.