Red Rooster: A Taste of Home

One of the highlights of my first trip to New York City was my visit to Red Rooster in Harlem.  It was a comfortable Saturday afternoon. Just walking up the street approaching Red Rooster was an experience in itself.  There were artists, photographers, painters, and musicians lining the sidewalk in front of Red Rooster. Music from live instruments matched the vibrant colors of the artwork, which also matched the jubilant nature of everyone in the vicinity of Red Rooster.  My excitement grew, the closer I got to the front door. This is Harlem. This is it. This must be the reason everyone LOVES Harlem. As soon as my cousins and I arrive, we were greeted with laughter, smiles, and good wishes from those people who decorate the scene with their presence.   I knew I was experiencing history. There was an old man sitting in front of the door. He seemed to have many stories to tell. I am already having a good time, and I haven’t even walked inside.

Upon entering, there was even more energy on the inside.  Red Rooster was full of people. Everyone was dressed for an occasion.  I loved seeing everyone’s styles. From hats to sundresses, to suits, bow ties.  Everyone was here. Everyone was having a good time. Well, we arrived just as brunch ended, so we made reservations for dinner.

Red Rooster is the creation of America’s most well known Black Chef, Marcus Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, reared in Sweden, and apprenticed in Europe.  Chef Samuelsson’s story is so unique.  His life began when food was scarce, yet his life’s work is intrically woven around food.  He shares his passion for food through his many restaurants.  He opened Red Rooster in Harlem in 2010.


I was so excited to experience dinner at Red Rooster.   While waiting for our table, a live second line band played through the restaurant.  Everyone clapped, danced or bobbed their heads as the band made its way through the restaurant.  Some people (probably tourists like me) tried to follow the band. There was just so much energy in the building.  We sat near the bar, which was filled with people sitting and standing. They were talking, drinking, laughing.

Now to the menu.   I didn’t know what to order, because everything looked good.  I finally decided to order the famous Yardbird, the Mac & Greens, and Marcus’ Cornbread.  All of the food lives up to the hype. After tasting the food, I understood another reason why everyone loves Red Rooster.  One bite of your meal will remind you of home. For me, home is Mississippi. This is the closest you will get to Grandma’s cooking in the big city.

Overall, I enjoyed both of my visits to Red Rooster.  I will certainly return whenever I am in Harlem. It’s at the top of my list of favorite places in Harlem, New York City.


The Red Rooster experience with my cousin!


My cousin lives in Harlem and took me on a walking tour.  This was one of my most memorable stops.  We returned later that evening for dinner.


Hot & Juicy

Hot & Juicy Crawfish is a wildly popular restaurant.  It is located in Washington, D.C., near the Omni Shoreham Hotel and Woodley Park Metro Station.  The owners started this restaurant in Las Vegas, after noticing an absence of their favorite food, Crawfish.  The owners themselves describe Hot & Juicy Crawfish as a restaurant that does not need pretense, special occasion, or utensils.

The food is really tasty, hot, and juicy.   There are what seems to be a million flavors inside of the plastic bag of seafood wonderment.  The food is reasonably priced. You will get a lot of food for your money. I must warn you, however, if you go to Hot & Juicy Crawfish, you should be aware of a few things.  First, you will work for each bite of food. The shrimp and crawfish are served with their heads and shells on. It is truly peel and eat.

Since Hot & Juicy is so popular, I must list a few rules.

Rule #1: Do not dress up. Hot & Juicy is very messy.  The juice gets everywhere. To eat without staining your clothing,a bib and gloves are required.  To be safe, see rule #1,

Rule #2: Don’t try to be cute.  Cuteness is impossible here.  You must just dig into the food to enjoy it.  That means there may be sauce on your face, your arms your clothing, etc.  It is impossible to be a “cute” eater here…unless of course your order the fried seafood.  Then, and only then, can you eat without being messy. However, please keep in mind that your dinner companions may order the “hot & juicy”, and your clothing is still at risk of being stained.

Rule #3: Go for the food and only the food.   There is no atmosphere. This is not a good location for a first date.  Date #55 yes. Date #1. No.

Rule #4: If you want to taste multiple items, order the fried seafood first.   The fried shrimp tastes like it is fried in Louisiana catfish batter. It is really good, but also a bit salty.  If you taste the fried seafood after the boiled seafood, it will seem extremely salty.

Rule #5: Order more than you think you will eat.  You must order everything up front. Your hands will be too messy to pick up a menu to order more items.

Rule #6: Tear off a stack of paper towels before your food arrives.  Then tear off 2 more paper towels and wrap them around your beverage.  You will thank me later.

Rule #7: If you want pictures of your food, take pictures of your food before you put on the gloves and definitely before you start eating.  I do not have pictures to accompany this post, because I did not follow this rule on my visit. This rule is a MUST for all of my photographers.  This rule is easy to skip, because the food smells so good and looks so interesting when it is served. The smell makes everyone want to just dive in and eat.

Rule #8: Skip the sweet tea, because it is not sweet.

Rule #9: Go with your close family, friends, and people you are very comfortable being around.  The seating is tight. Your elbows will touch.

Rule #10: Enjoy!  Some dining experiences are not fancy or visually stunning.  Some dining experiences are designed so that you feast. Hot & Juicy Crawfish is one feast-ful experience.