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.