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Red Rooster: Down South, Uptown

Red Rooster: Down South, Uptown


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For normal couples, an anniversary might include a champagne toast or dinner somewhere fancy and expensive. To celebrate our one-year, my boyfriend and I stuffed our faces at Red Rooster Harlem. And it was perfect.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson, who learned to cook from his adoptive Swedish grandmother and got his start at Nordic restaurant Aquavit, brings a Scandinavian influence to Red Rooster with dishes like gravlax and meatballs with lingonberries, braised green cabbage, and dill stewed potatoes. The crux of the menu, though, is down and dirty soul food and people come for the cornbread and fried yard bird.

At 8:30 on a Saturday night, the place was packed. With all types of people. An old, black man with a handlebar mustache and a seersucker suit was surrounded by a group of white cougars at the U-shaped bar upfront. Behind them, a family of five sat next to a young, gay couple in a dining room decorated with work by Harlem artists. And then there was us, at the end of the communal table running along the open kitchen in back. I was both surprised and happy to realize that Red Rooster is just as much a local’s spot as a destination restaurant for Manhattanites. An eclectic scene, with friendly, helpful service and fair prices. Bright, loud, and lively.

The drink menu offers house cocktails, craft beers, and even wine on tap, but we just opted for a bottle of red. Way too excited about the food to worry too much about what we were drinking. To start, we each got the five-spice duck salad. Rubbed with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel and topped with red onion, the duck was the perfect combination of sweet and savory. And I loved the radishes and fingerling chips with the mesclun lettuce.

Next, I went for the crab cakes and Nick the aforementioned fried chicken. We also split an order of mac and greens and a side of cornbread. The crab cakes were somewhat unimpressive, more breading than lump blue crab but saved by the curry aioli. The chicken was outrageous, though. Juicy pieces of dark meat drenched in white mace gravy, with mashed potatoes and pickles. Then there was the mac and cheese, my favorite. The orecchiette pasta proved the ideal vehicle for holding pools of creamy Gouda, New York Cheddar, and Comté and the bitter collard greens cut the richness of the cheese nicely. The corn bread, spread with the accompanying honey butter and tomato jam, was amazing as well.

We finished with the apple caramel sundae and the sweet potato doughnuts. The sundae was basically a deconstructed pie, with crumbles of buttery crust and chunks of apple. Plus tart apple sorbet, caramel sauce, and vanilla cream. In a word, incredible. The sweet potato doughnuts were great, too. Warm and crispy, rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with a vanilla dipping sauce. So, so good.

We rolled home and straight into bed after dinner at Red Rooster but it was so worth it. I want to go back for the Latin, blues, or Stevie Wonder cover nights at downstairs Ginny’s Supper Club or even for the gospel brunch on Sunday mornings. This time I'll be sure to take the 2/3, and not the 1, to 125th Street though...oops.

Just steps from the subway, Red Rooster transports you to the heart of Harlem. Go for the neighborhood feel and the stick-to-your-ribs food. You won't be disappointed, no matter the occasion.


Photos

Unlike most teenagers who flip burgers for minimum wage, Tristen Epps actually liked his part-time job at McDonalds it allowed him to get out of the house for a while and, even better, make people happy. Raised by a single mom who traveled for her military job, he learned to feed himself early on. In 2009, he graduated from Johnson & Wales&rsquo Charlotte campus and began a string of hotel kitchen jobs with The Ritz-Carlton, Westin Hotels & Resorts, The Four Seasons, and The Greenbrier. There, he ascended from the apprentice program to tournant in 2012, working closely with certified Master Chef Richard Rosendale, who delivered rigorous, classical training. In 2014, Epps was a contestant on ABC&rsquos The Taste, where Marcus Samuelsson became his on- and off-screen mentor. Epps was a finalist on the show but gained something arguably more prestigious than the win: the sous chef position at Samuelsson&rsquos Red Rooster in Harlem. Samuelsson encouraged Epps to represent himself on the plate&mdashfrom his Trinidadian background to his military brat travels&mdashwhich gave him the confidence to open the farm-to-table Cooks & Captains as executive chef in 2016. When Samuelsson needed an executive chef for Red Rooster&rsquos Miami offshoot, Epps returned to the Marcus Samuelsson Group and moved down South in 2020. The restaurant stays true to Samuelsson&rsquos style but is enriched by the essence of Overtown, a historically Black neighborhood, and Epps&rsquo global vision as a chef.


First look: Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s long awaited Red Rooster opens in Overtown

OVERTOWN — A cast iron cooked, spiced rum butter cornbread is one of the small plates on the menu at Red Rooster Overtown, finally — and fittingly — debuting during Black Restaurant Week.

The dish called Marcus’ Cornbread ($7) is named after the restaurant’s renowned chef-owner Marcus Samuelsson, who has promised a Southern comfort food destination that celebrates Overtown’s rich African-American history and its Caribbean and Latin American evolution in the hands of Food Network “Chopped” champion and Executive Chef Tristen Epps.

“One of things that Marcus and I talked about when developing this menu is that it will be a complete disservice just to bring the New York dishes down here,” said Epps, who has worked with the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised Samuelsson at his flagship Red Rooster in Harlem.

Some staple dishes will make it on to the Overtown menu, like the Fried Yard bird, made with sour orange hot honey. But unique to the Overtown Red Rooster are options embracing the cultures of our area including the Pig Rib “Griot” ($23) inspired by one of Haiti’s national dishes. There’s also a raw bar featuring a Bigeye Tuna Crudo ($15) made with a Cuban coffee ponzu. Seafood options include grilled yellowtail snapper with a charred gooseberry salsa, avocado and coconut tea ($31). The fire roasted wagyu oxtail to share ($75) is a chef favorite.


YEP CHICKEN & WAFFLE

Overrated. never seen half of a waffle with an order of chicken and waffles . Rum punch didn't taste anything like a Rum Punch. Mac n greens tasted like pasta in Alfredo sauce. Won't be going back here.

Others will see how you vote!

  • A S.
  • Manhattan, New York, NY
  • 9 friends
  • 18 reviews
  • 3 photos

Can I just say I don't think this place could get even better but somehow it did! From start to finish my experience was incredible. I was seated downstairs (which is beautiful) not a typical basement. It was spacious and elegant. Ordered a Bloody Mary which was a meal in itself, the chicken and waffles and deviled eggs. Amazing. The service was perfect and they checked in at the right times. I loved this place before and somehow it has gotten better. Thank you Red Rooster and keep it up.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Barbara R.
  • Bronx, NY
  • 34 friends
  • 141 reviews
  • 22 photos

I finally get a chance to go out with the girls, and was having a great day. After 2 previous stops, we decide to give red rooster another shot . Disclosure: haven't been in 3 years due to raw wings incident. The vibe and COVID protocols in place , great job there . Food: steak , crab cake , top notch !! The chicken and waffle , I'm in an Uber praying to get to my home bathroom in time . The crust of the chicken amazing , but what lied underneath, unsanitary, under cooked , and my poor stomach will pay the consequences. We brought it to the attention of the manager , who over promised to rectify and did nothing . Our waiter before coming back to our table, was grabbed by the manger to recount his reasoning "the brine " made the chicken bleed. What's worse is asking me if everything is okay !! No it's not !! I don't care if you took it off my bill, money wasn't the concern , safety guidelines when handling poultry were! If you are asking to hold my CC information before booking then deliver a safe product. This will be my last time coming and wasting time , money , and safety .

Others will see how you vote!

  • Juia A.
  • Upper West Side, Manhattan, NY
  • 193 friends
  • 56 reviews
  • 15 photos
  • Elite ’21

I haven't been here in years and was sad to see a 3.5 rating. I definitely think this spot deserves higher!here's what we had:
1. Yep Chicken & Waffle (4/5). so glad we got this- chicken was spot on. I prefer a slightly soggier waffle as opposed to crispy.

2. Mac & greens (4.5/5). holy frick. delicious. Cheesy but not in a "omg I'm gonna sh*t my pants right after" kind of way. So tasty.

3. Sweet potato soup (4.5/5). we loved this! Great sweet potato taste and was really comforting. The coconut flavor is mild but definitely present. Only wished it was slightly hotter.

We really enjoyed this place and would definitely come back! Our service also felt great.

Date rating: great first date spot! Lively atmosphere, but not too loud, good ambiance but not too intimate.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Michelle A.
  • New York, NY
  • 147 friends
  • 16 reviews
  • 21 photos

I don't generally leave reviews but in this case, I had to tell the world about the amazing brunch I had last Sunday. I've actually been coming to this place for years, since it opened in fact, though there was a time when that stopped because I didn't care of the súper loud music and the food became mediocre at best. They even had a low health grade for some time which you would think that wouldn't be the case at a restaurant of a celebrity chef, however, that is clearly in the past because they have stepped up their game in a major way since those days.

Their guacamole was an interesting concept, not a huge fan of the accra though. If you're looking to have something on the healthy side, I would just eat the guacamole and ask to have the fried food placed on the side, not on top.

My friend had the chicken and waffles , which I got a taste of, and OMG, they were absolutely delicious. I had the salmon dish which was exceptional. Yes, I said exceptional. I'm not a fan of flavoring only a portion of the plate in order to avoid flavors from competing. If a chef/cook flavors everything accordingly, the food will simply compliment one another and that is what Rooster does with their dishes.

We were there for quite a while, so had a few bloody marys, about 5 or 6 of them, and they were also very very good! After the 2nd, I ask them to bring them out without the toppings. I'm always a bit skeptical about ordering these because most places will use store bought mixers but they actually make theirs and it is evident in the great, all-natural fresh taste.

We had the pleasure of bumping into Marcus at the Whole Foods across the street after this very brunch experience, with my Red Rooster to-go bag in hand. My friend told him we'd just come from his place and very much enjoyed it.

Keep up the good work Marcus and team! And thank you for keeping the music at a reasonable level too, I hope it persists even after the pandemic is over.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Monique J.
  • Queens, Queens, NY
  • 0 friends
  • 18 reviews
  • 19 photos

Reservations for 2 on a Sunday. Walked in and we were seated right away by a friendly hostess.
Our food was amazing. mac n cheese with greens and chicken and Waffles !
Everything was just done so perfectly. I cannot wait to go back!

Others will see how you vote!

Complete waste of time and money.
While the service was friendly and fast, the food was simply bad. Their steak fritz was a grizzly, tuff-cut served with McDonald's fries and ice-cold green beans. The chicken of " chicken and waffles " fame was over cooked. The corn bread had NO TASTE at all. The garlic mashed potatoes had no garlic.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Manuel M.
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • 0 friends
  • 15 reviews
  • 56 photos

Let's start with the host.
When you first walk in, you're greeted by this smooth chill gentlemen. He will take your temp and point you where to fill out the COVID Protocol. After you will be shown to your seat.

All COVID protocol are followed to the T here, so relax and enjoy the ambience.

We went here for dinner. I got the chicken and waffle . it's a smaller plate, which is fine because it does fill you up. Waffle was a little on The dry side and chicken was perfect ( chicken on bone FYI).
Once you pure that delicious sauce over it, it changes everything. .

My partner got the jerk salmon. Omg it was way better then chicken and waffle ( this is my opinion) that's if you like fish.
We did a side of mash potatoes - which was tasty

pineapple guacamole - I wasn't a fan of it but hey this isn't the place i would go if I was looking for guac ‍.
If you are a guacamole fan - it's always a good idea to try it out. You never know

Ok so for dessert (which is the real reason I came)
We seen a feed on this delicious "pineapple red velvet rum cake".
It was really dry on the top layer and tart on the lower layer. I never had this before so if this is what it was suppose to taste like then great. Otherwise I will not be having that again.

Overall the experience here was delightful.
I recommend this place with a few friends because the vibe is so chill and down to earth. I didn't chose to drink this night but the tables around me had some pretty cool Instagram drinks ( if you're into that stuff‍).

Others will see how you vote!

  • Nneka O.
  • Fontana, CA
  • 0 friends
  • 11 reviews
  • 3 photos

I urge you to try this place if you haven't! Went for my 30th birthday and this brunch definitely set the tone of the day , from the food to the art to the kind staff, I was blown away by my overall experience! My only wish is that i could have stayed longer to fully take in the ambiance! Probably the best chicken and waffles you will ever have in your life! Trust me! Perfect texture flavor and right amount of heat! I can't wait to come back for more, glad to have found a gem in the heart of Harlem !

Others will see how you vote!

  • Annie K.
  • Manhattan, NY
  • 84 friends
  • 183 reviews
  • 1954 photos
  • Elite ’21

Great service and delicious food! Had their fried yardbird and waffles , and that spicy maple syrup is to die for. If you ever get the chance to order the fried platter with chicken and waffle and additional sides in the future, do it! It's quite a showstopper for sharing family style. Definitely leaves you feeling full with a big belly and massive food coma.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Niha K.
  • New York, NY
  • 12 friends
  • 186 reviews
  • 98 photos
  • Elite ’21

Let me preface this by saying that the food was absolutely delicious. We all got chicken and waffles and it was the best we've had. The service on the other hand, not so great. We ordered drinks (wine, mimosa, bloody rooster, and a mule) and 15 minutes later, still nothing. We flagged down the waitress who said that the bartender was still working on the drinks. Five minutes later, comes by and says the same thing and tells us that the Bloody Mary is intricate and takes time. I can understand that, but maybe at least give the rest of the table their drinks? And then, they brought out the food. It wasn't until 10 minutes after we got our food, that they finally brought us our drinks. This was definitely the first time I've ever received my food before drinks, and we were obviously annoyed because who starts eating before drinking?

Others will see how you vote!

  • Sharila S.
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • 296 friends
  • 56 reviews
  • 39 photos

I made a 6pm reservation for outdoor dining on Christmas Eve. It was a rainy Thursday, and we held out hope that the seating would hold up against the cold, wet weather.

Thankfully, it did! The beautiful outdoor seating area was tented, well-heated, and decorated nicely. We honestly could have forgotten that we were outside if not for the patter of raindrops and noisy car horns. This is natural, as the Red Rooster is located near the busiest intersection in Harlem: 125th & Lennox Avenue.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were seated immediately and the hostess provided us with hand sanitizer spray. We were then directed to the menu, which was accessible by a QR code located on our table.

We ordered the following starters: Cornbread with Roasted Tomato and Corn Butter ($9) Uptown Guac with Accra, Avocado, Pineapple salsa, and fried garlic ($9) and YEP ! Chicken & Waffle with Maple Hot Sauce ($14).

The cornbread was sliced in a way that resembled pound cake and tasted quite similar to the dessert. I personally prefer sweet cornbread, and the salty tomato and corn butter was the perfect complement.

The accra fritter, made from a tropical root vegetable known as malanga, was good as well. While it could have been crispier, the guacamole and salsa gave a great flavor boost that almost made up for the lack of texture.

My favorite appetizer hands down was the chicken and waffle . It consisted of two SUPER crispy pieces of dark meat (my favorite!) atop a pillowy, vanilla-flavored waffle . A drizzle of the maple hot sauce and-chef's kiss-it was so good. Definitely the highlight of our meal.

One of my cousins ordered the Crispy Bird Sandwich and Fries with buffalo chicken , cheddar, charred onion, and pickles ($18). She loved the chicken and toppings but felt that the sandwich was a little dry. It needed sauce.

My other cousin is vegan, and she had a difficult time finding an entree that fit her dietary needs. I originally chose the Red Rooster Harlem because out of all the soul food spots, it had a plant-based entree: Charred Glazed Cauliflower with roasted tomatoes, bean puree, and cilantro-yogurt sauce ($19). However, our server told us that past vegan customers were not happy with the meal when the yogurt sauce was excluded.

For this reason, my cousin chose to order an appetizer for her main course instead: the Roasted Squash and Brussels Sprout Salad with pecan dukkah and citrus-berbere dressing ($14). She was disappointed as the squash was al dente instead of roasted and tender. The texture issue caused her not to finish her salad. I hope that this restaurant works to improve their offerings for vegans. I understand that it can be difficult, but a lot of people are moving toward meatless diets. Even one vegan entree would be a huge draw for such customers.

Because I was so pleased with the chicken we had for the appetizer, I chose to order the Hot Honey Yardbird chicken thigh ($6) with a side of Mac & Greens ($9). The mac was creamy and flavorful, and the acidity of the collard greens was perfect for cutting some of the richness. I was not a huge fan of the breadcrumb topping though, as I prefer my mac to have a crispy crust solely from more time in the oven.

While the food was largely a home run, the service left quite a bit to be desired. I had to consistently attempt to flag down our server, often to no avail. She would visit other tables but not ours.

We were never checked on to see if our food was okay, if we needed a refill on our waters, or if we wanted dessert. It took about 30 minutes just to get her attention so that we could finally get the check. I understand it was Christmas Eve and quite busy, but it began to feel as though our server was actively avoiding us. The lack of customer service left a bad taste in our mouths.

Although I would return to Red Rooster Harlem for the delicious food, I hope to have a better service experience next time.


Dining at The Red Rooster Harlem

Because indoor dining closed in the city on December 14, I made a 6pm reservation for outdoor dining on Christmas Eve. It was a rainy Thursday, and we held out hope that the seating would hold up against the cold, wet weather.

Thankfully, it did! The beautiful outdoor seating area was tented, well-heated, and decorated nicely. We honestly could have forgotten that we were outside if not for the patter of raindrops and noisy car horns. This is natural, as the Red Rooster is located near the busiest intersection in Harlem: 125th & Lennox Avenue.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were seated immediately and the hostess provided us with hand sanitizer spray. We were then directed to the menu, which was accessible by a QR code located on our table.

The Food

The Red Rooster opened its doors ten years ago and has become a Harlem landmark. It stands out because it does something a little different with soul food cuisine. While it offers traditional dishes like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, Marcus Samuelsson puts his own little twist on each of these mainstays. This makes sense given his own background: Ethiopian-born, Sweden-raised, and largely trained in American kitchens.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson at Red Rooster.
Courtesy of @roosterharlem.

The fried chicken is topped with a hot honey butter reminiscent of Nashville Hot Chicken. The macaroni and cheese is mixed with collard greens to produce “Mac ‘N Greens”. There are also more global offerings like Haitian-inspired accra fritters and a roasted squash salad topped with a citrus-berbere dressing. All of this makes for a very interesting dining experience, even for those very familiar with Southern food.

The Appetizers

We ordered the following starters: Cornbread with Roasted Tomato and Corn Butter ($9) Uptown Guac with Accra, Avocado, Pineapple salsa, and fried garlic ($9) and YEP! Chicken & Waffle with Maple Hot Sauce ($14).

The cornbread was sliced in a way that resembled pound cake and tasted quite similar to the dessert. I personally prefer sweet cornbread, and the salty tomato and corn butter was the perfect complement.

Cornbread. Courtesy of @roosterharlem.

The accra fritter, made from a tropical root vegetable known as malanga, was good as well. While it could have been crispier, the guacamole and salsa gave a great flavor boost that almost made up for the lack of texture.

Uptown Guac with Accra.
Courtesy of @roosterharlem.

My favorite appetizer hands down was the chicken and waffle. It consisted of two SUPER crispy pieces of dark meat (my favorite!) atop a pillowy, vanilla-flavored waffle. A drizzle of the maple hot sauce and–chef’s kiss–it was so good. Definitely the highlight of our meal.

Chicken & Waffle. Courtesy of @roosterharlem.

The Entrees

One of my cousins ordered the Crispy Bird Sandwich and Fries with buffalo chicken, cheddar, charred onion, and pickles ($18). She loved the chicken and toppings but felt that the sandwich was a little dry. It needed sauce.

Crispy Bird Sandwich.

My other cousin is vegan, and she had a difficult time finding an entree that fit her dietary needs. I originally chose the Red Rooster Harlem because out of all the soul food spots, it had a plant-based entree: Charred Glazed Cauliflower with roasted tomatoes, bean puree, and cilantro-yogurt sauce ($19). However, our server told us that past vegan customers were not happy with the meal when the yogurt sauce was excluded.

Roast Squash Salad.

For this reason, my cousin chose to order an appetizer for her main course instead: the Roasted Squash and Brussels Sprout Salad with pecan dukkah and citrus-berbere dressing ($14). She was disappointed as the squash was al dente instead of roasted and tender. The texture issue caused her not to finish her salad. I hope that this restaurant works to improve their offerings for vegans. I understand that it can be difficult, but a lot of people are moving toward meatless diets. Even one vegan entree would be a huge draw for such customers.

Because I was so pleased with the chicken we had for the appetizer, I chose to order the Hot Honey Yardbird chicken thigh ($6) with a side of Mac & Greens ($9). The mac was creamy and flavorful, and the acidity of the collard greens was perfect for cutting some of the richness. I was not a huge fan of the breadcrumb topping though, as I prefer my mac to have a crispy crust solely from more time in the oven.

Mac & Greens. Courtesy of @roosterharlem.

The Service

While the food was largely a home run, the service left quite a bit to be desired. I had to consistently attempt to flag down our server, often to no avail. She would visit other tables but not ours.

We were never checked on to see if our food was okay, if we needed a refill on our waters, or if we wanted dessert. It took about 30 minutes just to get her attention so that we could finally get the check. I understand it was Christmas Eve and quite busy, but it began to feel as though our server was actively avoiding us. The lack of customer service left a bad taste in our mouths.

Although I would return to Red Rooster Harlem for the delicious food, I hope to have a better service experience next time. 4 out of 5 STARS.

For more Black-owned restaurant reviews, check out my review of two Midtown Manhattan restaurants here.


Red Rooster: Down South, Uptown - Recipes

Grove Bay Hospitality Group was created in 2010 with the idea that it would be fully connected to the community. Like our logo, our founders and core team members have deep roots in South Florida. For us, this connection to our community can be in the form of opening a great restaurant, providing new jobs for our fellow Miamians, or even donating our time and resources to the many charities we support.

Grove Bay aspires to enhance the lives of its guests, employees, communities and investors as a restaurant industry leader by developing innovative, memorable and highly successful restaurant concepts. From ingredients to customer service, Grove Bay is committed to delivering only the highest quality across all levels of operation. We believe that if we provide our guests with exceptional hospitality experiences, if we train and take care of our people, and if we’re an active member of our community, then the performance and profits will take care of themselves.

“To Enhance People’s Lives –
One Person and One Neighborhood at a Time.”

“Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all”

To exceed our guests’ expectation with memorable dining experiences by paying attention to every detail and taking care of their every need. Our recipe for success involves three key ingredients:

· A well-trained and thoughtful staff that extends from our front door to table side, whose mission is to address guests’ every need and provide an exceptional dining experience.

· Fresh and wholesome foods, flavorful recipes, careful preparation and attractive presentation. Local vendors and ingredients are sourced whenever possible.

· An ambiance and dining experience that is pleasant and engaging, and that represents excellent customer value and satisfaction.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”

To foster a working environment where employees, management and ownership respects, trusts and takes care of each other.

Our philosophy on people is based upon 3 remarkably simple goals:

· Recruit and retain honest and caring individuals

· Focus on developing individuals

· Treat everyone fairly and with respect

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

To be a good corporate citizen and recognized member of our community.

We succeed because members of our community visit our restaurants and allow us to serve them. Giving back to the community is the least we can do in return.

Grove Bay Hospitality Group believes in leading by example. We provide direct financial support and hands-on involvement to a variety of charitable and educational organizations.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”

To consistently outperform our personal and financial goals.

We believe that providing memorable experiences to our guests, taking care of our employees and giving back to the community pave the way for restaurant profits and return on investment.

When we look out for one another, our success in this highly competitive marketplace is virtually guaranteed.


1. Tastings Social Presents Mountain Bird

Husband-wife team Kenichi and Keiko Tajima garnered critical kudos for their poultry-focused Harlem nook, until it closed abruptly in 2014 after its lease expired. Following the widespread success of their summer pop-up at a Tasting Social event space in East Harlem, the duo made the relocation permanent, serving their full all-fowl menu within the 31-seat, jazz-soundtracked dining room. As with the O.G. Mountain Bird, every manner of bird is broken down and judiciously used&mdashostrich tartare is paired with capers, cornichon and a foie gras terrine, and a head-to-toe chicken tasting plate incorporates heart bourguignonne, wing lollipop and liver mousse.

2. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Everyone from neighborhood families to leather-clad bikers makes the pilgrimage to this perpetually packed Harlem smokehouse. Nestled under railway tracks, the bluesy, bare-brick hall slings jalapeño-crowned Texas brisket fleshy, pull-off-the-bone pork ribs and thick-battered fried green tomatoes drizzled with cayenne-buttermilk ranch dressing. The meats, nursed over hickory in four computerized smoking pits, are South-worthy on their own, but even more so when slicked in the smoky-sweet house BBQ sauce: The secret-recipe condiment magically transforms a notoriously tough Boston butt cut into one of the city&rsquos most lusciously viscous pulled porks.

3. Red Rooster Harlem

Some of the city's most popular restaurants serve food that satisfies on a visceral level&mdashconsistent, accessible, easy to like. Places where the music, crowd, drinks and space explain, as much as the menu, why it's packed every night. It&rsquos a scene that sums up the instant and overwhelming success of Marcus Samuelsson's Harlem bistro, Red Rooster. The restaurant's global soul food, a "We Are the World" mix of Southern-fried, East African, Scandinavian and French, is a good honest value. But it's outshone here by the venue itself, with its hobnobbing bar scrum, potent cocktails and lively jazz. Like an uptown Pastis, the sprawling space is inviting and buzzy&mdashthe place to be, north of 110th Street.

4. Sylvia’s

Owned by Sylvia Woods, known around these parts as the "Queen of Soul Food," the Harlem restaurant has been a neighborhood staple since 1962, doling out down-South specialties including chicken-and-waffles, saucy barbecue ribs and cowpeas with rice.

5. Rao’s

If you thought getting a table at Per Se was tough, try getting into Rao&rsquos. On second thought, don&rsquot. Rao&rsquos (pronounced &ldquoRAY-ohs&rdquo) is really a private club without the dues. To eat here, you&rsquoll need a personal invite from one of the heavy hitters who &ldquoowns&rdquo a table. CEOs, actors, politicians, news personalities and neighborhood old-timers have a long-standing arrangement with legendary owner Frankie &ldquoNo&rdquo Pellegrino, and that's what ensures a seat at one of the ten tables. In fact, reading this review is probably the closest you&rsquoll get to Rao&rsquos.


Fishing Georgia’s Satilla River

You’ll find them haunting creek banks and dark river coves where blossoms of shadbush and wild blueberry swirl through old cypress trees. That’s where the fish flash like iridescent lightning. Redbreast sunfish live in places that call to childhood memory and sandbar naps. Until you hook one on a cricket or a curly-tailed grub. Then you don’t think so much about how things used to be because you can feel the fight all the way down the rod and into the palms of your hands, and what you think about most is putting such a bellicose fish in the boat.

These fish sport a blue-green back and rays of turquoise around each eye. During the spring and summer spawn, the males take on a red hue so brilliant it gives them the nicknames “redbelly” or “robin” or “rooster red.” Most prevalent in lower Piedmont and Coastal Plain rivers and creeks from Virginia to Mississippi, redbreast sunfish live in waters where the South’s natural fabric is largely intact. They are the brook trout of the South’s overlooked blackwater rivers and Piedmont creeks, the redfish of our cypress sloughs and bottomland forests.

This is a creature that ties human and natural history together in a region of the South that few explore. Up and down the South’s redbreast rivers, old fish camps still hang on in the woods. Anglers thread trailers down sandy boat ramps to drop jon boats and canoes into the water. Jimmy Carter wrote of wading waist-deep on the sandbars of the Little Satilla River, his favorite redbreast fishing stream. It was “a remote and lonely site,” he recalled, which led him to stay close to his father as they waded the dark waters.

“This little animal captures the vibe of what this ecosystem means to so many people,” says Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers, a son of the Georgia Coastal Plain soils. “It’s a piece of flypaper that all of the emotion and memories and hopes of this landscape sort of grab on to.”

Last summer I spent a week along Georgia’s Satilla River, perhaps the center of redbreast fishing culture in the South. I fished with historic old fishing clubs and lure makers and scientists, and paddled and camped on remote sandbars as white as a Bahamas beach. Undammed for its entire 235-mile journey across the state’s Coastal Plain, the Satilla is a place where people work hard to keep the culture of redbreast fishing alive—and keep the natural state of this river intact.

And it’s a region loaded with unforgettable characters. On my first morning in Georgia I stopped by Winge’s Bait & Tackle, just outside downtown Waycross, to load up on gear and a fishing license. Richard “Dickie” Winge’s father opened the store in 1954 in a bygone Gulf gas station across the street. It’s been the region’s go-to tackle shop ever since. There’s a steady stream in and out of the shop on a weekday midafternoon. “You can tell it’s getting right,” Winge said, grinning. “Full moon last week, and this warm weather is doing it.”

“It” is the fast and furious fishing of the redbreast spawn, and I loaded the checkout counter with popping bugs, hooks, and corks. Winge, however, wasn’t convinced that an outsider had what it takes to compete on the Satilla. He walked me out to the front parking lot with an eleven-foot-long collapsible BreamBuster pole. “That rooster is just so ferocious when he hits,” he told me, smacking his hands together for emphasis. “It will zip the line through the water, and you can hear it just a-singing while you’re trying to hold on. But first we got to get you buggin’.”

Richard “Dickie” Winge shows off a BreamBuster pole.

He pointed to a curb in the parking lot, and flicked a red popping bug up against the concrete. “That’s the riverbank, see?” he explained. “And you got to get right next to it. Not four inches away from it. Next to it. That’s where the big roosters live.”

He whipped the rod overhead. “Look at how I snap this thing,” he admonished. “And you’ll have to sidearm it or you’ll spend half the day picking your bugs out of the branches.”

He handed me the twenty-two-dollar pole, and I thought about the three thousand dollars’ worth of fly rods and fly reels stashed in my truck. I flicked the bug over my shoulder and snapped it forward just as a timely breeze picked up at the perfect moment to help me lay the bug not a half inch from the curb.

“Oh, yeah, boy,” he said. “You gonna do just fine.”

L ike most Coastal Plain streams, the Satilla River ecosystem is driven by late winter and early spring floods, which spread the river out into wide swampy floodplains where fish leave the river to feed on a smorgasbord of ants, crickets, worms, and small baitfish. When the water recedes, the fish return to the main river course, fattened by the nutrients of an entire riverine landscape.

Crickets for sale at Winge’s.

“If you don’t have high winter water, you won’t have good fish,” explained Bert Deener. Nor good fishing, and Deener is concerned equally with both. A fisheries biologist for Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, Deener is also the inventor of the Satilla Spin, one of the deadliest lures for redbreast, and the maker of an entire arsenal of other artificial baits.

In his jon boat one afternoon, on the Satilla River below Nahunta, Georgia, Deener played the trolling motor’s foot pedal like a church organist, bumping the boat with little bursts of energy so it caught subtle river eddies to place him in a precise casting position. To watch Deener cast a spinning rod is to witness an elite athlete in peak form. He fired a small safety-pin spinner underhand, with a tight circular backcast to bring the rod tip low. The lure shot thirty feet across the black water, as straight as a missile. It slipped under an overhanging cypress branch with maybe two inches to spare, rocketed over a downed tree, then threaded a hole in the brush not half the size of a basketball to land in a cereal-bowl-sized clearing in the water. It was as skillful a cast as any I’d ever seen.

My casts weren’t as on-target, but I still managed to put a Satilla Spin in the right place a few times. Deener and I traded fish. We pulled in piddling-sized redbreasts, a small largemouth bass, a stumpknocker—the spotted sunfish, which hangs around submerged trees—and then suddenly Deener’s rod bent double and the reel zinged as a serious fish took off for the dark timber.

“Oh, yes, come on in the boat!” Deener cried. “That might be what we’re looking for.”

The fish never gave up the fight, the rod plunging like a dowsing stick with every run, and when he brought the rooster out of the water, we all gasped at the brilliant red breast. It was a solid ten-inch fish. Bragging size if not large enough to get our names in the local paper.

“He might not be the boss of the river,” Deener said. “But he was sure boss of that log.”

We took a few photographs of the redbreast, and then I released it as if it were a wild native trout: I leaned far over the gunwale, cradled the fish in my hands, moving it gently back and forth to wash the river through its gills as it caught its breath. Deener watched from the back of the boat. “There aren’t many prettier fish,” he crooned. “I know fish. And there’s just not.”

T he Satilla winds through big tim ber and farm country and long stretches of low ground clad in cypress swamp. There’s precious little public access, which helps explain the presence of the historic fishing clubs and camps that hide along its banks. Many have moldered into the tupelo gums and pine flats: Gone are Long Lake, Happy Hollow, Nimmers Camp, and Blackshear Fishing Club. But at least three other old-time fishing clubs still operate, and their decades of history reflect every cultural, social, and political aspect of the river’s native redbreast sunfish.

One afternoon I met James “Jimmy” Stewart III at the Waycross Fishing Club, downstream of the Highway 52 bridge. The club was founded in 1917 on a strategic river bluff, about as far as folks from Waycross could drive, fish a bit, and then get home that same night. Memberships are handed down across generations. Waiting lists can be decades long. Among its members are the owners of the Waycross newspaper, local bankers, a large insurance family, and the founders of Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

A sign for the Waycross Fishing Club.

Stewart sported a few days of salt-and-pepper beard stubble, eyes shaded with a camouflage sun visor and round eyeglasses that ride up his nose when he laughs, which is often. He’s the third generation of leadership at Stewart Candy Company, which has grown from its 1922 roots as a maker of peppermint candies to a distributorship that fills the shelves of half the convenience stores in South Georgia. And he’s the third generation to hold membership in the Waycross Fishing Club.

The clubhouse is perched on a high bluff overlooking Buffalo Creek, a dead-end slough off the main stem of the Satilla so wild and pristine that I half expected pterodactyls to fly through the woods with the pileated woodpeckers. It’s nothing fancy, a sprawling low building with a massive great room and a wide screened porch overlooking the main attraction: a small-gauge two-track trolley with an open car that ferries anglers up and down the steep bluff. It was built around 1950 as trolling motors started replacing oars, and members tired of lugging heavy batteries up and down the hill.

Stewart and I clambered into the trolley for the ride to the boat dock, down a slope shaded with tall oaks. When he was growing up, he said, just about everyone fished from small one- and two-person flat-bottomed cypress boats. “And after fishing,” he recalled, “we’d sink them in the shallows before we left. That’s how we preserved them.” The steep hill between the river and the clubhouse was once chockablock with cypress boats. These days, Stewart doesn’t think there’s a single one left on the river.

Casting in tight quarters.

We motored upstream in Stewart’s skiff to a place called Knox Suck. A “suck” is what locals call the river braids, the place where the river splits and divides into a dendritic watercourse. In a narrow suck, the river is smaller and more intimate. Stewart will fish the Satilla year-round, but for a solid month he’ll follow the falling water of spring, fishing most days of each week as the river drains out of the surrounding swamps and cypress sloughs. “The joke around here,” he said, “is that you know it’s going to be a good redbreast year when the fish are eating acorns.” In the suck it’s easy to fire a cast from bank to bank, and we fished the eddy lines and deep, slow pools, pulling out redbreasts of every imaginable size. Stewart sorted them out in his South Georgia argot: “That’s a butter bean,” he explained of a fish that wouldn’t cover half my hand. The next size up was a “potato chip.” A big hen redbreast was a “Sally.” Larger still was a “slab.” When I hauled in a decent-sized spawning male, Stewart wolf whistled. “The redbreast is the prettiest fish in the river,” he announced. “A rooster’ll look right down his nose at a catfish.”

Stewart is a man of some means. He fishes offshore blue water. He hunts big whitetails in Kansas. But by any measure, he seemed as happy as a man could be sitting in a canoe with a fussy motor, casting to a fish that might seem prosaic and commonplace.

There are two reasons for that, he told me. “First,” he said, laughing, “it helps that these little fish get along right well with a skillet.” But mostly, redbreast sunfish are homegrown trophies. They are just down the road, Stewart said. Within an afternoon’s reach. “This is our game,” he said, “and we get to play it in a place so wild and pretty that you just can’t hardly believe that hardly no one knows it’s even here.”

That sense of gratitude—of feeling fortunate and blessed to have been raised on a redbelly river—was evident with nearly every person I spoke with in South Georgia. One morning I fished the Satilla with Chuck Sims, a second-generation undertaker from Ambrose County. In 1934, Sims’s grandfather helped establish one of the river’s venerable fishing institutions, the Coffee County Club. The main clubhouse was called the “lean-to,” so named when the structure fell off a flatbed trailer and was simply left in place. “No woman alive would go in there,” Sims said. “And that was kind of the point.” The Coffee County Club has cleaned itself up a bit these days. Lots of younger people have moved mobile homes and small cottages to the communal landing. In the spring and summer, the river is thronged with anglers. For years, Sims ran an old Evinrude motor folks on the river called the “Skeeter Smoker.” “Folks would holler out at me,” he said, laughing, “Sims, get on over here! The yellow flies are about to eat us up!”

Rocking chairs at the Coffee County Club.

His current motor seemed to be from the same mold. It’s an old twenty-five-horsepower Johnson that Sims rides hard. He grinds into sandbars and bumps over logs, bellowing to his guests and his craft like they are children playing in the front yard.

“Hang loose! I don’t want to shear a pin!”

Sims is an institution on the Satilla, but smoking motors aren’t all he’s known for. He spent eighteen years in the Georgia state legislature, from 1997 to 2015, and he’s well remembered not only for his homespun delivery but for his passionate defense of the Satilla and other Georgia rivers. In 2010 he led an epic effort to ban all motorized vehicles—ATVs were the primary target—from riding river bottoms during low water. The machines decimated redbreast spawning habi tat. “Getting that passed,” he said, “was the start of a lot of good conservation work on these rivers.”

Lily, a Boykin spaniel, watches the action on the river.

At one point we tied up to a downed tree for what Sims called “young’un fishing”—long poles, a bobber, and a hook. The river was low, and clear enough to make out old elliptical depressions in the sandbar bottoms where redbreasts had built their spawning beds. “I’ve got a bird dog that’ll point a redbreast bed,” Sims said. “You can see her up there on the front of the boat, smelling those beds, and she knows it’s something, she just don’t know what it is.”

He was quiet for a moment.

The view from the bow on an early morning.

The next afternoon I met two sisters whose family is nearly synonymous with Satilla River redbreast fishing. Shannon Bennett and Sherry Bowen were two of the three Strickland girls—their youngest sister, Stacia Fuller, completed the trio—who were fixtures on the Satilla in their growing-up years. Their grandparents ran the old Strickland’s Fish Camp, which had its own boat ramp, a few simple cabins, and a café where the cooks would fry your catch. Their father, A. J. Strickland, was a longtime Pierce County commissioner and champion of river conservation. “You’d never know who he was going to have in the boat with him,” Bennett recalled, “from the poorest to the wealthiest. Even the governor one time. If somebody wanted to go fishing, that’s all he cared about. Showing them his river.”

We were at the old Strickland river landing, under giant oak trees where the sisters had played on rope swings, watching a family fish from the sandy spit where all the Strickland girls were baptized. It’s here that local farm workers would bathe after priming tobacco, scrubbing with river sand and Ivory soap, and where local kids came to swim and play.

A young angler with her catch at the Atkinson landing.

“I’ll tell you what this river did for us,” Bowen said. “We have turkey hunted on the banks, we have fished, we have hog hunted, and we did it all with whatever community was right here. Family, rich people, poor people, friends black and white, it didn’t matter. It was like this river was a bridge for all the people growing up around here.”

And redbreast sunfish provided a sort of elemental repast, a communion meal that washed away class and standing, lineage and pedigree.

“When people would pass,” Bennett said, “instead of bringing fried chicken or a casserole, Daddy would catch a mess of redbellies and show up at their door.” She paused for a moment to watch a young girl fight a fish that pulled at her fishing rod in deep, pulsing tugs. “Years and years later,” she said, “people would still tell us about Daddy bringing them fish and how much that ministered to their grief.”

Su ch sentiments—that a pan-sized river fish could help transcend class and privilege, galvanize efforts to conserve, and function as a salve to the soul—helped fuel the last few days of my Satilla journey. Like everyone I spoke with, I took to the water. For three days photographer Tim Romano and I paddled the river, fishing its sloughs and sucks and camping on sandbars with Gordon Rogers, who worked as the Satilla Riverkeeper before he moved west to the Flint River.

On the second morning on the river, I draped my sleeping bag over a sunny willow tree and tried to talk myself into building a fire for eggs and sausage. The night before, we’d fried fish and cooked a smoke-infused ratatouille over a driftwood blaze, and a pile of leftover firewood beckoned. But the river unspooled along a low bar of sugar-white sand, a curve of clean beach and big woods, and I could hear fish feeding on the far bank. I saw one significant slurp, active and vigorous enough to leave paisleys of bubbles trailing in its wake. I watched as my stomach grumbled. A second slurpy take sealed the deal. I walked to the canoe, tipped out half my coffee, and pushed the boat in the water.

The author whips up a dinner of fresh fish and veggies on a Satilla River sandbar.

I arrowed the canoe across the current, ferrying upstream from the campsite. On the far side of the river the bank was a five-foot-tall vertical face of knotted roots and exposed white sand cliff, the water stitched with fallen and leaning trees that slowed and eddied and pooled the river in a crazy quilt of microcurrents. I slipped the canoe tight against the blowdowns, turned the bow downstream, and sculled the paddle with my left hand as I cast Dickie Winge’s buggin’ pole with my right.

It was a Tolkienesque world of deep shade, overhanging brush that scraped my shoulders, drooping branches, and dripping moss. I lifted the little popping bug, snapped it behind me, and dropped it into a swirl of melted caramel that unspooled into a calm slick behind a log.

I remembered Winge’s admonition to let the bug’s ripples flatten and fade before twitching the lure. I recalled Jimmy Stewart’s description of an old friend in an old wooden boat, gliding down the river in a fog so thick that it seemed like the man floated like a ghost over the water. And I thought of Chuck Sims with his dog on point in the bow of the boat, the musk of a redbreast spawning bed in his nostrils, the two of them staring intently into the copper water, one wondering what the smell could be and the other knowing that it was the scent of so many things that matter.

This article appears in the August/September 2020 issue of Garden & Gun. Start your subscription here or give a gift subscription here.


Sour cream cornbread with aleppo

Despite living in New York City, a place where one could theoretically go to some fabulous new restaurant every night and not run out of places to eat for some time, we’re not big new-hot-thing chasers. When we go out to eat, we want to experience new tastes but also disappear for a couple hours, not ooh and aah over the celebrity at the next table while feeling bad about our clothes. But. Every so often a restaurant gets talked up so much that we’re unable to resist its magnetism and have to go as soon as humanly possible. This happened a few weekends ago and I’m so glad that it did.


Of course, the Red Rooster isn’t just any old restaurant. First, it’s neither below 14th Street or in Brooklyn, which alone makes it unlike the other 100 restaurants there’s been buzz about in recent years. Mostly, though, the food tastes different. The chef, Marcus Samuelsson, was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and moved to New York where he fell in love with soul food and manages to blend these influences together into food like we’ve never tasted before. I’ll spare you the point-by-point on the menu, the web is full of gasping Yard Bird and Uptown Steak Frites reviews. I’ll only admit that we ordered too much, which we always do when the menu looks so good it is impossible to make decisions. Also, there was cornbread.

No doubt you would hate being at a communal table (the only place where schlubs like us could get a seat) with nosy old me because I will totally spy on your meal. Because of this, I couldn’t help but notice that not a single party skipped the cornbread. We took the hint and indeed, it was fantastic. With a little kick from Turkish red pepper flakes, it was served thickly sliced and toasted with slathering options of honey butter or an African-spiced tomato jam. Or you can use both at once, if nobody is looking. I know we had a lot of good food that night — and, while we’re being honest, a few bourbon negronis to soften the blow of paying taxes that morning — but I couldn’t forget about the cornbread so I went to seek it out. It turned out that I didn’t have to go far because Samuelsson, on top of being an awesome chef and food activist is also a blogger and a share-r of his recipes, the the Red Rooster Cornbread was there for your home enjoyment. But first, mine.


Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo
Adapted, barely, from Red Rooster Harlem via Marcus Samuelsson

If my archives are any indication, I am on a constant hunt for my Cornbread Nirvana. I’ve made Yankee cornbread (sweet, cake-like), Southern cornbread (nominal sugar, with a cast-iron skillet crunchy edges) and even my own bastardized version (goat cheese, caramelized onions) but this one is different. There’s no butter or lard in it. There’s very little buttermilk but a lot of sour cream. There’s a bit of sugar, but only enough to balance the salt and heat. It’s as good toasted with honey and butter as it is with spicier fare, like chili, and it makes a really fun addition to your weekend scrambled eggs. So is this it? I’m not positive, but I liked it enough that I plan to make it six or seven more times, just to think real hard about it. What I’m trying to say is, it’s addictive.

Aleppo is a Turkish bright red pepper flake with a mild-to-moderate kick and a bit of tartness. I bought mine from Penzey’s in Grand Central. If you don’t have aleppo, a regular red pepper flake, cayenne or hot paprika, in a much smaller quantity, would be a nice substitution.

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (145 grams) yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoon (25 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried aleppo flakes
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Generously butter a 9࡫-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, aleppo and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, buttermilk and olive oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing until just barely combined. Spread the batter in your prepared and bake for 22 to 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Serve in slices, toasted with honey butter or salted and honeyed brown butter.


Recipes To Use An Older Chicken

1. The Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

This whole chicken looks absolutely delicious. You can see all of the wonderful spices all over it. It makes your mouth water just by looking at it.

Plus, this recipe would be great for an older bird because it is cooked in a slow cooker. This will definitely allow the meat to tenderize. You could also presoak the chicken in a brine to give it an even better flavor and an extra chance to tenderize.

2. Crock Pot Chicken And Dumplins’

I love chicken and dumplins’. The fact that this recipe allows this wonderful dish to be created in a slow cooker makes it even that much better.

So if you love this comfort food as much as I do, then you’ll probably want to check this recipe out. Plus, it would be a great way to incorporate your older chickens into a recipe. Not only does it get to cook in creamy soups, but it also gets cooked low and slow in a crockpot.

3. Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken

I love sliders. They are a great way to change things up at the dinner table without complicating things.

So if you are in the mood for something simple (it’s cooked in a slow cooker so you know it’s simple), something different, and something that will allow you to utilize your older chickens while also tenderizing them, then you’ll want to check out this recipe.

4. Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

I guess you can guess I’m a huge chicken fan. I love it because you can fix it in so many different ways. But I also love chicken noodle soup. I think it is a great classic that has lots of different variations.

So this variation is one that I love because it looks very fresh. It includes a lot of different vegetables that can be grown in your own backyard. Plus, it is done in a slow cooker which means you can incorporate an older bird into this recipe. You can cook the rough chicken on low and slow which obviously helps tenderize the meat.

Well, there you have it guys. I hope this helps you in figuring out what to do with your chickens that have gotten too old to lay or maybe even your chicken friends that are just too old to endure another winter.


Watch the video: ATL Roll Call. Jive Biscuit 2020 (May 2022).


Comments:

  1. Shelby

    This very good idea has to be precisely on purpose

  2. Haydon

    I'm waiting for the continuation of the post ...;)

  3. Ardleigh

    Explain why this is exclusively so? I doubt why not clarify this review.



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