Is there anything better than eating a salty food alongside a sweet food? No there isn’t. It is like the ying and yang of meals. For every bite there is an equal and opposite taste. You won’t need to eat another thing, although by the next day you will be craving this meal again I guarantee it.
Sylvia’s is a staple of New York City and more specifically of Harlem where it has grown from a local restaurant to notoriety among the tourists who seek it out. I have been thinking of going for many years and I am sorry to say that when it’s creator, Mrs. Sylvia Woods passed away this summer on July 19, that was when my mission took on a feel of urgency. This iconic restaurant has been in business fifty years and that is a tribute to the legacy it has created.
Over the years the restaurant expanded both in size, and by word and mouth. Recently many loyal and local visitors feel that the quality of the food has suffered. But being that I had never been there it was still high on my list and I would never be swayed.
The dish I most wanted to try at Sylvia’s is the fried chicken and waffles. It is a staple of the kind of soul food I am attracted to. Plus the aforementioned salt and sweet combo can’t be beat. I figured even on their worst day, how bad could it be? A restaurant that is celebrating its golden anniversary has to mean something. Naturally I was right.
As I mentioned in the previous blog I was already in Harlem at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to see the Emancipation Proclamation. After all that history and fun, a girl gets hungry. From the moment I had booked my tickets online and saw the address I had Sylvia’s on the brain. It was all too convenient to pass up. When the stars a line that like in my world I go for it, and then I eat until my pants don’t fit.
When I arrived I took inventory of the place. It was fairly crowded with a constant flow of patrons coming in and out. Service was good, not too fast or too slow. I hated being rushed out of a place or waiting around too long if I need something. But as if I were Goldie Locks, this was just right.
I peered through the menu just to be thorough but I had my order already in mind and at the tip of my tongue. My friend decided to get the salmon croquettes with the macaroni and cheese and string beans as sides. The first item brought to our table was warm corn bread and butter. I could get use to this.
Our food arrived just a few minutes later but it felt like hours. Every time a dish walked past me I was sitting up straight trying to see what the person ordered and praying it was coming to me. When it was my turn I took my photos fast because I was too anxious to take my bite. I had to take the perfect first bite though, it had to have half a piece of the fried chicken and half a piece of the waffle (which already had butter and syrup on it). That bite, as well as the others that followed it, were pure bliss. The chicken was so moist and not at all greasy. The crispy skin and tender meat fell right off the bone. As for the waffle it was crunchy but not hard. It had a chewy aspect but still maintained its resistance once it was topped with the butter and syrup. Both were plenty good on their own but when they came together it was like they were making beautiful music that didn’t exist when they were apart.
The fuller I became the sadder I became. I had to acknowledge and accept that this plate of food was way too big for me to finish. I wanted to so badly and try as I did, I still could not. I was beginning to sweat and see stars. I was so sad to let it go, and after a few more bites just to make sure, I finally did let it go.
I feel like everywhere I go chicken and waffles follows me. The popularity of this combination is enormous. A while back on an episode of “Man vs. Food” on the Travel Channel, host Adam Richman went to Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles in Atlanta, Georgia which is apparently owned by Gladys Knight, formerly of Gladys Knight and the Pips. Their batter recipe is top secret and supposedly one of the best of the best. That restaurant is for sure on my to-do list whenever I finally get the chance to visit Atlanta for the first time. In conjunction with the previous blog, during that trip to that city I will also get to pay my respects to Dr. King.
Just when I think I am done thinking of chicken and waffles and sitting down to write this blog, I see on twitter that Sunny Anderson was on the Rachel Ray show last week. She has been making a series of appearances there making some amazing dishes. The recipe that caught my eye and the eye of rap star and member of the Wu-tang Clan Ghostface Killah on Twitter was her Maple Chicken and Waffles Casserole. It was a new spin on a classic. I am not sure on much more we can improve this deliciousness after watching her make this meal.
After I left Sylvia’s there was only one thing left on my itinerary. It was something I couldn’t resist. It was so close and so tempting. Although it wasn’t open and the lights were dimmed, I still had to get my picture taken in front of the world famous Apollo Theater.
I didn’t know there were stars in front of the theater a la Grauman’s Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, in Los Angeles, California. When I was in L.A. in 2007, I had made the long and annoying trek down the streets trying to find my favorite stars. It was quite hard considering that it is on a major road and there are a million people walking all over the sites you are trying to see and photograph.
Luckily for me on this night in front of the Apollo in N.Y.C. there was a much smaller group of stars and I had them all to myself. Finding out something new when I got there was like a hidden secret. It was an exhilarating surprise after a very long day and night. It made it all the more special. For someone who plans as much as I do for all that I do, these are the moments I crave.
Once I had taken all of my pictures I turned the camera over to my friend. The last shot of the evening was going to be of me in front of the Apollo. My camera battery was dying, I was drained too, but it was to be the shot I knew I wanted to end on.
Even though I was secretly wishing my friend had announced me while she took my shot, I was still picturing myself on that stage that was only a few feet away. I may have not been an entertainer that night but at least I had a personal photographer. Outside in the night air, with the flash going off, I too felt like an equal among the other stars.
Here is the info that will lead you straight to fried chicken and waffle heaven:
For Showtime at the Apollo: