Red Rooster Harlem

If you’re lucky enough to have a boy take you to Marcus Samuelsson’s new Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, it’s definitely a time to do it up. For me, that time was yesterday!

After waiting 6 weeks for reservations (!!), the day of our 8pm dinner finally arrived. Red Rooster is in the heart of Harlem (my hood!) and has gotten rave reviews from the NY Times as well as criticism for hosting President Obama’s $30,000 a plate dinner. The restaurant is within walking distance to my apartment and the 10-minute stroll only increased my anticipation for dinner. The vibe of the restaurant is swanky, yet warm and welcoming at the same time. Still, I didn’t want to lug my DSLR to the table, so dinner photos were taken discreetly with my iphone.

The iconic Red Rooster greeted us at the entrance –

I started off with a vodka based cocktail called the Savoy. Check out the muddled grapes on the bottom, yum!

For appetizers, we shared the cornbread with honey butter and sundried tomato and currant chutney. The corn bread + tomato chutney was such an unexpected flavor combination – I loved it!

Our second appetizer was lumb blue crabcakes with a bed of arugula and spicy mayo – perfect size for sharing!

I’d heard such good things about the fried yard bird (old Harlem slang for fried chicken) that I knew I had to have it as my entree. The fried chicken was drizzled with white mace gravy and served with hot sauce on the side. This was classic, old school chicken. It reminded me of when I was kid, living in Georgia, and eating lots of Southern food.

The man friend ordered the braised short ribs which I regretfully failed to photograph (this is what happens when I get overly excited at restaurants!), but I didn’t forget to try a bite 🙂

We also shared a side of sweet potato and yam puree with bacon and horseradish. I also detected a hint of orange citrus in this dish – possibly my favorite thing of the night!

We shared the spiced chocolate cake with black cherry ice cream for dessert (warm chocolate cake + cold, melty ice cream = best combo) and since it took awhile to come out of the kitchen, our server also brought us a chocolate malted milkshake to share. It was really no biggie that the first dessert took 10 or so minutes to be brought to us, but our server was very apologetic. I was really impressed with the level of service we received!

Chocolate malted milkshake for two (Savoy cocktail + 1/2 glass of wine + Megan = blurry photos, apparently).

The best part of our night, however, happened after dessert. We were seated at a communal table and over the course of our dinner, we witnessed the two couples next to us interact. At first glance, they seemed very different. The first set of diners were two, white, middle-aged businessmen from Boston. The second set was an elderly black couple from Harlem (who also happened to be ardent Yankees fans). Over appetizers and entrees, these four people exchanged stories and experiences and by the time dessert was brought out – they were all sharing with each other. The two businessmen even picked up the check for the other couple. Four people who had never met became friends over a restaurant meal.

This whole experience really put a smile on my face and reminded me of why I love food. Of course it’s about nutrients and calories sometimes, but more often than not, sharing a meal with someone is a bonding experience. It’s something we do to show love, to provide comfort, to celebrate, to court someone. And so, my philosophy on restaurant meals is this – do everything you can to enjoy the experience. Of course I try to keep things in moderation (by sharing a dessert or running a few miles extra the next morning), but for me, a dinner out is not the time to order salads and grilled chicken. It’s the time to “do it up!”

The running has been kind of “meh” this week – 4 miles on Monday, 5 miles on Wednesday, and 6 miles this morning, but I’m still looking forward to Sunday’s 10 mile race in D.C. I’d like to run the course in about 1 hour, 10 minutes (~7:00 pace), but I’m not quite sure that’s going to happen. I haven’t done a hard workouts in weeks (unless you count races), so I’m feeling a little out of shape. Maybe all this easy running and time off will be like a really long taper….One can hope, right?

What was your best ever restaurant experience?….and go!

  • AR

    I do believe the power of food and not running will power you to a fast time. Because as we know, that’s just how it works.


  • Yum! Looks like a great place!

  • Runnersfuel

    All that food lloks so good. I went ot the firehouse in dwtn Sac and we were treated like king & queens. I loved it!

  • Marcia

    Very cool story! My best experience was on my honeymoon in Key West….
    After talking with a woman dining by herself she ended up paying our expensive tab..she left a note and it said “Happy Anniversary” It was a total surprise!

  • This place looks SO GOOD. And you went just after Obama, I love it. I so totally agree about food and sharing the experience with others. I love restaurant outings as special as these – they truly do bring me closer to my dining partners, and sharing a love of food on top of that is so special. Okay, enough corny BS from me. Love ya lady. Glad you enjoyed Red Rooster! Now if only I could get a res…


  • ummmmmmmmmm i’m not a big restaurant person but this looks like somewhere i want to go NOW. especially the name…heheh i always think of my grandmother when i think of red roosters because her house is totally rooster themed

  • that story is ADORABLE! It makes me smile too!

    I have way more BAD stories to tell about dining — at least in terms of the people dining around me. One memorable time these two young-20-year olds were out on a date. The guy lectured and shamed the girl the whole time about his views on palestine-Israel conflict (and why her views were wrong), as she sat quietly with her head down.

  • It’s hard to pinpoint one amazing meal experience but a lot of them are with my family. I actually love when dinner is a whole ordeal and takes a long time! It’s nice when you’re not being rushed through the courses of your meal and you can chat and really enjoy your food:) All the food you ate looked amazing and I for sure wouldn’t turn down that milkshake!

  • Ahhh you’re so lucky! I’ve been dying to go there but it is SO hard to get reservations. I’m glad you had a nice time with your man frien, everything you ordered looks delicious:)

  • awww, what a great story! And so glad you got to go there – very jealous!! Everything looks delicious.
    This one time at Dos Caminos, this couple was dining next to myself and a friend (pretty normal), but then his girlfriend showed up and caught him cheating red-handed! It was awkward and weird for everyone. But Tten I drank more sangria and everything was fine. 🙂 Not exactly a warm and fuzzy story, but…

  • Anonymous

    hahaha, sangria cures all!

  • I love dining experiences like that–thanks for sharing! My best ever restaurant experiences have been at La Mar Cebicheria in San Francisco. My boyfriend and I went there for our third and fourth anniversaries, and two of our birthday dinners. Each time we go there, the food is excellent, the ambiance is pleasant and romantic, and the staff is friendly and accommodating. It’s absolutely my favorite “special meal” destination.

  • Anonymous

    That’s so nice that you guys have a destination for special occasions 🙂 Did
    you meet your boyfriend at Wesleyan?

  • what a great story! And that dinner looked awesome! I want to make a sweet potato puree like that….yum!

  • Kelly

    What a nice story!! Am I out of the loop because I was quite interested in the boy who took you?? haha!

  • Anonymous

    hehe, you’re not out of the loop – i’ve just been keeping this information
    on the down-low 😉

  • Irene

    I love your story! I love the experience of eating out. Usually when we go out somewhere nice it is for a big occasion or at least a date night so I’m more focused on my husband than making friends. But your story makes me want to be more friendly:)

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