I thought I’d change it up a bit from my regular Boston restaurant reviews and shine some light on a New York spot I recently visited. My dear friend Kristen–the face behind Pasta’s Kitchen–loves to eat as much as I do. So when I visited her for a fun-filled fall weekend in Manhattan, she wanted to take me to Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant in the vibrant Harlem section of the city.
Red Rooster was named after the famous speakeasy that was originally located at 138th St. and 7th Ave., where musicians, authors, and politicians would hang out to drink and listen to great tunes. As soon as you walk into Samuelsson’s spot, you know you’ve entered a special place. The lively bar is the place to be. Kristen and I grabbed drinks while we waited for our table, and it was an ideal location for people watching: Young hipsters in their jeans and checkered shirts, an older crowd dressed to the nines (suspenders and all), and heels, heels and more heels–each higher than the ones before.
We were seated at a communal wood table near the back, where I was able to look into the bustling kitchen (my favorite spot, as you know). Each of the chefs was in charge of one station, and all worked in unison with each other, putting together dishes like a well composed symphony.
Kristen and I started with the deviled eggs (with chicken skin mayo) and tomato salad with feta. The tomatoes weren’t anything to write home about, but the deviled eggs were creamy and delightful.
For our main dishes, Kristen chose the shrimp and grits with salsa verde, smoked ham, and cilantro, and I got the fried yardbird with mashed potatoes and collared greens. Kristen was not impressed with her shrimp and grits at all. I didn’t try it myself, but she said that the dish was so spicy, it was actually hard to eat. My fried chicken. on the other hand, was phenomenal. We took turns pulling apart the super tender chicken from the crispy skin. And the potatoes and greens were the perfect sides–although I would have been fine just devouring the chicken on its own.
And of course we couldn’t turn down dessert. Kristen got the trio of ice creams with a twist on all of the classics, while I got the doughnuts with sweet potato filling and cinnamon. All I will say is this: If you are only going to get one thing at Red Rooster, get these doughnuts. I am still thinking about them and imagining how I will recreate these little cinnamon holes of heaven at home.
All in all, Red Rooster had some hits and misses. I’m not sure if I would return just to get the chicken and doughnuts because of the price tag of a meal here, but we did have some good bites, along with some not-so-good bites. If anything, I recommend heading to this spot just for the fun speakeasy vibe … and of course, for the spectacular people-watching.