red rooster, harlem

You’ve heard about Clippers, right? Well, if you haven’t, go read this pronto!

The special Spring Break Edition of our weekly Tuesday dinner took place at Red Rooster, Harlem. Red Rooster is a special and different restaurant. Not because it has great food, I have eaten much tastier and more reasonably priced food elsewhere. But there is no other place in New York that has the same ambience, location and character, at least in my experience and opinion. It is low-fi and high-fi at the same time. It is yellow and brown and black and white. It is gay and straight. It is female and male. It is old and young. It is casual and dressed up. It is beer and cocktail. It is Old Fashioned and Cosmopolitan. It is noisy. It is crowded. It is lively. It is cheerful. It is cool. It is awesome!

One of the things I judge a restaurant by is its restrooms. Ha ha , yes, it’s true! Really, try it! And Red Rooster’s restrooms don’t disappoint. They have parlor-esque picture-framed walls, full of old black and white pictures, chandeliers, and notes written by unknown former guests.

I had read and heard so much about Red Rooster way before we managed to get a reservation almost a month in advance. I usually tend to judge things very rationally, bordering on the devil’s-advocate-point-of-view. So, I was all prepared to be disappointed, but I had a feeling that it would be my kind of place. And I wasn’t disappointed. We had to wait for 15-20 minutes despite having a reservation. But we got to spot Marcus Samuelsson meanwhile! He is the person behind this restaurant. He is originally Ethiopian, raised by his adopted Swedish family and now lives in Harlem. I am a sucker for stories like this. His diversity reflects in the menu — the pairings are not always successful, but that’s okay. Dining is never just about food.

It was six of us, so we sampled quite a few things. I started with a Bourbon Negroni, which was too sweet and bland at the same time. The sip of Old Fashioned that I stole from my Oppa was quite nice though. My favorite dishes of the evening were the Fried Yard Bird and Helga’s Meatballs. I ate the Berbere Roast Chicken, but couldn’t taste the Berbere or the coconut jus or the peanuts in the slaw. The chicken was very nicely crisp though. What I absolutely LOVED was their cornbread..it’s to die for!  I should have just ordered several platefuls of it with beer and I would have been as happy as anyone ever!

They also have an open kitchen, that I peeked into. By which I mean, I stood there for 5-10 minutes and annoyed the busy cooks by asking if I could take pictures of them and, they said yes. I like doing this.

On the whole, if you are on a student budget, I would recommend going to Red Rooster for drinks, but not for food. No other place comes close on the Upper West Side/ Morningside Heights/Harlem/elsewhere in NY in terms of character. What’s more, there is live music and livelier company. Give it a try!

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