New York: Silvia’s in Harlem

My guidebook so recommend Silvia’s that they actually have two pictures of Silvia’s in the book. The guidebook said that Silvia’s is a very well known soul food restaurant and is perhaps the best there is in New York. Among their customers include Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Magic Johnson … so this place gotta to be good.

The only problem to me is that it is located in Harlem. I have always heard that a visitor to New York should not venture to Harlem especially at night. But being a risk taker that I am, I went anyway … at night, for dinner. OK, New Yorkers … tell me … was I foolhardy to go to Harlem at night or is it all in my mind.

Getting off the 125th Street subway station, I could immediately see that I am in a part of NYC that is so different from Manhattan. Here I am a very visible Asian guy right smack in the middle of the black community. I sure stuck out like a sire thumb. 🙂

I knew already where I was going. Silvia’s is just 1 block north of the subway station. I got to the street level, got my bearings and just walk as fast as I can. Finding Silvia’s is easy because they are the brightest along quite a dark stretch of street. In case you want to know the address, it is on 328 Lenox Ave.


Going into the restaurant, it was no different. I am the only non-black in the restaurant. But the service was excellent and very very courteous. I am beginning to enjoy myself in this unique place. I remembered that the place was noisy … loud talking, laughing and very very loud music … basically, people here are all having a great time.


I asked for some real authentic beer of theirs … some really New Yorky type. They recommended the Sugar Hill Brown Ale and is brewed by the Harlem Brewing Company. Well, I figure that for a beer named after a neighborhood in Harlem (Sugar Hill), I can’t get more authentic than that. I like the slight balanced sweetness and aroma.


They have a small menu — very simple choices. I was not particularly impressed with the type-written menu but then who really cares right? It’s the food that matters. There are so many I wanted to order.


I started off with bread … corn bread, I think. It was served warm and soft … and crumbly. Made a mess of my table with all the pieces of crumbs. It was really great with soft corn oil and whipped spread.

They asked me if I wanted more … how could one resist? I had more.


I ordered their famous BBQ Ribs. The pork ribs are huge and are BBQ’d in a rich, sweetened sauce. The four ribs are all BBQ’d to crisp … very nice. Wished they offered me second helpings!

This came with a choice of two sides. I thought, what is soul food without collard green? Not that I love collard green, it’s just that it’s so … soulish.


The second sides I had was the okra and tomato gumbo. It’s such a small bowl of it … wished there were more.


There was on the table Silvia’s very own Hot and Sassy Sauce. This one I had was their hottest … called the Triple Strength. It was OK … not really hot coming from where I came from.


I really enjoyed myself despite my fear of Harlem. I scooted off to the Subway once I got out of the restaurant. Tell me again … is it just me or is Harlem really that dangerous a place at night.

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  1. Jessica

    I think Harlem back in the ’90’s was more dangerous. A good “story” about Harlem would be Mase’s debut CD…it’s all about Harlem, but I don’t know if you like rap music!

    Todays Harlem is really commercialized because it’s becoming “trendy” to invest in the “ghetto”…Sean “Diddy” Combs made it trendy.

  2. Celeste

    Thanks for the feature of Sugar Hill in your articale about Sylvia’s!



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