Stop by Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem for Authentic Soul Food

March 27, 2013 by

Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food

Sylvia Woods started the world-famous Sylvia’s Restaurant back in August of 1962 in historical Harlem village. Although she was a licensed beautician in Hemingway, South Carolina, Sylvia dreamed of more. She aspired to marry her childhood sweetheart Herbert Woods, and to move to New York City.

She did both.

When she was a teen, her mother moved to New York and Sylvia joined her. In 1944, Woods came to New York to find her and the two married. They moved to Harlem where Sylvia worked as a waitress at Johnson’s luncheonette.

After working there for several years, the owner of the luncheonette recognized Sylvia’s entrepreneurial spirit and sold her the business. Sylvia’s mother mortgaged the farm to get the needed loan and Sylvia’s Restaurant was born.

Sylvia's Sould Food

Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem

Sylvia’s Restaurant started with six booths and 15 stools. She served up soul-food favorites like ribs, hot cakes, corn bread and fried chicken. Her dishes gained in popularity and she soon earned the moniker “Queen of Soul Food.”

Today, Sylvia’s is considered a “must do” for people visiting Harlem. It’s not unusual for busloads of tourists to seek it out for a chance to order something from Sylvia’s menu. Over the years, celebrity diners have included politicians including Bill Clinton, Robert Kennedy, and other celebrities including Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Muhammad Ali, and others.

Sylvia's Menu

Sylvia’s menu can be viewed online.

Menu and Sylvia’s

Back in 1999, Sylvia tried to add some healthier fare to the menu, but it just went to waste. She recognized that when people came to Sylvia’s, they were looking for authentic Soul Food. That’s what is still served today, though salads and veggie platters are available.

However, when most people make a visit to Sylvia’s, they are looking for the real deal. Plan to try southern style chitterling, stewed turkey wings, oxtail, stewed chicken and dumplings, or Sylvia’s down home fried or smothered chicken. Sylvia’s menu can be viewed on line to help you make up your mind before you get there.

It’s sad to say that Sylvia Woods passed on in 2012, however her legacy lives on in Harlem.

Photo credits: Bob B. Brown, Bob B. Brown, Bob B. Brown

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1 comment

  1. I would love to try out this restaurant — my husband loves Southern cooking, especially fried catfish and turnip greens!

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