7 Soul Food Restaurants in NYC

I absolutely love going to soul food restaurants in NYC.

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I love to eat. Even if I’m in a bad mood a good meal would put me at ease. This is especially the case when I have soul food.

What is soul food?

Food is a big part of lives. Every culture from Latin to Chinese has distinct culinary cuisines unique to their community.

Soul food is a cultural food originating from the Southern region of the US. Collard greens, pig feet, cornbread, and chillings are some of the types of soul foods.

Where did soul food come from?

Soul food has a very rich history. It ties back our African roots.

The history of soul food dates back to slavery. Food was a form of control for slaveowners. They rationed leftover foods to keep their slaves alive. Just about once a week the slaveowner would provide a slave was only given 5 pounds of starch, a few pounds of meat, and a small amount molasses. Given the creativity and survival skills of our black ancestors those persons kept old African traditions such as using okra to thicken soups and boiling vegetables in a pot and roasting sweet potatoes for hours in hot ashes. The African slaves also cooked foods using whatever resources was available to them. The slaves hunted, gardened, and fished for foods. They would then prepare foods like greens with pork fat and fry fish and meats with cornbread.

After slavery was abolished many blacks still could not afford to eat expensive foods. And so, Southern and Northern blacks continued to use food recipes from slavery. Using those recipes they were able to make dishes like cornbread, pig feet, collard greens, sweet potatoes, okra, and other foods. Poor white also cooked and enjoyed these savory dishes

Value of soul food

The most important aspect of soul food is that it brought the black community together. Soul food was the center of get togethers like Emancipation celebrations and church gatherings. The best of the best soul foods were served such as fried chicken and fried fish.

Soul food even helped to create the tradition of Sunday dinners. After World War II there were more economic opportunities for all groups of people, including African Americans. And so, blacks were able to purchase homes and live in larger spaces with big and medium size kitchens. They were then able to have Sunday dinners with loved ones, extended family, and friends. Any black from the South would tell you the importance of Sunday dinner. My college roommate would always describe his Sunday dinners with the his 300 family members. He would talk about the variety of soul food dishes including sweet potatoes, fried catfish, cornbread and collard greens.

Controversy of soul food

Even though soul food is a popular African American cuisine some blacks did not enjoy it. Prior to the the 1960s Outside the South there weren’t too many black owned restaurants that served soul food. Some Northerners considered soul food to be a poor man’s food. It was even reported that in Harlem, an area concentrated with black persons, there was only one soul food restaurant, Rosalie’s and Frances.

Popularity of soul food

Though soul food originated in the South it soon became popular elsewhere. During this time many black Southerners moved from the South to other regions in the US, especially the North. Just like in the South soul food helped to unify the blacks in northern cities. Due to segregation blacks were banned from eating at certain restaurants. But restaurants that served soul food kept blacks together. Soon enough soul food restaurants began to be established in different parts of the country. The first soul food restaurant to open was Sylvia’s which is based in NYC.
It wasn’t till the 1960s though that the term “soul food” became widely used. One of the persons responsible for the term is writer Alex Haley. “Soul” referred to a genre of music which combined R&B and gospel. Together the words “soul” and “food” referred to African American southern cuisine. The concept of soul food was very popular during the 1960s because of the black consciousness movement. Black citizens and organizations like the Black Panthers felt empowered with a sense of black pride.

Soul food restaurants today

Traditionally, soul food was commonly served at home.

Today, there are many food chains across the US that serve soul food. Many people would assume that soul food is high in starch and fats but that’s not the case. As author and soul food expert, Adrian Miller, stated there are more healthy options for soul food.

Soul food is usually served for lunch and dinner. But now soul food is becoming more popular for brunch.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent time with my fraternity during brunch at Soco restaurant which is located in Brooklyn, NY. The restaurant had a decent selection of soul food. The mimosas were ok. The fried chicken and red velvet waffles were to die part. The best part of the “soul food” experience was the coming together of my brothers.

Soul food restaurants in NYC

Here is a list of soul food restaurants in NYC:

one of many soul food restaurants in NYC
Courtesy of Sylvia’s restaurant


This is the 1st soul food restaurant in NYC. I remember coming here years ago and ordering fried chicken and greens. The food wasn’t pricey and it worth the money. The environment definitely gives a jazzy vibe.

one of many soul food restaurants in NYC
Courtesy of Amy Ruth’s

Amy Ruth’s

Amy Ruth’s is one of my favorite soul food restaurants in NYC. Sometimes the food is a little off depending on the chef in the kitchen. For the most part the food is delicious. I enjoy the Al Sharpton which is a plate of chicken and waffles. I usually have a kool aid drink on the side. If you’re in Harlem you definitely should try this spot.

one of many soul food restaurants in NYC
Courtesy of Melba’s


Another Harlem spot. Yea, I know you’re probably tired of hearing only about Harlem restaurants. Melba’s is a chic spot with an elegant vibe. Good spot for a date. I’ve been here a couple of times and always enjoyed their food. The chicken and egg noggin waffles is a must try.


Vibes does live up to its name. It is not too far my me so I go there from time to time. The drinks are ok but the food is amazing. The food is always served fresh and is flavorful. I’ve had several dishes ranging from tilapia to mac and cheese. I haven’t been there for brunch yet but heard it’s a nice experience.

one of many soul food restaurants in NYC

Cheryl’s Global Soul

This is one of the best brunch spots in Brooklyn. I’ve came here for brunch on a few occasions and was always satisfied. The food is not over seasoned and overcooked. The prices are decent and brunch is definitely cheaper than alot of other places. You won’t be paying an arm and leg for food. One dish I would recommend is the bread pudding. To die for!

one of many soul food restaurants in NYC
Courtesy of Urban Vegan

Urban Vegan

If you’re a vegan you definitely need to try this spot out. Urban Vegan is located in Manhattan, NY and is frequented by both vegans and non vegans. Many people would assume that Urban Vegan is not a soul food spot because meat dishes are not served there. As I mentioned earlier, soul food includes greens and other plant based items.

one of many soul food restaurants in NYC


Soco is another popular soul food spot in Brooklyn. This places gets packed especially during brunch which is on Sunday and Saturday. One of the most popular dishes is the chicken and red velvet waffles. The chicken is a little greasy but so damn good. Besides the food I love the stylish atmosphere of Soco.