Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Marcus Samuelsson's Harlem

Editor's note: You've already seen our New York editors' neighborhood guides, in which the SE staff—Ed, Carey, Erin, and more—chat about their favorite places to eat in their own neighborhoods. But we're branching out to other food personalities. We've heard from Frank Bruni on the Upper West Side and Eric Ripert on the Upper East Side; now here's Red Rooster's Marcus Samuelsson on Harlem.

Star chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson is a man of the world. The Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef first made waves in New York's dining scene at age 24 as the executive chef of the Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit, where he became the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times. He has since made forays into Japanese-American and African cuisines. Red Rooster, which opened in 2010, is a testament to his unique background. It's his first attempt to marry these exotic influences to Southern soul food, creating a new American comfort food cuisine in a neighborhood steeped in culinary tradition. The name of the restaurant harkens back to the original Harlem speakeasy where Willie Mays and James Baldwin were regulars.


Shrimp and dirty rice, a Red Rooster signature dish. [Photo: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

By reinventing Red Rooster with a blend of flavors that draw from the neighborhood's diversity, Samuelsson pays homage to the culture and evolving culinary history of the neighborhood he has called home for nearly a decade. Here are some of his most favorite neighborhood spots when he's off-duty.

Marcus' Picks


Patsy's slice. [Photo: Adam Kuban]

Pizza: Patsy's is legendary in Harlem and throughout New York. They're all the way on the east side. Not only does their pizza taste fantastic, but Patsy's is a great reminder of the huge Italian influence in Harlem back in the day.

Coffee: Lenox Coffee is a little coffee house that sprung up late last year. The cappuccinos are great and it's quickly becoming a hangout spot for the neighborhood. I love getting my caffeine fix there.

Breakfast: I am lucky enough to live right by Patisserie des Ambassades on Frederick Douglass, which has freshly squeezed ginger juice and croissants that taste like the ones you find in Paris.

Bar, casual: I love Lenox Lounge. It's one of those places that everyone goes to from Harlem and beyond. It's always a fun time. There's almost always live music and the crowd is a cool mix of tourists and locals, young and old.

Bar, fancy: 67 Orange Street is great. It's a cocktail bar á la Milk & Honey. The drinks are handcrafted and the vibe is intimate.


Fried chicken, BBQ pork, collard greens, and mac 'n' cheese from Charles' Country Pan-Fried Chicken. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Charles' Pan-Fried Chicken all the way uptown. They make some of the best fried chicken I've ever had.

Takeout: Harlem is known for its great Caribbean food. One of my favorite places to swing by and grab a patty is Island Spice. It's a super low-key spot with a great cook.

Date night: Shrine is a great place for a date because you can dance to some really cool live music while you dine.