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Mitchell's Soul Food fried chicken
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

The best soul food restaurants in NYC

From crispy fried chicken to collard greens and cornbread, these are New York’s best soul food restaurants

By Time Out New York contributors
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Sure, we’re a bunch of Yanks up here in New York but we still get a craving for good old Southern-style comfort-food dishes at soul food restaurants every now and again. Our love affair with fried chicken is well-documented—check out the best chicken and waffles in NYC for proof—but we’ve also got a soft spot for gooey macaroni and cheese, crumbly squares of cornbread and tender black-eyed peas. From iconic Harlem restaurants to Bed-Stuy counters, these are NYC’s best soul food restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Soul food restaurants in NYC

Photograph: Evan Sung

Charles Country Pan-Fried Chicken

Restaurants Soul and southern American Harlem

At his eponymous Harlem buffet, North Carolina-born chef Charles Gabriel serves pan-fried chicken in a variety of guises (barbecued, stuffed, curried) and fixin's like collard greens, potato salad and sweet-potato pie.

Photograph: Noah Fecks

Jacob’s Pickles - Time Out Market

Restaurants Soul and southern American DUMBO

When Jacob’s Pickles opened on the Upper West Side in 2011, it was one of the first truly cool restaurants in a neighborhood better known for its sleepy dining scene than hip eateries and bars. The back-to-basics menu was one we could get behind (goodbye, stale chicken wings and greasy fries). The Southern-focused spot specializes in comfort foods: Nashville hot chicken, biscuits, mac and cheese and, of course, pickles. Now we have a taste of down-home cooking, punctuated with a fried Oreo for dessert, right here in Brooklyn. MENU: Jacob’s handmade pickles - one for $4, combo $15 Fried pickles - $10 Fried chicken biscuit sandwiches - $13 Add a side of organic cheese grits to any sandwich - $4 Honey chicken & picklesGravy smothered chicken (choice of sausage or mushroom) BBQ smothered chicken Nashville hot chicken Jacob’s Famous Mac & Cheese - $12 Specials Southern fried chicken Caesar salad - $13 Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese - $14 Fried Oreos - $5

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Peaches, brunch, NYC
Photograph: Beth Levendis

Peaches

Restaurants Soul and southern American Bedford-Stuyvesant

At this pioneering Bed-Stuy restaurant, owners Craig Samuel and Ben Grossman (both of the Smoke Joint) ably merge two trends—Greenmarket and upscale Southern. Appetizers emphasize salads, like the toss of watermelon, arugula and spicy pickled ginger. The rest of the menu hews closer to Cajun and Creole standards: a juicy half chicken sports a salt-and-chili rub, and garlicky shrimp with tomato gravy are served over fluffy grits.

Mitchell's Soul Food fried chicken
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Mitchell’s Fish & Chips

Restaurants Soul and southern American Prospect Heights

Fish and chips might be in the restaurant name, but this Prospect Heights soul-food mainstay offers plenty more, including fried catfish, chitterlings, pork chops and chicken, of the fried, barbecued or smothered variety. Homestyle sides include tomatoes with okra, red beans and rice, and collard greens. 

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Georgia’s Eastside BBQ

Restaurants Barbecue Lower East Side

There’s no smoker here—owner Alan Natkiel believes in oven-roasting his meat with beer and finishing it on the grill. The unorthodox technique works just fine. Quality ’cue staples served in this small, wood-paneled space include the huge rack of pork ribs—tender flesh with a spicy rub needed little coaxing to be separated from the bone. Fried chicken was spectacular—crunchy, salty crust, the meat oozing with moisture.

Pies ’n’ Thighs

Restaurants Soul and southern American Williamsburg

Pies ’n’ Thighs has kept Williamsburg in Pavlovian limbo since the start of 2008, when its first incarnation—a drunk-food closet at the back of a bar—was shut down to prep for a more spacious home. The new version, run by the three chefs behind the original—Carolyn Bane, Erika Geldzahler and Sarah Buck—is a full-fledged restaurant with prompt, personable waiters and beer and wine service. Though the down-and-dirty Southern fare—honest, cheap and often delicious—is certainly in line with Brooklyn’s all-American moment, it’s an audacious departure from the borough’s judiciously sourced, seasonally orthodox, self-righteously ethical ethos.

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Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter

Restaurants Soul and southern American East Village

Blue Smoke alum Amanda Beame dishes out at Southern classics updated with sustainable ingredients at this homestyle eatery. On the menu: fried free-range chicken, Hudson Valley collard greens and pimento cheese sandwiches. The simple 17-seat space features an L-shaped reclaimed-wood bar and exposed brick.

Amy Ruth’s

Restaurants Soul and southern American Harlem

Portraits of jazz giants hang on the walls of this perpetually packed two-story Harlem fave. A bottle of Frank’s RedHot dresses every table—a sign of the soul food goodness to come. Indeed, the richly battered catfish or the fried chicken and waffles platters (many named for famous African Americans, including Rev. Al Sharpton, and Doug E. Fresh), served with your choice of white or dark meat, go down peppery-sweet with a splash of the hot stuff. Long spears of delicately fried okra are delivered without a hint of slime, and the mac ’n’ cheese is gooey inside and crispy-brown on top. 

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Sylvia's

Restaurants Soul and southern American Harlem

Owned by Sylvia Woods, known around these parts as the "Queen of Soul Food," the Harlem restaurant has been a neighborhood staple since 1962, doling out down-South specialties including chicken-and-waffles, saucy barbecue ribs and cowpeas with rice. 


Red Rooster Harlem

Restaurants Soul and southern American Harlem

Some of the city's most popular restaurants serve food that satisfies on a visceral level---consistent, accessible, easy to like. Places where the music, crowd, drinks and space explain, as much as the menu, why it's packed every night. Which sums up precisely the instant and overwhelming success of Marcus Samuelsson's new Harlem bistro, Red Rooster. The restaurant's global soul food, a "We Are the World" mix of Southern-fried, East African, Scandinavian and French, is a good honest value. But it's outshone here by the venue itself, with its hobnobbing bar scrum, potent cocktails and lively jazz.

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Melba’s
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Roy Barnett Jr.

Melba’s

Restaurants Soul and southern American Harlem

When it was opened in 2005 by the niece of the woman behind legendary Sylvia’s, Melba’s was heralded both for its neo-soul sensibility and as an emblem of a Harlem Renaissance developing along lower Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Though praise for its chicken and waffles from Bobby Flay on the Food Network followed, the dish turns out to be surprisingly dry and uninspired; it’s the “neo” aspect of the soul menu that is most successful. Spring rolls filled with black-eyed peas and collard greens are a small revelation, while braising the short ribs with wine brings out a mellow quality that blends well with their tenderness. 

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Mighty Quinn's BBQ
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

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