NYC’s Got Soul, and Soul Food

This post is also available in: French

New York City is known for its spirit, its bright lights and bustling atmosphere, its melting pot of cultures and its vast array of food options from around the world and back again. It’s the heart and soul of global cuisine; whatever craving has got your tongue, you will not be left with a growling stomach. If you’re looking for some comfort, a little Soul Food is definitely the answer. Here’s all you need to know about our favorite kind of food!

There is much more to Soul Food than cornbread and mashed potatoes; Soul Food is a traditional southern African American style food that has a heavy history throughout slave-based plantations. It reverences the style of eating that was then invented to build higher-calorie based meals with the limited ingredients available. This was mostly done by frying foods, breading meats and fishes with cornmeal, and mixing meats with vegetables. Cornbread, fried catfish, BBQ ribs, chitterlings, and neckbone soon became staple Soul Foods.

(Photo by Clayton Cotterell/ NYC & Company)

So what exactly does a typical Soul Food meal look like?

Entree: chicken (fried or smothered), fried fish, or pork (smothered chop or “chitlins,” which are pig intestines)

Sides: cornbread, black-eyed peas, candied yams (dark-fleshed sweet potatoes), macaroni and cheese, and stewed greens (cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard, or turnip)

Dessert: banana pudding, peach cobbler, pound cake, or sweet potato pie


The term “Soul Food” was coined in the mid-1960s when “soul” was a common term to describe African American culture. It has then quickly evolved into a universal dining style. Soul Food restaurants were —and typically still are, Black-owned businesses that served as neighborhood meeting places where people socialized and ate together. Outside of the South, New York City is listed as one of the top three destinations for Soul Food cuisine. Many of the most sought-after Soul Food restaurants fall in the neighborhood of Harlem, a large neighborhood in Manhattan. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African American residential, cultural and business center, influencing the rise of Soul Food. Some of our top recommended Soul Food restaurants are listed below:

  • Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken

    2461 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10027

  • Amy Ruth’s

    W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

(Photo by Clayton Cotterell/ NYC & Company)

  • Sylvia’s

    Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10027

  • The Cotton Club

    656 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
  • Melba’s

    W 114th St, New York, NY 10026

  • SpaHa Soul

    2294 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10035


(Photo by Kate Glicksberg/ NYC & Company)

  • Red Rooster

    310 Lenox Ave, New York, NY 10027


Get the full experience for yourself on our very own Soul Food and Jazz Tour to relive the 1920’s Harlem scene the right way with a local. If you are interested in finding more to do in New York City, search through our complete range of tours, attractions, and activities. We can also tailor-make programs specifically to match your desires and budgets. Harlem Spirituals is the ideal one-stop-shop to simplify your planning! Find more information on or contact us at




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