Harlem’s “Queen of Soul Food” Sylvia Woods, 86, died Thursday afternoon at her home in Mount Vernon, N.Y, after suffering from Alzheimers disease for the past few years.
Woods and her husband Herbert, natives of South Carolina who met as children, started Harlem fixture Sylvia’s Restaurant in 1962. Starting as a humble luncheonette, Sylvia’s brand has grown to include multiple cookbooks, international exposure, and a nationwide line of food products. Teeming with tourists and neighbors craving cornbread, ribs, collard greens, fried chicken and other staples of Southern cooking, it’s also a major stop for politicians making frequent visits while on the campaign trail.
Rep Charles Rangel emoted: “Ms. Sylvia created a special place on Lenox and 127th street. Sylvia’s may have been famous nationally and internationally, but its soul has always remained in Harlem,” he said. “Nothing can replace its founder, but her legacy will live on in the memories she helped make.”
Mayor Bloomberg said: “We lost a legend today. For more than 50 years, New Yorkers have enjoyed Sylvia’s and visitors have flocked to Harlem to get a table. In her words, the food was made with ‘a whole lot of love’ and generations of family and friends have come together at what became a New York institution. Sylvia Woods came to New York City with a dream and her dedication made it a reality. She exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit that is at the heart of our city’s success. Even as her brand became a nationwide success, she never forgot to give back to the community that helped make it all possible, creating the Herbert and Sylvia Woods Scholarship Endowment Fund for Harlem High School seniors. My thoughts are with her family and New York City will never forget the Queen of Soul Food.”
The ever present flashing lights of Sylvia’s were turned off tonight in tribute to it’s Matriarch. Sylvia will be remembered and missed by all.