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.
When it opened in 2005, Melba’s was one of the first new restaurants to arrive on Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Boulevard. This warm, welcoming, elegant establishment serves “American comfort food”. The menu now includes a few “healthy eating” items as well as traditional southern dishes. Melba’s is a favorite of local residents as well as a destination of choice for celebs, political VIPs, and New Yorkers in-the-know . The owner, Melba Wilson, can often be seen greeting her guests with the grace and style that are her trademarks. NativeNewYorker recently shared an outstanding meal there with other HCL founders HarlemGuy, HarlemHouse and ICare4Harlem. Melba wasn’t there but the place still ran smoothly. From the moment we walked in, her friendly, knowledgeable and efficient staff made us feel at home. We started with appetizers – the catfish strips were yummy, and the drinks were also a hit. I am not a Mojito lover but my colleague assured me that his was first rate. Our entrees were all beautifully presented as well as delicious.
HarlemGuy had the Melba’s signature Southern Fried Chicken and Eggnog Waffles, HarlemHouse really enjoyed the salmon with Melba’s famous mac & cheese and sauteed spinach; ICare4Harlem had the wine braised short ribs of beef and yours truly had the Chilean Sea Bass which was perfectly cooked.
We were almost too full for dessert but couldn’t resist sharing the chocolate mousse cake and the scrumptious homemade green apple sorbet. We lingered long after the last morsel was finished, enjoying the amazing selection of old school music that was playing throughout our meal. Often the music at Melba’s is pumping (sometimes a little too loudly for my taste) but this was a Sunday night and the sounds were perfect for ‘chillin’ with good friends.
If you haven’t been to Melba’s – go. This small, classy establishment is still the Queen of Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Melba’s is located at 300 West 114th Street on Frederick Douglass Blvd. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday and for brunch on Saturday & Sunday. Call (212) 864-7777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information or reservations. Melba’s also does catering; for information email email@example.com.
A group of us were taking a co-worker out to lunch for her birthday and decided to try Creole on Third Ave at 118th Street. I knew of Creole as a local night spot with good food, Salsa music on Tuesdays, blues on Thursdays and a variety of local artists on the weekends but I had never been there for lunch. It turned out to be a great choice. They have a terrific selection of lunch specials – the blackened shrimp and the barbecue chicken were particular favorites. Not only was the food tasty, the staff was wonderful. They welcomed us like family – all 11 of us! We were also impressed by a health promotion they were running – “Save Half for Later” a campaign to promote smarter, healthier eating habits to help prevent and control obesity and diabetes. Kudos to Creole for their food, service and community-mindedness!