Well it was time for a break... week was busy and family in town so while we had some fine meals at home, I think I'll take a chance to review a couple of restaurants that we went to the past couple of weeks:
5 and Diamond - http://www.5anddiamondrestaurant.com/
- a small bistro place with bare brick walls and a menu that is driven by local ingredients with a Harlem flare (I'm not sure many places exist here without offering a version of mac and cheese). The service is good and very friendly albeit a bit slow at times. The food is good, but not great. Erin had a papardelle with a short-rib ragu, a salad that was truly divine and I had a wonderfully done steak with herbed potatoes and spectacular broccoli rabe. Overall, it's a bit spendy for us but with a refined yet laid back atmosphere hard to find in Harlem and the food is good - so we'll be back.
Amy Ruth's - http://www.amyruthsharlem.com/
- this place has been in Harlem since the mid-1990s and has quality soul food. We've been a bunch of times with various people and it's always at least decent, often times good. The President Barack Obama is my favorite - fried chicken with two sides (usually greens and mac and cheese for me). All of the menu items are named for famous black people basically - but I don't think they are meant to reflect their lives or personalities - the fried catfish is great and the Reggie Harris (Barack Obama with honey glaze) is also a winner. BYOB requires some planning but decent soul food at good prices is harder to find...
Bad Horse Pizza - http://www.badhorsepizza.com/
- so we stumbled on this place after a disaster day at La Guardia, and it was like finding an oasis. The pizza is inventive and they have a decent beer selection; their pasta was underwhelming - good but the pesto was bland and the pasta a little overdone. That said however, the pizza is worth going for if you're looking for some non-traditional flavors that are well-matched and crafted (one downside - the sauce when tasted in isolation was a bit lacking - the toppings made the pizza).
Red Rooster - http://redroosterharlem.com/
- this was our anniversary dinner - so it was basically wonderful in every way just because of that. Otherwise, the food was disappointing and the atmosphere a bit boisterous for what we were looking for. If you don't sit in the back dining room which requires reservations months in advance, the front is shared tables that are a bit cramped and loud. This place has had rave reviews and perhaps my food was just a bad selection, but it was not good. I had blackened catfish that was so blackened that it had basically no taste other than burnt and the ceviche tacos were also lacking flavor or character. Erin liked her meatballs well enough and her crabcakes, but I would not go back unless for a drink and appetizer... not worth the money for just barely ok food in a space where you're bumping elbows with your neighbors who (despite all the hype to the contrary) are largely not local and are not mixing pleasantly in a romantic palette of color as has been suggested by some reviews.
Southern Soul BBQ - http://www.southernsoulbbq.com/
- all I have to say is I have been misled. Erin and her parents have taken me to BBQ almost every time I've been to Texas and every time have said 'Oh that wasn't good BBQ, next time we'll take you to good BBQ.' I'm still waiting. This place, on St Simons Island in Georgia where we were for a wedding had hands-down some of the best barbeque I've ever had. I had a burnt ends sandwich and fried okra. They take the ends of a brisket with sauce and put it between two pieces of bread and leave the heavenly experience to you - I cannot say enough. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near either Texas, New York or anywhere I will likely be in the near future... so I will have to hold on to the memory and hope they branch out to Texas.