I like days when unexpected things happen.
Sylvia’s was founded in 1962 by Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food” and once a cosmetologist (holla, there’s hope for my cooking YET).
The South Carolina native’s restaurant brought soul food to the heart of the city: fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and even banana pudding. One particular NYC mayor snuck out to eat there so often, the media caught on and the local spot skyrocketed to fame. But two cookbooks, a food product line, TV appearances and a catering line later, the Harlem location is still family-run and serving up some of the best Southern cooking in the city.
Today, Sylvia’s helped me see the odd community effect mac & cheese has on people. When I tell folks about this blog, I literally see faces light up. It’s crazy. Then they have ideas, and recipes, and this could become my full-time job… yada, yada.
But learning we both like mac & cheese is like learning you have the same favorite color as your kindergarten best friend. From there on out, the relationship is forged for life. (Or until you like the same boy in middle school… that’s another post for another blog…)
When the mac & cheese arrived on the heels of breaded catfish, I could barely take a decent photo before my colleagues gobbled up the bowls of orange pasta.
We weren’t all eating the collard greens, or the spanish rice. But we WERE all eating the mac & cheese. (And since that meal and our chat about my blog, I’ve received three more ideas from them - stay tuned!)
It wouldn’t be fair if I left out a brief description, so I’ll say this: Sylvia’s mac & cheese is a traditional-style Southern mac & cheese. It’s a cheddar, butter and milk base with additional shredded cheddar cheese melted on top. The whole thing is baked to perfection, apparently in the very bowl we were serving from - the cheese was dried on the sides of the bowl like a bad paint job.
I won’t say it was the best I’ve ever had, but it was tasty and I managed to find the recipe online.
Next time you’re in Harlem, don’t miss this mac & cheese.
(Or the cornbread.)