Foodies and Top Chef Masters' Fans, the long wait is finally over! Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster Restaurant is up and running in Harlem. It's almost as if the neighborhood of Harlem has let out a sigh of relief--finally a hip place in the neighborhood to kick back after work or church with friends. The mood is lively and jovial, yet you don't have to yell at the person you're dining with just so they can hear you. The music is a mix of 90s hits and jazz and soul classics--and there is often live music and a DJ. The drinks are stiff and the prices are comparable to other restaurants in the neighborhood. You need to make reservations about two weeks ahead; but, you can still enjoy the place without a reservation. Just arrive around 5:15 when they start taking walk-ins for dinner. Put your name on the list, or head to the bar, where you can order everything on the restaurant's menu. If you show up around 8 pm without a reservation you can still enjoy a drink by the bar, but chances are it will be standing room only.
The Ambience: Don't expect white table cloths with a matching pretentious attitude. The ambience is laid back, yet classy and interesting. The music will take you to a warm fuzzy place in the 90s.
The Crowd: You've got a mix of locals, people that used to live in Harlem, and people who trekked to Harlem from downtown just to see what this restaurant is about!
The Drinks: Extensive and varied beer list, decent wine list, cocktails range from $10-$15--but they are STRONG. I ordered the "brownstoner"--and I watched the bartender make it and put 3 full shots of liquor in the drink. As far as non-alcoholic drinks--watch out! They charged us for refills!
The Food: A bit eclectic--Swedish and soul food. The menu has some hits and some near-hits. The juicy burger with caramelized onions--a real winner. The "Helga" meatballs have also gotten rave reviews. I had the "hearth baked lemon chicken" which reminded me of a Moroccan tangine. The chicken was expertly cooked--baked yet the skin was crispy.