For While We Were Out, Lonny sampled some of the best New York City restaurants, checking out places known for both their interior design and their culinary excellence. Our first stop took us uptown to Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster for a sampling of Harlem’s finest
Named as a homage to a legendary speakeasy frequented by some of the 20th century’s most celebrated figures—such as Nat King Cole, James Baldwin, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.—Red Rooster seeks to create a sense of community and refuge for its patrons. The bar’s walls are lined with shelves of trinkets and treasures from Harlem’s rich history, including jazz books, James Brown albums, and mason jars brimming with treats. Original works by local artists cover the dining room walls. Even the bathrooms are adorned with vintage photographs and letters, all keepsakes from the restaurant’s vibrant community.
On the afternoon of our visit, the food was just as bold and flavorful as the decor, including a sampling of Samuelsson’s finest: baked mac and gouda with collard greens, smoked salmon with lemon aioli, meatballs garnished with lingonberries, and an apple tart and a coconut cupcake for dessert. The restaurant also houses a small bakery, the Nook, offering the best cornbread with tomato jam you’ll ever eat, alongside delightfully nostalgic whoopie pies, handmade with gingerbread and molasses. Needless to say, Red Rooster is much more than a neighborhood gem: it’s a testament to Samuelsson’s culinary design savvy, and a true Manhattan treasure.
(Photography by Brittany Ambridge)