Last week I had the opportunity to try The Red Rooster in Harlem. My former City College theatre director David Willinger was putting on a production of Twelfth Night, adding incentive. In my last blog I posed some questions which have always interested me in terms of dining out. That’s why Sam Sifton’s review tantalized me so. Where is this magic utopian restaurant where all shades, ages, and sexes attend?
I have to admit it is true. I arrived shortly after 11 am, and by noon the seats filled. They came, from all walks of life, although the majority of the patrons were white. The staff seemed ethnically diverse, but alas the manager was not.
Red Rooster is a beautiful restaurant. It is the kind of place every neighborhood should have, well designed, with an ample bar room, a dining area, an open kitchen and aesthetically pleasing design. Add a top celebrity chef and you have a home run, a grand slam even. It just so happens that this is the first of its kind in Harlem, a neighborhood long suffering since its glory days of yesteryear. The food ranges from good to quite good. The cocktails a bit on the sweet side. There is something for every one on the menu, but no single menu item that must be ordered every visit.
Perhaps the phenomena that is Red Rooster is the location, the cardinal rule of real estate. With Harlem becoming such an ethnically diverse hodgepodge over the last twenty years, Red Rooster makes perfect sense, appealing to the sensibility of most every demographic, delivering on what matters most: comfort food and drink, and comfortable environs. While there is no Danny Meyer level of hospitality, my server was smiling, knowledgeable and pleasant. I was impressed.
Red Rooster is a pioneer to this end, and a necessary one, not just a model for Harlem, but one for the restaurant landscape of an entire city. Personally I can’t wait to have one in my nabe (UWS).