Good food is good food. And Guy Fieri isn’t the only one who knows that good food is good food regardless of the caliber of the chef or owners.
I remember during a snowstorm similar to the one plaguing much of the East Coast right now when I took a quick trip to NYC to meet my husband on a business trip for, literally, 24 hours.
First, we looked for an open restaurant in Harlem because whenever I get a chance to go home I want to eat at home. Everything was closed except for Melba’s. The restaurant is the brainchild of fellow Harlemite and chef, Melba Wilson. I had heard about it but never tried, so I was excited.
Upon walking in we were stunned yet pumped to see Hip-Hop All-Star Heather B, of Sway in the Morning fame. bartending. She was great – friendly & knowledgeable – and served us a Sunrise.
For starters, we had Melba’s Red Rice, Black-Eyed Peas & Collard Greens in a spring wrap. If you could imagine everything you love about the south or soul food in an egg roll this would be that! We also shared an order of Catfish Strips served with chipotle mayo. Although I was skeptical to try the catfish — I hate “fishy smelling fish” – it was perfectly seasoned and crispy without being salty or oily.
Finally for dinner we went with the recommendations of the waitress figures she knows the menu the best…right? And boy oh boy did she nail it. The Southern Fried Chicken and Eggnog Waffles was the perfect balance for every taste bud in my mouth. Now I see why it was featured on the Food Network.
Who can go somewhere and not try the Mac&Cheese? Not me! So we ordered a side of their Tres Macaroni & Cheese which is a delicious blend of pepper jack, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses. Yes the picture has your mouth watering and rightfully so.
The husband also ordered the Chicken Dinner Special which came with Collard Greens and Sweet Yams. The Collard Greens were definitely the star of this plate especially because they made them with turkey meat and not pork.
The next morning he surprised me with a trip to the famous Norma’s at Le Parker Meridian. The food was everything that I had expected.
For starters we had one of their famous daily smoothies. We ordered the Red Berry Risotto “Oatmeal” in a Crispity Wafer Bowl and Very Berry Brioche French Toast. You’ll notice that I only have pictures of the oatmeal cause the french toast went too fast! . The restaurant is 5 star from the maitre d’ to the the waitstaff to the ambiance and, of course, the food. The food was presented like it was being graded by a NY Times critic. The details were amazing. Breakfast Risotto…really? YES! It was the heartiest oatmeal I’ve ever eaten but still playful in the wafer bowl. I told the waiter thank you for the flower in my breakfast because it seemed so personal even though everyone gets it, I still felt special.
To wrap up our quick trip we decided to get some authentic Caribbean food which I don’t find very easily in Atlanta. We headed to Melanie’s Roti. Now let me tell you that it’s not necessarily the spot you pull up to and happily jump out the car and run into. It looked a little suspect from the outside. But I’m a New Yorker – born and bred — so I jumped out while my husband double parked.
Upon entering – I wasn’t greeted. No one spoke. No one asked if I wanted my food for here or to go. What I did notice was the amazing aroma of curry and the music blasting while men sat around several tables drinking a lot of brown liquor.
I order the two things that I always need in my life: Jerk Chicken & Curry Chicken Roti. Upon getting back to the hotel, we ripped open the bag and I realized how happy I was about to be. Yes we ate directly out the tin pans, no need for plates or white napkins. This wasn’t going to be pretty but it was going to taste incredible. The Jerk was so spicy that I think I saw my husband tear up a few times. I tapped out after eating one wing. The roti was buttery and had tons of chick pea filling in the middle. Don’t always think that you know where you’re going to eat. One thing that I can always appreciate is the flavors of Guyana and they were all present in the curry chicken.
So after eating my way through NYC in less than 24 hours, I am once again convinced that good food is good food whether it’s served at a 5 star restaurant, your local favorite spot or “hood spot.” Learn to appreciate fine dining and neighbor gems. You never know the goodness waiting behind that restaurant door.
To learn more about each of the restaurants, please visit them: