My spouse and I enjoyed lunch at Red Rooster on a Saturday afternoon in late May 2016. Red Rooster is located in Harlem on Lenox Avenue (also called Malcolm X Boulevard) between 125th and 126th Streets. The restaurant is open for lunch on weekdays, brunch on weekends, and dinner daily. Red Rooster does not accept reservations for lunch or brunch; however, they take reservations for dinner via telephone or by using the Open Table reservation system.
Red Rooster’s name honors the nearby legendary Harlem speakeasy, where folk and jazz singers, authors, politicians, and other noteworthy figures (such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole) would meet to enjoy music and drinks. The Red Rooster restaurant is owned by award-winning chef and cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson, who was the youngest chef to receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times when he worked as Executive Chef at Aquavit (he left that restaurant in 2008). In addition, Samuelsson won Top Chef Masters Season 2 and served as the guest chef for the first State Dinner for President Obama. In addition to Red Rooster (and Ginny’s Supper Club), the Samuelsson Restaurant Group currently owns Eatery Social Taqueria (Sweden). Streetbird (Harlem), Bermuda (at the Hamilton Princess), American Table (Lincoln Center and Stockholm), Marc Burger (Chicago), Norda (in his adopted hometown of Gothenburg Sweden), and Kitchen & Table (Sweden and Norway); Samuelsson also once operated New York restaurants Riingo and Merkato (both of which are now closed), as well as C-House in Chicago (also now closed). Marcus Samuelsson, who is Ethiopian-born but Swedish-raised, opened Red Rooster in September of 2010.
On the Sunday afternoon that we visited, Red Rooster featured a DJ; the music was a bit loud (because we sat in the bar area quite near him), but the music gave the restaurant a good vibe. Décor includes vintage hats, shoes, and clothing currently from Old Hollywood actress Lana Turner’s collection; figurines, records, plates, books, and photos line the shelves around the restaurant, along with local artwork. The front of the restaurant holds a large horseshoe-shaped bar, as well as several high-top communal tables. The rear of the main dining space features a semi-open kitchen, tables with cane-backed chairs, and chalkboard-painted walls written with recipes and food-related sketches. Outdoor sidewalk dining is available in the right weather. In the front corner of the restaurant, guests can purchase simple food items (including sandwiches, desserts, coffee, and cold beverages) and souvenirs (such as cookbooks, T-shirts, and aprons) from an area called “The Nook”. Ginny’s Supper Club is located in the basement of Red Rooster, and it offers a music venue, private dining room (for up to 275 guests), and the location for a “gospel brunch” with a soul food smorgasbord/buffet. The staff is dressed stylishly and seems happy to be working there.
Red Rooster serves American comfort food. To start, we shared the corn bread (served with sweet butter and a tomato jam) and the deviled eggs (three halves set atop hummus to keep them in position and crowned with a thin slice of cured meat). For our entrees, we shared the “yard bird” (two pieces of dark-meat chicken breaded and deep-fried, served with mashed potatoes, collard greens, and pickles all set atop a wooden cutting board), and the mac & greens (collard greens mixed with tubular pasta and topped with cheese, served in a skillet set atop a wooden cutting board along with a side of pickled vegetables and a small arugula salad topped with a light vinaigrette and Parmesan cheese). All parts of the chicken entrée were tasty, but we did not care for the mac and greens at all (it tasted scorched, the taste of which must have come from the collard greens, which was curious because we thought that the same greens on the chicken dish tasted fine). Dessert was awesome: crème de coco (coconut panna cotta with mango puree, toasted coconut, and tiny meringue disks for added crunch).
As fans of Marcus Samuelsson, we have wanted to dine at Red Rooster for the past few years, but we never found ourselves in Harlem. We can now say that we enjoyed a good brunch at Red Rooster!