Walking through the streets of Harlem is an unforgettable experience. With the sidewalks filled with vendors selling everything from jewelry to “brand name” handbags, the plethora of businesses and restaurants are one way too many. It might be hard to choose an eatery to eat in but for me, as I walked along Lenox Avenue, one captured my attention and led me to my foodstop: Miss Maude’s Spoonbread Too.
Miss Maude’s Spoonbread Too proudly declares to have “Authentic Southern Cooking.” Located at 547 Lenox Avenue between 137th and 138th Street, the restaurant stands out with its red and white décor and a mini white picket fence. Neon lights offer a glimpse into the southern menu: Collard greens, mac and cheese, catfish, and B.B.Q. chicken. Stepping into the restaurant, there’s a feel of home, comfort, and coziness. With the baby blue paneling, sheer curtains, and black and white photographs of the past, it feels as if stepping into your own kitchen or more like your grandma’s. Looking into the photographs, you glance at the history of the family and the historic neighborhood.
The restaurant was opened about fifteen years ago by Norma Jean Darden, a popular model in the 1970′s, now the caterer and cookbook author and owner of Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too on 110th Street. She named the restaurant after aunt Maude, who was a music and Sunday school teacher that cooked the best meals in the family and opened a drug store with her husband known for great desserts, ice cream, cookies and confections. The store represents the history of harlem in that the Great Migration from the south, has led to the vibrancy of today’s Harlem. For those who came North one way they could hold onto their Southern culture was through the rich Southern food. Although this restaurant is relatively new, it still provides that home cooked southern meal that many African-Americans now residing in Harlem and elsewhere in New York desire. But the restaurant is not there only for those who reminiscent southern cooking but also for those who want to try Soul food at one of its best. The neighborhood is not a rich one, in terms of socio-economics, so that the food Miss Maude’s provides is one that is affordable to many residents.
The menu offers a wide variety of authentic southern soul food. From “Miss Maude’s Famous Seafood Gumbo,” to the collard greens and Southern Fried chickens, there is food for everyone, including people like me who eat halal food only and never tried soul food. The price is relatively inexpensive and definitely worth more than the price. With not much money in my pocket, I tried the seafood gumbo cup which cost only $3.95 and it was just delicious. There was a variety of flavors and shrimp was cooked just right. I also tried the macaroni and cheese (nothing says comfort food like mac and cheese), which was also priced at $3.95. The melted cheese was not too runny or dry so the balance was there and it was also was a good side dish. Although I was tempted to taste the desserts because the cakes, pies, and cobblers set there gleaming in the display case, I had to control myself. They also were all under five dollars. Maybe next time!