Sylvia's Soul Food

Sylvia's Soul Food

3.2 4
by Sylvia Woods, Christopher Styler

Sylvia Woods has been barbecuing, baking, frying, and smothering New York City's best soul food for nearly thirty years. According to the Zagat New York City Restaurant Survey, "For down-home delicious Soul Food, this funky Harlemite is the real thing; go for great ribs, incredible fried chicken, fiery greens, and other artery-clogging Southern staples.


Sylvia Woods has been barbecuing, baking, frying, and smothering New York City's best soul food for nearly thirty years. According to the Zagat New York City Restaurant Survey, "For down-home delicious Soul Food, this funky Harlemite is the real thing; go for great ribs, incredible fried chicken, fiery greens, and other artery-clogging Southern staples. Don't tell your doctor what you ate."

Now, for the first time, the "Queen of Soul Food" reveals her recipe secrets for more than one hundred of the authentic, stick-to-your-ribs soul food and classic Southern dishes she serves at her world-famous Harlem restaurant.

Start off with a breakfast of homemade pork sausage with eggs and the tenderest, flakiest biscuits you've ever eaten. Move on to tried-and-true soul food favorites that include Smothered Chicken, Fried Catfish with Hushpuppies, Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings, Blackeyed Peas and Rice, and, of course, "Sylvia's World-Famous Talked-About Barbecued Ribs."

Of course, no meal at Sylvia's would be complete without a couple of "sides": Fried Green Tomatoes, Collard Greens with Cornmeal Dumplings, Candied Sweet Potatoes, and more. Sylvia's desserts are enough to satisfy any sweet tooth: Peach Cobbler, Lemon Pie, and Three-Layer Caramel Cake.

So, "if you're craving great barbecue, down-home soul food, and something uniquely New York, catch a cab up to Sylvia's, a marvelous restaurant serving up batches of great ribs, pork chops, candied sweet potatoes, and pecan pies that will satisfy the biggest eater in the family" (Passport to New York Restaurants). If you can't make it to New York, Sylvia's Soul Food will make you feel like you're there.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While not all gourmands know soul food as well as they should, these authentic, stick-to-the-ribs recipes from the famous Harlem establishment will send many readers on a journey to this culinary genre. Collected by restaurateur Woods, with assistance from chef Styler ( Primi Piatti ), the recipes include both classics and innovations: fried chitlins, hash venison, smothered chicken, barbecued short ribs of beef and sweet potato pie. While the recipes and methods are well delivered--and, happily, recorded for posterity--the volume may disappoint those who hunger for more information than bare-bones recipes. A little shared research about this important American tradition would have broadened the book's appeal and answered readers' inevitable questions about the origins of foods like collard greens, okra and ham hocks--and might have helped the book to make the leap from recipe catalogue to gastronomic history. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Sylvia's Restaurant is a casual family-run place that serves great barbecue and other down-home fare. A Harlem institution since the 1960s, it has gained fans far away from New York City since it was discovered by the media in the late 1970s. In this cookbook, Woods gathers more than 100 recipes for her World-Famous Talked-About Spareribs, Smothered Chicken, Fried Catfish, and other soul food classics. In short, these are simple, delicious, and unpretentious recipes. Recommended for most collections.
Barbara Jacobs
In almost every American metropolis there's sure to be at least one restaurateur who claims the moniker of "queen/king of soul food." So watch for some grumblings and raised eyebrows on publication date of this book. Woods, proprietor of the Sylvia's Soul Food in Harlem, and co-author Styler have pulled together more than 100 recipes from the restaurant's kitchen, all very representative of the cuisine. From the familiar hotcakes and grits to smothered steaks and fried chicken, the recipes' directions are easy and require little in the way of exotic ingredients. A few of the inclusions are reminiscent of newer gastronomic trends: fried green tomatoes, banana pudding, red beans and rice, for example. Plus, soul food is one of the most cost-conscious, since it capitalizes on bringing out the flavor of little-used foodstuffs such as collard greens, turkey wings, and oxtails.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sylvia's World-Famous Talked-About Spareribs

Makes 8 Servings

These are the real thing. People come from around the corner, around the city, and around the world to eat these ribs at Sylvia's. The secret? Tangy, not too sweet barbecue sauce and a special way of preparing the ribs that's described here.


2 slabs pork spareribs (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 to 3 cups white wine vinegar
Barbecue Sauce (page 59)


1. To make the ribs easier to handle, cut each slab between the middle bones into 2 equal pieces. Rub the salt, black pepper, and red pepper into both sides of the ribs. Place the ribs in a deep baking dish, cover them, and refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Pour the vinegar over the ribs and bake 1 1/2 hours. Rotate the ribs two or three times during baking and spoon some of the pan juices over them.

3. Remove the ribs from the baking dish and place in a single layer on baking sheets. (Line the baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.) Bake at 450°F for 1 hour. The ribs should be tender and well browned. This much can be done up to a day in advance. Cool the ribs, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for about 1 hour before continuing.

4. To finish the ribs, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the slabs between the bones into individual ribs. Place the ribs in a baking dish large enough to hold them comfortably. Spoon enough of the barbecuesauce over them to coat lightly. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve with additional barbecue sauce on the side.

Barbecue Sauce

Makes about 5 cups

Ruth developed this recipe because she found most barbecue sauces too vinegary or bitter, and it's the secret to our popular ribs. Simple to prepare and absolutely delicious, once made and strained it keeps for quite a while, at least a month — that is, if you can keep from using it that long.


16 ounces Red Devil Hot Sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 small onion, sliced
1 small stalk celery, sliced
3 cups tomato Purée
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 lemon, sliced


Combine all the ingredients in a heavy pot and heat just till hot. Don't bring to a boil or the sauce will turn dark and become thin. Cool the sauce to room temperature, strain it, and store it in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator.

Red Rice

Makes 8 Servings

Delicious served with Barbecued Short Ribs of Beef (page 61), this ricealso reheats very well. When serving it, be sure to scrape out the pot — the rice around the edges and bottom is especially tasty.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound smoked ham, off the bone OR smoked slab bacon OR streaky lean bacon, diced (about 2 cups)
2 medium onions, finely diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, with liquid
3/4 cup tomato purée
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups long grain rice
Hot sauce to taste


1. Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the ham,onions, celery, and green peppers and cook until the vegetables arewilted. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, salt, pepper, and chilipowder. Lower the heat to simmering and simmer, covered, 30minutes. Measure the sauce and, if necessary, add enough waterto bring the volume to 5 cups.

2. Stir the rice into the liquid and heat to boiling. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, covered, until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking to prevent sticking. Check the seasonings and add hot sauce to taste.

Meet the Author

Sylvia Woods, born in Hemingway, South Carolina, started the world-famous Sylvia's Restaurant in 1963 and opened a second restaurant in Atlanta in 1997. She owned a line of canned and bottled food products that is sold in supermarkets across the country.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Sylvia's Soul Food 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never cook a holiday meal without this book! This book is great for someone that has never cooked soul food. It's easy to follow and there are good tips even for the more experienced cook. Enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While many of the recipes were good, I know that they were not some of Sylvia's best and that was very disappointing. She lost some of the 'soul' in soulfood in these recipes.