Another Harlem restaurant named for a relative, this one pays homage to owner Norma Jean Darden’s mother, who passed down to Darden the recipes featured on the menu. It feels like a family affair as well, with old black-and-white photographs of relatives staring down at you from the walls, and homey touches like wicker chairs and the little white picket fence surrounding the sidewalk dining area. The food continues the theme, with many recipes that could be served up at a family reunion: exceedingly tender BBQ ribs, big slabs of slightly spicy cornbread, greaseless fried chicken and shrimp, and delectable smothered pork chops. The only missteps here occur when you leave the South—the jerk chicken is numbingly spicy. Other than that, the food is first-rate. By the way, if Darden’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she penned, along with her sister, the best-selling cookbook Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine.
- Pauline Frommer