At Amy Ruth’s in Harlem, fried chicken and waffles is the chef’s specialty, inspired by memories of Sunday suppers growing up on a farm down south. CHOW.com Contributing Editor Liza de Guia filed the following report.
Past the northernmost footpaths of Central Park in Harlem, you’ll find Amy Ruth’s: a minimally decorated, casual restaurant that’s been feeding “guests” home-style southern cuisine since 1999. This is where I go when I’m craving a good fried chicken and waffles.
Sister Janet, the head chef, says praying before she cooks is her secret: true “soul” food. It’s probably why her chicken and waffles recipe is so famous. In fact, they go through over 2,000 whole chickens a week!
First, cut chicken gets washed in a vinegar, water and salt mixture before coating it with special seasoning, another house secret. It then goes into a fridge to marinate overnight - the key to building flavor.
The next day, the chicken pieces are lightly dredged in flour and deep fried in soybean oil.
Their waffle ingredients are no surprise: flour, eggs, water, oil and a touch of vanilla. But the key to the batter is the mixing and resting time. They mix it for an unusually long time, about 30 minutes, to develop creaminess. Then, they let it sit for days in a fridge.
When it takes on a “lightness”, it’s ready to be poured into the waffle irons. And, when the bell goes off, it’s not yet done, you need a beat or two more. If not, Sister Janet says, it’ll taste doughy.
When my plate arrives hot, tempting me with the mixed aroma of salty and sweet, all I ever think is "Oh yeah." The chicken is tender, well-brined and salty. The skin is nice and crispy. And the waffles have a delicate crunch to the outside, and a sugary, super creamy, lightness on the inside.
For me, the more maple syrup & butter the better. Because, you see, feeding your soul should be fun!
So come starving and leave full. You can walk the guilt off in the park.
Amy Ruth’s is located at 113 West 116th Street in Harlem. For more dining recommendations visit CHOW.com. I’m Liza de Guia for food, drink and fun.