I had my first taste of fried chicken and waffles almost two years ago. It was a skeptical first bite, which soon had me grabbing for more waffles, more chicken, and more syrup. So when we found ourselves in Harlem this weekend, a trip to Amy Ruth's was an absolute necessity.
Amy Ruth's is a huge maze of a restaurant. We were led through one room of people, past another packed dining room, by the kitchen, up the stairs, and into another, less full room of hungry, happy, fried chicken eating customers. We were thrown a couple of menus, and the hostess, who as B aptly described 'wasn't exactly full of the charms of spring', left us.
But any lack of charm from our waitress was soon made up for by a much friendlier server bringing us huge cups of iced water, warm cornbread, and melting butter. He took our order (efficiency is not lacking here), and we had pretty much eaten both slices of the sweet, fluffy cornbread, slathered in salty butter of course, before our order had even made it to the kitchen.
B decided he wasn't going to skimp on any part of this experience, so ordered a half-lemonade, half iced tea, which was sickly sweet, wonderfully refreshing, and, had we not been so in need of a big boost of sugar, would probably have led us head first into the strongest of sugar crashes.
Our chicken was soon delivered, and we were faced once again with the reality of astounding American portion sizes. One wonderfully thick waffle was topped with they most humungous fried chicken thigh, served with three extra portions of butter, and a huge bottle of syrup. This made my previous (British) chicken and waffle experience seem rather sad in comparison. It also made my love for this wonderfully unhealthy dish even stronger.
But we weren't here just for the waffles. When there's an item on the menu called the 'Barack Obama', there was no way we were leaving without having it. A huge side of chicken (it seemed to be the majority of a chicken had been placed whole in the frier, and then put on our plate) had been cooked to juicy, moist, crispy-exterior perfection. It was served with our choice of sides – mac and cheese and collard greens – because we definitely needed some more carbs and fat with this meal, and having some green on one of our plates made us feel slightly healthier. Who am I kidding? The greens were dotted with meat and were salty and delicious, and totally unhealthy too. It was fabulous.
There's nothing apologetic, nothing fancy, and nothing not to love about Amy Ruth's. If you're looking for some proper Southern food, I've not yet found anything better in NYC.
Amy Ruth's, 113 West 116th Street, Harlem, NY 10026