Restaurant Week NYC: Red Rooster Worth Crowing About

Picking a place to eat in New York City is completely overwhelming. Think about it too much and you’ll feel out of control, start emotional eating, order from the greasy take-out place around the corner, and give up ever eating outside the home again. NYC understands those stakes (and steaks too, but I digress). In an effort to keep all us indecisive New Yorkers from turning into tubby shut-ins, Restaurant Week graces our fair city twice a year.

What is Restaurant Week?

What is this magical time, you ask? For starters, though it is called a “week” it’s closer to a month. Winter 2016 Restaurant Week NYC started January 18 and it ends this Friday February 5th. Yes, that means there’s still time to stuff your face with amazing 3 course meals. The Restaurant Week deal is a 3 course meal at a steal: $25 for lunch, $38 for dinner. For real. (Sorry. No more rhyming.) Some of the best reviewed and most revered establishments participate. A lunch time reservation is the easiest to procure and you can not beat the price.

Red Rooster is easily the best, hippest, hottest, you-name-it place in my neighborhood. On Malcolm X Blvd and 126th, its modern take on comfort food entices notables like President Obama, former president Clinton, and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to hang out in Harlem. I mean, it seemed only right to add myself to that list, right?


Red Rooster is easily the best, hippest, hottest, you-name-it place in my neighborhood. On Malcolm X Blvd and 126th, its modern take on comfort food entices notables like President Obama, former president Clinton, and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to hang out in Harlem. I mean, it seemed only right to add myself to that list, right?

Moving on from the high brow to the low brow: I loved owner and head chef Marcus Samuelsson on my #1 guilty pleasure TV show Top Chef. Finally a chance to taste dishes rather than drool at them longingly on a 2 dimensional screen!

Red Rooster is so popular it only participates in the lunch option of Restaurant Week. It was no problem getting a reservation and when I arrived at 12pm I questioned if I even needed it. The answer was definitely yes- a big crowd came in not 15 minutes later. Restaurant Week tip #1: make a reservation and tell them over the phone you’re coming for Restaurant Week.

Red Rooster Harlem

This is what the crowd of a very popular NYC restaurant looks like at 12pm on a Wednesday. Doesn’t that bar just make you want to sit and hang out for hours? The decor of Red Rooster is perfect: cozy, charming, a melting pot of different cultures that all blend perfectly together: very American in the least cliché way. It couldn’t be more inviting.

Oh, and the food? Oh yes. My oh my.

The first course gave a choice of soup or salad. With a name like “Smiley Face Squash Salad” I couldn’t refuse, I’m a sucker for cute. This is the kind of food that elevates your mood immediately, by taste and title.

Red Rooster Smiley Face Squash Salad

My salad smiled up at me as I felt like the biggest blogger cliché in the world, photographing my food. The smiley face squash didn’t judge me, nor did it flinch when I pierced it fork, devouring the delightful contrast of crisp leafy greens and soft flavorful acorn squash. I have always loved a good vinaigrette- as a kid my only brand loyalty was to American Girl and Newman’s Own because I loved their Italian Vinaigrette so much. If I’d had Red Rooster’s cider-miso vinaigrette as a kid, my life would’ve been completely different. Fine, that’s a touch dramatic but I was seriously so into this dressing I could write the whole blog post about it. Pickled pear, mint, cilantro, and marinated feta combined for a brilliant combination of flavors. Light, crisp, fresh: it had everything that’s hard to get from a salad in the winter.

Did I ever tell you before that I truly love salads? Probably not because I know it’s a little obnoxious… Well, secret’s out now. Blame it on my California upbringing?

That’s probably the reason I chose the healthiest main course option as well. Hearth Roasted Salmon, topped with roasted mushrooms, charred onion, braised turnip, in a wild mushroom broth.

Red Rooster Hearth Roasted Salmon

Yes, I chose this over the mac and cheese that looked so good as I stared at it on a neighboring table’s plate. It was the right choice. I long believed “comfort food” and “healthy food” existed in two different worlds that never converged. You might say that’s the cliché. Well this dish completely changed my thoughts on this. There is something so wholesome and comforting about broth. It made this dish really special: full of warmth and flavor. I legit credit this dish with curing my cold much faster than usual. Thank you broth, thank you onions, thank you perfectly cooked super-food salmon. I mustn’t forget the mushrooms which were a kind I’ve never had before, hardy with a chewiness that well complimented the flakey salmon.

My dinning companions went for the more traditional comfort food route. So if you’re rolling your eyes at my salad ravings, feast those peepers on this: “Helga’s Spiced Meatballs” with buttermilk mashed potatoes. I don’t know who Helga is, but in my mind the name certainly suggests meatball expertise.

Red Rooster Helga's Spiced Meatballs

Alas I didn’t try this dish, not wanting to give my cold to anyone. But I heard nothing but exclamations of “Oh this is SO GOOD” from my table. And honestly the table next to us as well. The couple sitting next to us were Restaurant Week pros. I admit to some eavesdropping- it was fun to listen to them discuss the food! Especially when they got the last course. Dessert.

“Mouth euphoria.”

“Better than sex.”

These were phrases used to describe “Red Rooster Doughnuts”.

Red Rooster Doughnuts

Delicately fried, rolled in cinnamon sugar, resting upon an unexpected and amazing sweet potato filling. There was absolutely nothing healthy about these triplets. There was however, everything tasty. The sweet potato filling was like a puree of the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. The doughnuts would be Goldilocks approved: not too dense, not too fluffy, juuuuuust right.

That’s how I felt after this meal, full though not to the point of discomfort. Happy, satisfied, juuuuust right.

Red Rooster NYC interior

I think all the people in the packed restaurant would agree with me. Amazing the affect an amazing meal has on the body and soul. Go to Red Rooster in Harlem this week (or any time really), the smile on your face will be bigger than that of their Smiley Face Squash.

Red Rooster NYC restaurant week

Your favorite Goldilocks NYC blogger full of so many good things.

Thanks for the wonderful lunch Marcus Samuelson and the whole Red Rooster team!

What was the last amazing meal you had? Have you taken advantage of Restaurant Week this year or anytime previously? Anyone else obsessed with salad dressing like me? Thoughts on comfort food? If you liked this post let me know if you’d like me to do more posts about food!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

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