Amy Ruth's Review: Amy Ruths and being a cog in a wheel

Amy Ruth's Review: Amy Ruths and being a cog in a wheel

I’ve been thinking about unemployment lately because it may or may not be an impending doom personally. Apparently when you look unemployment rates for those with a college degree, it’s actually around 5%, much lower than the national average of 9%. The thought of it is still scary. Employment is weird because we have jobs because businesses need people to run shit. Unless you’re a big dog, most of us are just another cog in the wheel. This is why during downturns, many individuals hit up grad schools, in hopes that greater education offers opportunity to again, be a more important cog in the whole process. But mostly we do our jobs over and over again hoping to be a bigger more important cog. Restaurants get in that rut too. That’s why chefs love seasonal menus and hate national chain restaurants. You can always do the same thing over and over again, but it might one day catch up to you. A few years ago NYTimes ran a story about how soul food restaurants are closing left and right in Harlem. I can see why. These places have become iconic, and get mentioned in tourist guide books. Then the restaurants have to ramp up to feed the demand while not raising prices too much because that would alienate the neighborhood. The food suffers. At a place like Amy Ruth’s, it’s very much like a machine. And machines are in the business of being profitable, not necessarily in the business of experience.

When you first peer through the window at Amy Ruth’s, you can see that the original restaurant was modestly sized. Adjacent to the main dining room appears to be an expansion to the original dining room, and actually if those two sections are full, they led you upstairs to the back, to yet another expansion. At this point in Harlem, for those not-in-the-know (that’s most definitely counting me), there’s really just two major soul food players, Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s. Everyone who wants street cred will dismiss Sylvia’s. I haven’t been there, so I don’t know. Amy Ruth’s is supposed to be superior. Yet if Amy Ruth’s is the pinnacle of soul food in New York City, then I wonder about it…

We got a sea food platter since it had fried catfish along with some other fried sea food items like shrimp and crab cake. How crab cake became as soul food as collard greens is a mystery to me. But I won’t question the history of the item as much as the quality of the item. Of the fried items in the seafood platter (which was like $19 dollars because catfish prices went up, even though on the menu it’s $16), the fish was tops, followed by shrimp and the crab cake. Hot sauce helps here.

The side dishes at Amy Ruth’s are a mixed bag. The fried okra had pieces that were too salty, while other pieces were just right. The grits with cheese was quite generic and easily reproduced from a box from a grocery store. Macaroni and cheese was good and the collard greens as well. Side dishes at soul food places can be hit or miss from what I’ve read, so keep your expectations in check here.

I ordered fried chicken that was smothered with honey. This was easily the best thing of the day. The skin was almost like a hard shell, which was good because skin is the best part of the fried chicken. To make the skin so crunchy, some of the meat suffered from being a little dry. Honey pairs well with fried chicken although the sweetness dominates the flavors. I would get the fried chicken at Amy Ruth’s again, except not smothered with honey.

Even though the chicken was good, it probably wasn’t fried to order, which means it probably could be even better. Sure, KFC and Popeyes do not fry chicken to order, but they also have a much cheaper product. I think my chicken was $13? For maybe $8 more dollars, I could take my fat ass to a fancy pants restaurant to eat fried chicken. I just thought Amy Ruths would blow my mind, although it really didn’t. It makes me wonder you know… is it just like me, a corporate slave who’s just a cog in a giant wheel that keeps turning. Is it uninspired? I might not have enough evidence to say for sure just yet, but the first impressions don’t leave me hyped for future visits.

Amy Ruth’s113 W 116th St.New York, NY 10026212-280-8779

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