East Harlem, NYC —People have long said that cooking great food is an art form. They have also said that the best dishes are made from the soul. Well you will be happy to know that there is a great new(-ish) spot in SPANISH HARLEM that is proving to excel in delivery on both those accounts.
That place is called SpaHa Soul, a modestly small boite that's serving up big boldly-flavored soul food, all while staying true and authentic to the providence of that particularly cuisine, as well as the personality of one of the few neighborhoods left in Manhattan whose authentically-rooted character is still prevalent and identifiable.
Much like the local flavor of Spanish Harlem, the space, although comfortably small and intimate, is also vibrant and colorful, with décor proudly showcasing some very literal art of its own.
Ultimately, the real true passion was shown in the two dishes that I thoroughly enjoyed: the buttermilk- and herb-fried boneless chicken—to which I added sides of collard greens and candied yams—and, glutton for nourishment that I am, the grilled-to-order pork chops served with rice and blackeyed peas.
Both dishes were expertly and simply crafted. The chicken was skillfully juicy and flavorful, each bite accented by a nicely-seasoned crispy skin. The slow-cooked collards were spot-on, and the smooth, not overly sweet candied yams were a happy compliment.
The pork chops as well were evocative of the ones I grew up with in Harlem—made by family members from the South—and juicy enough to add extra flavor to the perfectly cooked rice and the heartwarmingly tongue-pleasing blackeyed peas.
The chef who made the dishes is also the owner and literally an artist in his own right, as his name is Artist Thornton, who is successfully presenting food true to its traditional providence. And in the spirit of "Southern hospitality", also boosts the diners' experience by giving his customers genuinely warm front-of-house charm that seem to great elate his customers. He is already a welcomed new bedrock to the community, and his restaurant is a great addition to the neighborhood and the preservation of the personality of the privately-owned business that have defined this neighborhood, and much of New York City, for generations.
Artist Thornton and his SpaHa Soul add nicely to the continued mosaic of Spanish Harlem. Both are a nice reminder that friendly personality running a local restaurant that serves great food to a grateful community is still not a lost art.
SPAHA SOUL | 2270 1st Ave. (bet. 116th & 117th Aves.) | 212.427.3625 | spahaweb.zapto.org