Sunday, October 11, 2015

Jacob Restaurant

We were up in Harlem a couple of weeks ago looking at some open houses, which made it a perfect opportunity to try out a new place for lunch. We tried heading over to a Yemeni restaurant first, but we forgot it was a Muslim holiday weekend, and they were closed. Same thing for the Senegalese cafe we tried to visit next. After walking to both of those, we were running short on time so we hit up one place we had seen open during our travels - Jacob Restaurant, a "soul food and salad bar" with seating in the back.

According to the history in the window, Jacob Restaurant was the first black owned buffet in the area, and they prepared all the food without trans fats. We could totally get behind both of those. Not only that, but as we filled up our boxes at the buffet, we could hear live music in the back room, so it seemed like a great atmosphere. (While sitting back there eating, the music was pretty loud for such a small room, but it was still nice.) If you're wondering, it's not an all you can eat place, but they charge by the pound. The rate was quite reasonable, though, compared to places in Midtown.

M's buffet plate:

I got a lot of different things from the buffet, all from the hot section, little bits of lots of dishes so I could try as much as possible. I think I walked around the hot section 3 times to make sure I didn't miss anything and tried everything I wanted to get. In the end, I got Jamaican rice and peas, baked chicken, baked salmon, lima beans with smoked turkey necks, okra, mac and cheese, collard greens with turkey, spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans, onions and peppers from the curry goat dish, jerk chicken, and chicken stuffing. I also tried a little of A's cornbread, which I found to be much sweeter than I was expecting.

If you're wondering why I got lima beans considering my dislike for them, I thought maybe lima beans cooked by a professional would make me like them (I haven't completely given up on that quest), but it turned out they weren't the little green lima beans that I'm not a fan of, but the bigger white ones like in my favorite fasoulia. Out of everything I picked up, my favorites were probably the chicken stuffing and the baked salmon, but it was nice having so many vegetables in the meal.

A's buffet plate:

I knew a lot of the things that M would get so I tried to get some other things as well to have a little variety. I was in a fried chicken mood so I ended up grabbing a couple drumsticks, and I also got one piece of curry goat and a carrot that was in the stew. The last big thing that I got that M didn't, aside from the cornbread she mentioned, was the candied yam. I also got the mac and cheese, collard greens, stewed okra, green beans, stuffing, and lima beans.

The fried chicken was good but not spectacular. The breading didn't have much overall seasoning, but it was a solid fried chicken. I probably didn't need two drums, but I just really like fried chicken. The curry goat was a little on the dry/tough side. The flavor was there, but I think the meat had been sitting in the steam tray too long and ended up overcooking. The carrot was nice because stewed carrots soak up so much flavor when they cook. The candied yam was mostly just for a treat. I like using that as something of a dessert when I see them. It had a really nice, sweet syrup flowing over the tender yet firm sweet potato chunk.

Overall review:

Our meal at Jacob Restaurant was fine, but not amazing. It definitely served its purpose, filling our bellies before the open houses and a long afternoon of walking around upper Manhattan, but nothing stood out as so extraordinarily good that we'd have to go back very soon. Many of the steam table items were solid, but we've had better versions before (like better jerk chicken at Freda's (how have we still not written that post?!), better soul food generally on our Savannah road trip, etc), so it was hard not to compare. They do have tons of options though, so it would be a good place to go if you're trying to satisfy a lot of different palates. Overall, although our ears may have ached a little when we left due to sitting right next to the musicians at the only table left, we were pretty satisfied with lunch.

Jacob Restaurant is located at 2695 Frederick Douglass Blvd (at 143rd Street). It looks like they have another branch on Lenox Avenue in the 120s, but we haven't visited that one.

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