Food for the soul, and with heart
Alimento para el alma, y con corazón

  • English
  • Español

Food for the soul, and with heart

Story and photos by Sandra E. García

Just hours before Mayor Michael Bloomberg was to have honored her and her eponymous restaurant at a special reception at Gracie’s Mansion, Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food,” passed away at her home on Thurs., July 19th.

The doyenne of South Carolina-inspired soul food who had set up shop in Harlem over 50 years ago was remembered at a wake and public service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on Tues., July 24th.

Sylvia’s Restaurant on the evening of July 21st, the night of Ms. Sylvia Woods’ passing.

Sylvia’s Restaurant on the evening of July 21st, the night of Ms. Sylvia Woods’ passing.

During a service that lasted for over two hours, many of Woods’ famous patrons paid her tribute as a gentle soul brimming with verve and warmth.

“When people came to see me from all over America and the world and wanted to know what Harlem was like,” said former President Bill Clinton, “I sent them to Sylvia’s, and they were made to feel welcome and at home.”

On the streets of northern Manhattan, where Woods had claimed a stake on the hearts, souls and appetites of so many, she was also remembered with great affection for her generosity, in ways large and small.

Harlem resident Curtis Brown, who had recently lost his home, stopped past Sylvia’s late last week to pay his respects.

“She actually gave me and my family food. She saw us walking by and told us to come in,” said Brown. “She was a very nice lady. She always fed the community.”

Brown recalled that Woods always seemed inclined to chat with any and all who came by, offering assistance and delicious food in abundance.

Curtis Brown recalled Woods as a generous member of the Harlem community. “She saw [my family] walking by and told us to come in and have some food. She was nice to everybody.”

Curtis Brown recalled Woods as a generous member of the Harlem community. “She saw [my family] walking by and told us to come in and have some food. She was nice to everybody.”

“She was very nice to everybody,” said Brown. “If anybody came to her front door, and said they was hungry, she would gladly feed you with no problem at all.”

Serving up fried chicken, yams, collard greens, barbecued ribs, golden-fried pork chops, Grandma Julia’s Cornbread, fried whiting, and many other home recipes, Woods, who had first come to Harlem with her husband, Herbert Woods, grew a lunch counter business to include a small dynasty.

“She was a contribution to the community,” said Paul King Brice. “Not just because of the restaurant, but because of the way she would treat [us]. She cultivated positive energy.

Brice noted her passing reminded him of the death of another figure’s.

“For this community, [her passing] is just as important as the death of Michael Jackson,” he said. “She has less fame, but the same amount of love.”

Brown said he had hoped to connect with Woods again.

“She offered me a job. She told me to come on Tuesday and I couldn’t come,” said a regretful Brown. “Maybe I could’ve seen her one last time.”

Alimento para el alma, y con corazón

Historia y fotos por Sandra E. García

El jueves 19 de julio, a pocas horas antes de que el alcalde Michael
Bloomberg iba a honrar al dueño y a su epónimo restaurante en una recepción especial en Gracie Mansion, Sylvia Woods, la “Reina de Soul Food”, (Alimento para el Alma), falleció en su hogar.

La gran dama del alimento para el alma inspirada en Carolina, quien hace mas de 50
años se había establecido en Harlem, fue recordada el martes 24 de julio, durante una vigilia y un servicio público en la Abyssinian Baptist Church en Harlem.

Sylvia’s Restaurant on the evening of July 21st, the night of Ms. Sylvia Woods’ passing.

Sylvia’s Restaurant en la noche del 21 de julio, la noche del fallecimiento de Ms. Sylvia Woods.

En el transcurso de un servicio que duró más de dos horas, muchos de los famosos
clientes le rindieron tributo como un alma gentil rebosante de bríos y calor.

“Cuando la gente venía a verme desde todas partes de América y el mundo, y
deseaban saber cómo era Harlem”, dijo el ex presidente Bill Clinton, “yo los enviaba
a Sylvia’s, y les hacían sentirse bienvenidos y como en su casa”.

En las calles del Norte de Manhattan, donde Woods recogía
corazones, almas y apetitos de tantos, también fue recordada con gran afecto por su
generosidad, en pequeñas y grandes maneras.

A finales de la pasada semana, Curtis Brown, residente de Harlem, y quien hace poco había perdido su casa, se detuvo en Sylvia’s para presentar sus respetos.

“En realidad, ella nos dió de comer a mí y a mi familia. Ella nos vió pasar y nos pidió
entrar”, dijo Brown. “Ella fue una dama muy amable. Ella siempre dio de comer a la
comunidad”.

Curtis Brown recalled Woods as a generous member of the Harlem community. “She saw [my family] walking by and told us to come in and have some food. She was nice to everybody.”

Curtis Brown recordó a Woods como un miembro generoso de la comunidad de
Harlem. “Ella vio [a mi familia] pasar por allí y nos dijo que viniéramos a comer algo. Ella era amable con todo el mundo”.

Brown recordó que Woods siempre parecía inclinada a conversar con cualquiera y con todo el que llegaba, ofreciendo ayuda y deliciosa comida en abundancia.

“Ella fue muy amable con todo el mundo”, dijo Brown. “Si alguien llegaba a su puerta, y decía estar hambriento, ella con gusto le alimentaba sin problema alguno”.

Sirviendo pollo frito, yame, col verde, costillas a la barbacoa, chuletas de cerdo fritas, pan de maíz de Grandma Julia, pescadillo frito, y muchos otros platos más, Woods, quien primero vino a Harlem con su esposo, Herbert Woods, hizo crecer un negocio de almuerzo de mostrador, hasta una pequeña dinastía.

“Ella fue una contribución a la comunidad”, dijo Paul King Brice. “No sólo por el
restaurante, sino por la forma en que ella nos trataba. Ella cultivó la energía positiva.”

Brice destacó que su partida le recordaba la muerte de otra figura.

Para esta comunidad, [su muerte], es tan importante como la muerte de Michael
Jackson”, dijo el. “Ella tiene menos fama, pero la misma cantidad de amor”.

Brown dijo que el espera conectarse con Woods nuevamente.

“Ella me ofreció trabajo. Ella me dijo que viniera el martes y no pude venir”, dijo un
apesadumbrado Brown. “Tal vez pude haberla visto por última vez”.