Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster, A rare diversity in dining

NEW YORK — It’s a balmy March evening just before the official arrival of spring, and a few diners are already happily venturing to the small tables outside Red Rooster, chef Marcus Samuelsson’s eatery on Lenox Avenue in the heart of Harlem.

But outside isn’t really the place to be.

No, to feel the buzz that is Red Rooster, one should really be perched on a stool at the horseshoe-shaped bar inside. It’s elegant, made of different hues of wood, but more importantly, it’s occupied by different hues — and ages, and types — of people. On this evening, the guests are black and white, Asian, old and young, gay and straight.

They may be sipping one of Red Rooster’s signature cocktails — the Earl of Harlem, for example, bourbon with Earl Grey tea and coriander syrup. They may be snacking on the addictive cornbread with honey butter while they wait for a table. Or, like Naveen Pesala, a physician who’s worked nearby for five years, they may be reconnecting with an old friend for a quick glass of prosecco.

But they’re all participating in something pretty rare in New York: a truly diverse, high-end dining experience, and one that brings people to Harlem from everywhere in the city.

“I’ve even run into patients here,” says Pesala, who’s joined by a friend from SoHo for the evening. “It’s a very unique place.”

Unique is certainly the word to describe Red Rooster, some 15 months after Samuelsson launched it. There was plenty of hype then, and no wonder: Even among celebrity chefs he was a celebrity, known for his speedy rise in the restaurant world (executive chef at the renowned Aquavit at age 24, and the youngest chef to earn three stars from the New York Times); his telegenic TV persona; his hip personal style; his unusual background (born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden); and of course his admirers in high places. He was chosen to be the chef at President Barack Obama’s first state dinner, and Red Rooster hosted a recent Obama fundraiser. Read Full story on