Last Wednesday, I had a late lunch with my friend Sandro. It was a sunny day in Bryant Park where we chatted about: his travels in Italy, his return to Manhattan, and my food stories in New York City.
“I have discovered a new restaurant,” he said, casually.
“Where?” I asked.
“On the Upper West Side, it is called Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread.”
“That’s fantastic, I was there several weeks ago, interviewing the owner, Ms. Norma Jean Darden. What did you like about the restaurant?” I inquired, reaching for the French-Fried Potatoes on the bench.”
“The fried chicken is great. I really loved it. I also like the bright warm colored decor. It feels as though, I’m taken out of Manhattan when I step inside. The ice tea is good and so is the Harlem Brewed Beer. I was surprised at how good it was. It does have a southern feeling and the hospitality is very welcoming. I have been there twice and will probably go again.”
Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread is located at 364 Cathedral Parkway, New York, NY 10025. The restaurant is nearby the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Columbia University and Central Park. Ms. Darden and I sat down at a table with fresh flowers in an old-fashioned bottle jar.
CI: What is the most popular cuisine at Miss Mamie’s?
ND: Well, this is southern cooking, and so, people, of course are going to get with their fried chicken or fried catfish: collard greens, candied yams, corn bread. The staples of southern food, and they are going to love the cakes, pies and cobblers.
CI: What is a quick and simple meal your customers can cook at home?
ND: They can cook anything that we serve here at Miss Mamie’s, because we have a cookbook: Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family. Most of the recipes are from the 50s and they are quite simple and quite tasty. The updated version will be reissued in ninety days.
CI: What is your traditional Thanksgiving special?
ND: We do the traditional turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, fresh rolls, and of course, any sides’ people may want. We do plantain mash potatoes; even turnip mash potatoes, and pumpkin pies.
CI: What is your opinion about organic ingredients?
ND: I love organic ingredients, we are a farm to table restaurant, and we have a lovely farmers’ market across the street every Saturday.
CI: What are some of your delicious desserts?
ND: Coconut Cake, Peach Cobbler, Banana Pudding, Apple Cobbler, Pear-Cranberry Cobbler; and sometimes, we do Blueberry Cobblers, Blueberry-Peach Cobblers, and I like our Cherry Pie—too.
CI: How do you stay in shape with the aroma of tasty food at your fingertips?
ND: I run around a lot!
CI: Thank you, Ms. Darden.
Additionally, the restaurant has a catering and event planning business. Catch it if you can at www.spoonbreadinc.com and the cookbook: Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family by Norma Jean Darden and Carole Darden.