My boyfriend and I moved just off 145th St about three months ago and we've been meaning to go to Margie's Red Rose Diner ever since. Saturday, after a day of chores with Food TV's bbq marathon running in the background, we were desperate for a double dose of cholesterol slathered in bbq sauce. So, we went and it was the most heart warming dining experience I can remember.
We walked through the back porch-style screen door into an empty small dining room with 2 booths, a table for 12, 4 counter stools and a jukebox. Everything is red and plastic roses add extra flare. We weren't sure if they were open but Margie herself came out from the kitchen to assure us she was. Aside from a delivery boy, Margie single handedly runs the operation - at least as far as we could tell - and serves 3 meals a day.
The dinner menu is standard comfort fare: fried chicken, bbq ribs/chicken, meatloaf, fried fish, baked mac & cheese, collards, etc. I had the fried chicken (which is reputedly the best thing on the menu) and my boyfriend had the bbq ribs, both with collards and mac & cheese.
After Margie got our dinner going she put 4 quarter in the jukebox and told us to pick something out. She also asked us if we'd like some salad while we waited. We got our own drinks from the cooler. By then we didn't care what the food tasted like because we were so in love with Margie. She's like the down-home southern grandma you never had.
When Margie brought the food she made sure three times we didn't need more salad or some bread. The food was wonderful. The chicken was fried to order - I got to pick which parts I wanted - and oh so good! The skin was barely dredged in flour but it was the crispiest I've ever had. And so flavorful it didn't even need salt. The bbq ribs had been roasted in the oven and were slathered in a sweet bbq sauce. The mac & cheese was the stuff of your childhood dreams - I think it was a mix of processed cheese and real cheddar. And although I've never purchased a piece of processed cheese in my life it really made the mac & cheese great. The collards were good too. I didn't detect any pork fat in them, but they were tasty.
For dessert we shared a large slice of sweet potato pie. I'd never had it before and can't wait to go back for another. The crust was heavy, but flaky. (Anybody know what kind of fat Margie uses in her crust?)
Through out the meal, folks came in to pick up take-out and kids came to buy (for pennies)zip-lock bags of seasoned crab claws Margie had sitting out front. Everyone greeted us before calling back to the kitchen for, "Miss Margie!" I've never been anywhere friendlier in NYC.
On our way out we asked Margie what time she opens for breakfast. "Oh, I get here a 5:00am. You just call me and I'll have your breakfast ready for you to take to work." (Since Margie opens so early she closes around 8 or 9pm. But she said if she knows you're coming she'll stay open.) As my boyfriend said, she'd probably make you a sack lunch too! We plan to go back next weekend for some eggs, grits, fish hash and biscuits.
Make sure to use the bathroom just so you can squeeze past the stove and check out the ancient cast iron pot bubbling with fried chicken.
And the best part? The bill was $20.00 exactly.
PS - Margie's is featured in the film "Finding Forrester." I haven't seen it, but I'm renting it this weekend.