Melba's Restaurant Is a West Harlem Gathering Place With Good Vegetarian Options

Chef's vegetable frittata, home fries and grits at Melba's Restaurant | Tara Mahadevan
Chef's vegetable frittata, home fries and grits at Melba's Restaurant | Tara Mahadevan

The Veggielante is on a mission to spread the word about places to order good meatless grub. Check out this week's pick.

Destination: Melba's Restaurant (300 West 114th Street, 212-864-7777)

Neighborhood: West Harlem

Cuisine: American Comfort Food

Overview: From a young age, Harlem native Melba Wilson was surrounded by the art of cooking: first, in her Grandmother Amelia's kitchen, and then at the renowned Sylvia's restaurant, also located in West Harlem. As a gesture to her community, Melba opened Melba's Restaurant in 2005; she wanted to create a space for the people of her neighborhood to eat and congregate. She's been successful: on the weekends, the restaurant is packed with patrons waiting to be served classic American comfort food. Melba hasn't forgotten her vegetarian patrons either, and she presents a wealth of vegetarian options on both her brunch and dinner menus.

Highlights: Before ordering, our waiter brought us a homemade raisin biscuit, served with butter and strawberry jelly. Though not piping hot from the oven, the biscuit was soft, and the raisins gave it that little extra sweetness.

Since the brunch menu was the only option available and Melba's was out of veggie burgers, we opted for the chef's vegetable frittata ($8.95), which comes with your choice of home fries, grits, or french fries -- we chose home fries.

The frittata featured tomato, mushroom, bell pepper, zucchini, and squash, and it had clearly been made with care -- it was neither too salty nor too chewy, traits that plague lesser versions of this dish. But the home fries were a home run: a combination of russett and sweet potatoes, the intermingling of sweet and savory played off each other nicely, enhanced by the addition of sweet peppers and onion. We added the plain grits for an extra $3, and found them worth the money: The grits were nicely creamy and well-seasoned.

Raisin biscuit at Melba's Restaurant | Tara Mahadevan
Raisin biscuit at Melba's Restaurant | Tara Mahadevan

If eggs are not your thing, there are a number of other vegetarian dishes on Melba's brunch and dinner menus, including Melba's spring rolls ($6.95), Melba's cinnamon raisin French toast ($7.95) and tres macaroni and cheese ($13.95).

Melba's serves brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m on Saturdays and Sundays. From Monday through Friday, the restaurant is only open for dinner, from 5 to 11 p.m.




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