The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Harlem Restaurant Named Best New Eatery in the Country by Esquire Magazine

By Gustavo Solis | October 14, 2014 5:25pm | Updated on October 17, 2014 4:47pm

HARLEM — One of the neighborhood's recent culinary additions got a huge boost on Tuesday when Esquire magazine named it the country's best new eatery.

The Cecil, a year-old restaurant on the corner of West 118th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, will celebrate the honor with a party Tuesday at 8 p.m.

“I’m speechless at the moment,” chef JJ Johnson said. “This is something you dream of as a kid when you’re in culinary school.”

To win the distinction, The Cecil beat out restaurants all over the country including Brooklyn’s Take Root, which was awarded a Michelin Star earlier this year, he said.

Their menu is a "study of the African Diaspora," and takes elements from Brazilian, Caribbean, West African, European and Asian cuisine, Johnson said.

It's a study he takes seriously. Last year, he was in Ghana for almost a month learning different techniques from local chefs.

The menu features udon noodles, jerk golden snapper, wagyu rib burger, feijoada, gumbo and egg rolls.  Appetizers range from $8 to $14 and entrees are between $20 and $33.

Part of the reason The Cecil won the award was because it brings diverse residents of the neighborhood together, wrote Esquire restaurant editor Josh Ozersky.

"Very rich, very white grandees with $3 million condos go there and, so do middle-class blacks who have lived in Harlem for decades," he wrote. "Asian-American people eat there, and Hispanic people and grad students and he-men—everybody, more or less. Go in, even on a Tuesday, and the place hums with happiness."

Johnson, who grew up in the Poconos and now lives in Harlem, takes extra pride in the fact that most of the staff is made up of people from Uptown Manhattan and The Bronx. 

"We really cook from the heart every day," he added.