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.”
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.