Norma Jean Darden’s 5+ Best Places to Enjoy the Holidays in Harlem, Upper Manhattan

Food and fashion maven Norma Jean Darden, of Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too, shares where she shops, dines, and visits during the holidays uptown.

Kelly Moffitt
November 22, 2021

Aren’t we lucky that food and fashion maven Norma Jean Darden chose Morningside Heights as home for her delectable comfort food dining establishment Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too

As the holidays approach, Columbia Neighbors decided to reach out to the former Wilhemina model and best-selling cookbook author to get her perspective on where to eat, buy gifts, and generally take in the spirit of the holidays in upper Manhattan. 

Where are your favorite spots to take in the holiday spirit in upper Manhattan?

Riverside Church

I am very fond of old mansions and colonial homes, so I would have to say my favorite spots are the Morris Jumel Mansion, Alexander Hamilton's home, and I love the grandeur of Riverside Church and The Cathedral of St. John the Divine — peaceful and spiritually inspiring. Also, you must have trees and grass, so Morningside Park and Central Park are great joys all lit up with holiday lights.

Where are your favorite spots to shop in Harlem/Upper Manhattan for holiday gifts? 

I find The Brownstone on 125th St. intriguing with many unique items that are one-of-a-kind. I also love shopping with small businesses like Chequita Jackson's exquisite handmade cards, which she hand-creates for the holiday season or special occasions and can be found here on 110th St.

Any hidden gem restaurants people should stop into this holiday season?

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too

Yes! Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too! And Lolo's Seafood Shack, which is located on 116th and has the best soft shell crab sandwich. I always feel like I am on vacation in the Caribbean every time I go there.  

There is also JJ Johnson's FIELDTRIP, which features his famous one-bowl meals. There is The Edge, located on Edgecombe Ave. and known for jerk tacos and sorrel drink. 

Finally, take the time to stop over at Lenox Ave. for a cocktail at Marcus Samuelson's Red Rooster for a great treat. 

What is your favorite dish on the menu at Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too? Or a dish that brings back the best memories?  

The Miss Mamie's Sampler. It is a smorgasbord of many delights that are featured at Spoonbread and conjure up many beautiful memories of my childhood and allow our customers to taste six delectable items on one plate.

Who are you most thankful for in our community? 

We love all of our neighbors here in Harlem. They maintain our beloved Harlem and support all of our local small businesses and have gotten us through the hardest times of the doldrums of the pandemic we are currently facing.