Sylvia Woods


by Robin D. Stone, July 01, 2013

Sylvia Woods

Pork was removed from the collard greens and turkey stock replaced pork stock. The restaurant also offers a vegetarian version of the dish. Grilled foods and green salads have been added to the menu. And along with other New York City restaurants, Sylvia’s has eliminated trans fats from its food preparation. “It was a challenge,” says Crizette Woods, the youngest Woods sibling, 47, who serves as comptroller. “Mommy said,  ‘Nobody’s coming here for a salad.’ But we knew some customers couldn’t come anymore because they were on strict diets. We changed the way we cooked. Less sodium, greens without ham hocks. We made it taste just as good but healthier.” As the restaurant approaches its 51st anniversary in August, the Woods siblings are looking toward the future. Van, who is known as the visionary, considers possibilities for their prime real estate: “Commercial space … condos, maybe even a hotel. But first and foremost, it will be a restaurant.”

They Give Back
The restaurant recently hosted Joy Degruy, Ph.D., author of  Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, for a provocative lecture on race and culture. About 50 people turned out at Sylvia’s Also Lounge, the affiliated lounge on the corner, to hear the Portland State University professor and support her book. The family also continues its tradition of providing educational scholarships in honor of patriarch Herbert Woods. And every August, they host a celebration featuring a free breakfast buffet.

They’re All About Family
It’s a Sunday at Sylvia’s. A gospel singer works the room, and the place fills quickly. Manager Kendra Woods, one of Kenneth’s daughters, is in charge today. The legacy continues: Seven of the 18 Woods grandchildren are in the business. A Japanese tourist dining solo, translation book in hand, struggles to navigate the menu. He points to pictures, smiles and nods. The waitress, a law student catching shifts as she awaits her bar exam results, nods back and jots down his order. When his fried chicken and waffles arrives, he smiles and digs in. Just like Mr. Henry, he feels welcome here, too.

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