Legendary Harlem restaurant owner Sylvia Woods passed away Thursday at the age of 86. Woods, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died at her Westchester County home a few hours before she set to be presented with an award from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Sylvia’s Restaurant. Family members accepted the award. Woods’ cause of death is unclear.
Sylvia’s opened in 1962, serving classic soul food like fried chicken and corn bread. Woods’ dishes eventually earned her the nickname Queen of Soul Food. Sylvia’s has served numerous celebrities and politicians, including Diana Ross, Bill Clinton, Robert F. Kennedy, Quincy Jones and Muhammad Ali, and inspired Woods to write two cookbooks. Woods retired in 2006.
Woods is survived by her four children with husband Herbert, who died in 2001, as well as 18 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
"We lost a legend today. Generations of family and friends have come together at what became a New York institution,” Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday. "Even as her brand became a nationwide success she never forgot to give back to the community that helped make it all possible."
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