Black History Month has passed, but it’s not too late to pay tribute to two of the towering contributions of African Americans to the nation’s culture: jazz and soul food. You will find both — the latter with a touch of refinement — on the menu at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. which feeds the spirit as well as the soma.
An express elevator whisks you up to the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center, to a room that has roughly the shape of a grand piano. The walls are fitted out with honey-colored wood and adorned with black-and-white photos of jazz luminaries, among them John Birks Gillespie himself. Along the “keyboard” side is a wall of windows, which afford a panoramic sweep of Central Park and the skyline beyond, and below these is the bandstand. This comes alive presently with the stylings of one combo or another affiliated with the Jazz at Lincoln Center program.
You are handed a menu, the cover of which has a rendering of Dizzy’s signature bent trumpet. Inside you will find the likes of Opelousas oxtail toast, the shreds of meat moist and warmth-giving from a long, slow braise. It arrives in the company of a grilled sourdough baguette.
Creole catfish stew unites tender lengths of the fried fish with disks of andouille and chunks of tasso ham. The solids are immersed in a savory broth that is redolent of peppers and okra. You can at your discretion add heat to the dish with a few judicious shakes from the bottle of “Hot Katchkie” sauce you will find on your table. (If the name sounds Yiddish, that’s because it is: It was created for Dizzy’s by Liz Neumark, the founder and CEO of Great Performances, the catering company that operates Dizzy’s kitchen.)
The kitchen has a way with fish. When black sea bass is available, they sear it just long enough to crisp the skin, the sweet flesh beneath falling into snowy tufts at the gentlest prodding of your fork. It arrives on a foundation of stewed butter beans and winter kale, studded with tasso and andouille.
The menu lists Louisiana BBQ shrimp and grits as one of the main course offerings, but here the house sells itself short. Order it and you are presented with a pair of sweet and meaty giant prawns with the heads on. You’ll need to go in with your hands to get the most out of this tribute to coastal cuisine.
Desserts run the gamut from the simple — a “turtle” sundae of vanilla gelato, hot fudge, and butterscotch, dappled with crispy praline — to the sublime: A decadent marjolaine cake comprised of many repeating paper-thin layers of almond sponge, chocolate ganache, and hazelnut buttercream, the entirety soaked in cognac.
There are two seatings for the music — one at 7:30, one at 9:30 — but I advise arriving unfashionably early to give the food the attention it deserves.
Some half dozen subway lines and as many bus routes converge on Columbus Circle, making Dizzy’s easily accessible by public transportation, as well of course as by cab, car, Uber and so on. The only musically correct way to reach the club, however, is to take the A train.
Price range: $11 to 17 for starters, $21 to $30 for main courses, and $9 to $15 for dessert.
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at at 60th St., 5th floor, 212-258-9595.