Tillie’s Chicken Shack of Harlem
Today we share this story in celebration of National Chicken Month.
A native of Tampa, Florida, Tillie Eripp, migrated to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to New York in 1928 where she operated a concession stand selling fried chicken at Harry Hansbury’s speakeasy. Increasing demand for her chicken along with some savings led her to move to a storefront space next to the speakeasy. “Once the success of the business occurred she added collard greens, pig tails, black-eyed peas, yams and hogshead,” to the menu. In 1932 she moved to Harlem's famed Jungle Alley located on West 133rd street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues where she opened the Chicken Shack at 237 Lenox Avenue and 121st Street. Jungle Alley contained a number of African American owned clubs that also attracted white musicians and patrons who came to learn more about jazz music and enjoy good food thereafter. The Chicken Shack served hot biscuits and coffee with its fried chicken dinners, “and each customer was permitted as many biscuits as he or she desired.” Later she added spoon corn bread, a variety of vegetables, and salads to the menu. One source claims her place was a favorite eatery of Marcus Garvey. Here is a related corn recipe from the Tillie's Chicken.