The New York Times said the cause of her death was not disclosed, but she had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease the last few years.
The South Carolina native was the proprietor of Sylvia's Restaurant, a soul-food eatery popular with celebrities, tourists and neighborhood residents alike. She retired when she was 80.
Known as the Queen of Soul Food, the cookbook author died just hours before she was to receive an award from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a reception at Gracie Mansion marking the 50th anniversary of her landmark restaurant, the Times said.
She was predeceased by Herbert, her husband of 57 years, in 2001. She is survived by her sons, Van and Kenneth; her daughters, Bedelia Woods and Crizette Woods; 18 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.