Most of you are quite familiar with the Harlem Shake, a dance craze that went on to become one of this year’s viral internet memes. As the dust settles on the online phenomenon (and you recover from the saturation of videos), you will be happy to associate the name to something else, say food. Imagine a restaurant that celebrates Harlem’s vibrant culture and energy while serving up some delicious comfort food. With today’s opening of Harlem Shake, you have a chance to immerse yourself in a little bit of history while enjoying some savory dishes.
According to owner Jelena Pasic and partners, Harlem Shake has been created to pay tribute to the rich culture and history that personify Harlem. “Our aim is to celebrate the soul of the neighborhood and reinvigorate modern Harlem with a bit of nostalgia and a nod to pop culture,” explained Ms. Pasic. Interior designer and 13-year Harlem resident Dennis Decker has created the space to resemble a dry goods store that was built in the 1800s, converted to a diner in the 1940s, and then run through the latter half of the 20th century.
Everything from retro tables, chairs, and counter stools, the tobacco and water leak-strained tin ceiling, and the two-story tall corner vertical 1970s-era neon sign that reads BURGERS helps to replicate the traditional diner from back in the day. Harlem Shake features a “Wall of Fame” celebrating famous patrons and friends with photos personally signed to the restaurant. The restaurant also features nearly 300 vintage covers of JET magazine hanging on the walls.
Another key element of the décor is “Miss Harlem Shake,” a life-sized lenticular photo depicting Harlem resident and fashion model Shannon Thornton showing off the real Harlem Shake.
A visit to Harlem Shake should start with one of the decadent milkshakes. Using local products, such as Blue Marble ice cream, organic milk from New York Fresh Milk, and peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co., Harlem Shake serves up classic chocolate and vanilla shakes for the purists, as well as red velvet, salted caramel, and peanut butter.
If you are craving an old-school soda pop, Harlem Shake offers a rotating selection of vintage real sugar sodas, including Cheerwine cherry soda and Vernor’s Detroit Ginger ($3.95 each).
Harlem Shake’s menu aims to take you back 50 years with delicious comfort food including burgers and fries. Feast your eyes on the Harlem classic with cheese ($6.95) featuring two Pat la Frieda sirloin patties griddled smashed-style and served with American cheese, onions, pickles, and a special sauce all on a Martin’s potato roll. If you are feeling adventurous consider the Pigskin Classic—a mouthwatering burger topped with crisp fried pork rinds—and the Jerk Fry Burger featuring jerk-seasoned, triple-cooked fries and smoked jerk mayonnaise as toppings.
Harlem Shake also serves the classic patty melt ($7.50), as well as a few unique interpretations including the cherry pepper-bacon melt ($8.50)—grilled cheese topped with spicy pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish. Hot dog lovers will enjoy Harlem Shake’s classic dog ($3.00); however, you can leave your comfort zone and try the Sonoran dog ($5.50)—a deep fried bacon-wrapped hot dog with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, chipotle mayonnaise, and onions.
Vegetarians, have no fear. With its veggieburger with cheese as well as the kale & chickpea Caesar and chopped chickpea & lentil salads ($4.95 small, $7.95 large), Harlem Shake has something for everyone.
Your dining experience would be incomplete without sampling Harlem Shakes’ handcut fries ($3.50). For something unique, consider ordering the jerk fries ($3.95) served with jerk mayonnaise, the chili-cheese fries ($4.95), or the sweet yam fries ($3.95).
As Harlem continues to build and thrive as a community while preserving its history, Harlem Shake’s inviting atmosphere, nostalgic décor, and delicious food will certainly contribute to bringing together the Harlem of the past with the Harlem of the today.
100 West 124th Street
New York, New York 10027