It’s hard to believe that Harlem Shake is new. A steady stream of people lined up at the old-school counter to order, then sat by the vinyl-covered booths like regulars: this restaurant looked as if it’s been serving griddled burgers and hand-spun shakes to Harlem’s locals for decades.
Pick from an assortment of regional sodas. Consider Vernor’s Ginger Ale, Mexican Coke, and Dublin Cherry Lime Soda. Skip the kale & chickpea Caesar salad, and get the chopped chickpea & lentil (it’s smart to prepare for heavier fare with something light).
For the burgers, choose the classic. The Harlem Classic may be a bit overcooked and it might taste better with caramelized onions, but it is a structural genius. A slice of cheese is melted between two smashed-style Pat La Frieda beef patties, as if it were a filling. The custom-blend patties come on a toasted Martin’s potato roll. Take advantage of free extras and ask for more special sauce, onions, and pickles.
Another option is the veggie burger with cheese, which is a house-made burger made of vegetables, grains, and nuts. Don’t worry; it is actually a good vegetarian burger. For more spice, try the Hot Mess, which is a classic burger with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, American cheese, and smoky chipotle mayo.
A notable non-burger item is the Sonoran Dog, which is a deep fried bacon-wrapped hot dog with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, chipotle mayo, and onions. Who can resist anything bacon-wrapped? I would also recommend the classic fried chicken sandwich, but I bit into a bone on the first bite!
As for sides, ask for the jerk fries topped with jerk mayo. Its umami, or savoriness, reminds me of Japanese takoyaki. The crispy jerk fries is one of the Harlem Shake’s best offerings, along with the thinly sliced dill-garlic pickle slices.
The milkshakes are hand-made and made with New York Organic Valley whole milk and organic Blue Marble ice cream. The red velvet is topped with cupcake crumbs from Toni’s, a bakery right across the street. The peanut butter shake had olive-shaped lumps, and the salted caramel needed more salt. The slightly grainy texture is apparent when eaten with a spoon, but not when it’s sipped. Stick with the vanilla or chocolate milkshake, or go for the crisp watermelon cooler instead.
Despite some disappointments, quite a few menu items are worth the trip. Because Harlem Shake values quality ingredients and brings the new and old of Harlem together, I have a feeling that it will remain a lasting addition to the community.