When it comes to food, I like to call myself a bit of an explorer, but nothing satisfies my hunger like a nice juicy burger. At the end of August my blogger bud Mary, of Mary in Manhattan informed me that she was organizing a blogger meet-up aptly called “Burgers & Bloggers”, and in true Andrea fashion, I agreed to be a part of it, without even knowing the location. Once the date was set, I was all about it. The location of our meet up? The newly opened Harlem Shake location in East Harlem, more affectionately known as El Barrio, reflecting the majority Latino residents.
We met up in the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th, on quite possibly one of the hottest days of the season. I was running a little bit behind as weekend subway service is always a hassle because of construction and detours, but I managed to make it in the last hour, and get the lowdown on the restaurant and its unique menu items and decor.
Like its West Side counterpart on W. 124th St & Lenox Ave., the new restaurant is decorated to evoke the diner/ice cream parlor style of yesteryear, featuring a bevy of seating options by the bar, large booths, and smaller tables and chairs.
Staying true to the neighborhood, the main dining area hosts a “Wall of Fame” of autographed photos of some of your favorite people, and a wall of Afros. When you turn the corner to head to the restroom, there is one entirely decorated with Jet Magazine “wallpaper”, and the other covered in all of the covers of Marvel’s Luke Cage comic book.
At our booth, a range of 45 records were placed in the center, I believe to be used as coasters. It freaked me out a little because as an audiophile, the music picks were splendid and the vinyl was still in very good condition to play, but I digress. Now that you have a picture and feel of the space, let’s get to the food!
Unique to the El Barrio location is the “Poppin Parcha” milkshake, made with passionfruit to evoke a sweet Latin flavor. This is the first thing I consumed upon entering the restaurant, and I am happy that I did. Passionfruit is known to be incredibly sweet and tart in recipes, so I was somewhat skeptical at first, but once I took a sip I was greeted by really balanced flavors; not too sweet or sour with a hearty texture. I will say, the milkshake was pretty filling, so I was not able to eat ALL THE FOOD, but I will show you photos.
Above, you see a small selection of the eats of the afternoon. I was told by Mary that in the two-hour span of hosting the event, the servers brought out just about every item on the menu, so I had lots to choose from. If we start in the center and work counterclockwise, you see the signature pulled peril sandwich, original fries (they have 5 varieties), “White Chick” sandwich which is a fried chicken cutlet with pickles & creamy slaw, “El Spicy Perro” which is a beef hot dog topped with spicy mango relish, melted Oaxaca cheese & crushed hot Doritos, the “Harlem Classic” burger, and one of the melts (I believe the Fatty Melt).
Let’s talk about El Spicy Perro as it was the only thing (aside from some truffle fries and tostones) that I was able to eat after my milkshake. I am a pretty simple being when it comes to food. First, I love all things delicious. Second, I am partial to anything with tropical flavors because of my roots. This dog has both.
Although a little bit difficult to eat because of the layers of goodness, El Spicy Perro is the perfect hot dog for the adventurous who yearn for variants in flavor and texture. The Oaxaca cheese is very plain, but adds a smooth, chewy layer, the Doritos add crunch and a mild spice, and the mango relish ties it together with sweetness and herbaceous quality from the cilantro. I do believe this dog was delicious, but I would have preferred the dog to be a bit more savory, or for the mango salsa to have a kick of habanero pepper to round it all out.
My trip up North to Harlem was well worth it, and I thank Mary for having me and being a gracious host! All of my fellow bloggers were super chill and friendly, and actually ate the food after all the photos and Instagram opps. Show them some love on Instagram, all of their handles are below.
Harlem Shake on the East Side is open 7 days a week, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 11 AM – 11 PM. With the majority of menu items priced under 10 bucks, you can eat good on a budget. Be sure to stop on by, and be prepared to not leave hungry!
Harlem Shake El Barrio
2162 2nd Avenue (@ East 111th Street)
New York, Ny 10029
*All photos courtesy of Mary Apesos of MaryInManhattan.com