East Harlem / Spanish Harlem, NYC — The only complaint (if I can even call it that) I would ever have about the deservedly popular Harlem Shake on 124th Street and Lenox Avenue is that it's a bit of a trek from the Upper East Side just to get some prime delicious burgers, tastily executed sandwich, and nostalgia-inducing delicious milkshakes.
That that minor (but still worthwhile) inconvenience has been remedied with the opening of Harlem Shake's newest location in East Harlem, just a 10-minute M15 Select Service bus ride from my apartment up on 110th Street and one block over on 2nd Avenue.
This second location not only brings geographical desirability, but some enticing new menu items as well. Always paying tribute to its host neighborhood, many new dishes get inspiration from surrounding El Barrio / Spanish Harlem. A new burger, the Frita Cubana, features an authentically Cuban-style beautifully seasoned pork and beef patty, topped with crunchy shoestring fries. A new sandwich boasts a heaping portion of hearty puled pork pernil, both crispy and tender juicy at parts, rustically aromatic on its own, yet elevated to a lovely rounded balance of flavors with a sweet-ish orange mojo, earthy black beans, and a kicky smooth chipotle mayo.
I couldn't decide which handful I wanted to order; but since I was celebrating there now being two HSs, I decided to enjoy both — with a side of traditionally pleasing tostones (fried plantains).
As expected, the food coming out of the very skilled kitchen hits the spot. Actually, more like the spots — plural — as it appeals to and pleases not just the palate and stomach, but the spirit and soul as well.
And spirit and soul is evident throughout the restaurant, from the comfortably familiar decor to the friendly and engaging staff. A neighborhood friend I bumped into with her family is already a regular, herself a fan of the fried fish sandwich served with tartar sauce and coleslaw.
And in my last unintentional salute to there now being two Harlem Shakes to choose from, I couldn't decide which of two sublime milkshake flavors I wanted, so again, I got both — half peach and half salted caramel.
I call it "The Swirl". (Ask somebody....)