Adventures in Kekeland: Harlem Shake
After spending two hours stuck on the 1 train trying to get to Harlem, and another two working on a paper at a coffee shop I was starving. There was just one problem. I was broke. I had two hours until the show I was supposed to review at the Schomburg Center and ten days until payday and I could not justify spending to my heart’s content at any of the swanky eateries I was passing while taking in the architecture along Lennox Avenue.
I was just about to give in and take a trip to good ol’ White Castle when I spotted Harlem Shake and immediately remembered all the raves I’d heard from friends who lived in the area!
After events at Corner Social or Angel of Harlem I’m rarely ready to do anything but hightail it to Penn Station but tons of people I know swear it’s the perfect place for a post-party binge session.
I decided to find out for myself.
After carving out a place by myself at the counter (getting a table for one on a Sunday afternoon was so not happening) I looked over the menu.
I knew I was taking a risk by ordering a chicken sandwich at a place known for its burgers.
It could be flavorless or even worse lethally dry, but I figured no matter what I got it would be better than potentially genetically modified clam strips so I was with it.
While I waited I took in the decor. I knew from the many times I’d walked past that the outside was charming but I was unprepared for the level of cuteness I encountered inside!
Harlem Shake is one of the most unapologetically black spaces I have ever been to in my life!
And if that statement sounds like a lot coming from someone who spent her formative years in Irvington and Newark it’s intended to.
The owners left no stone unturned. The bathroom is decorated with Jet magazines. The walls have signed photographs of everyone from Diddy to Rich Dollaz. Advertisements for lectures on the state of the African diaspora lined the bulletin board. The iced tea had a picture of the rapper on the side of the dispenser for chrissakes!
The staff (who I did not photograph because A. I try to respect people’s privacy and B. the steady flow of annoying kids on skateboards holding up the line by making out and figuring out who owed who what had them really stressed out) were unapologetically black as well. Natural hair and brown skin served me with a smile. The owners make it a point to make sure that 65% of their staff come from the community they profit from a notable pro in Kekeland.
After a bit of a wait I settled in with Rebecca Traister’s “All The Single Ladies” to eat the most well seasoned and moist fried chicken sandwich I had ever had in my life!
I couldn’t believe I had ever thought twice about ordering it. This was not a sandwich it was an experience and as with all worthwhile experience I was truly sad when it was over.
Because I was proud of myself for not overspending I splurged and got a lemonade and a vanilla shake.
Both were sweet and refreshing but it was the sandwich that had me praying a Newark Shake is coming soon.
What You Should Know About
Nearest Parkway Exit: N/A
Parking: hahahahahaha I’m sorry did you say something?
Service: Friendly enough considering the line was nearly out the door but don’t expect a pleasant stream of small talk because busy
Who to Bring: Your homegirl from Brooklyn who considers guys from Harlem to be candidates for long-distance relationships
Decor: The vintage charm is so strong that it immediately makes you think of when rents were dirt cheap and afros were popular the first time
Dress Code: Oversized college sweats wouldn’t be totally out of order but do yourself the favor of pairing a cute graphic tee with some denim shorts in case you spot a cutie
Wait Time: About twenty minutes this spot is a tourist spot in addition to being a neighborhood staple so getting in and out probably isn’t an option. But unlike so many places who get their kind of praise the food is worth the hype.
Selection: The burgers are popular but I'm still dreaming about the fried chicken sandwich.
Insiders Know: That it’s the afterparty go-to
Price: Totally reasonable but if you can’t decide between the lemonade and a milkshake like yours truly you’re looking at closer to twenty bucks than ten