How It Started: The Harlem Shake Story

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We’re the only award-winning burger joint where retro revival fans can immerse themselves in authentic Harlem.

Our Founder, Jelena Pasic, first visited Harlem in 2003. Charmed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the neighborhood, Jelena found herself returning again and again.

She soon became a true Harlem regular.

With each visit, Jelena felt an increased connection to Harlem’s rich history and its communal flair, thanks in part to her own small-town Croatian roots, which instilled in her a strong sense of local pride and a passion for tradition.

As a result, Jelena fell completely in love with Harlem’s people, its architecture, and its many cultural treasures.
Inspired by her personal bond with this special corner of NYC, Jelena began to dream of opening a neighborhood diner. But, as her dream turned into reality, she wanted to make sure the area wouldn’t be adversely affected by her business.

Working diligently, she developed a plan for a dining experience that would pay homage to Harlem’s singular history and capture the spirit of the region––all realized through careful design, authentic décor, and an ongoing reciprocal relationship with the community.

And Harlem Shake was born.

Since opening its doors in 2013, the restaurant has become a hit not just with locals, but with celebrities, politicians, and international travelers alike. Folks worldwide now know they can step inside Harlem Shake for burgers, milkshakes, and all-around good times…the Harlem way!

About Harlem Shake

About Harlem Shake

Harlem Shake Serves

From our burgers made with custom blend Pat LaFrieda patties, NY-style, all-beef hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and grilled cheese/melts, to our entrée-size salads, sides and handmade shakes featuring Blue Marble Ice Cream, we use only the highest-quality, all-natural ingredients. Harlem Shake offers an extensive selection of beer and wine including eight draught beers, specializing in local choices.

Harlem Shake Represents

Our old school interior reflects Harlem’s culture and community. The “Wall of Fame” is crowded with over 200 autographed headshots of celebrities including P.Diddy, Asap Rocky, Maya Angelou, Remy Ma, and Janelle Monae. The “Wall of Fro” shows off the fabulous afro hairstyles of our customers. Our restroom walls showcase hundreds of vintage JET Magazine covers. Shannon Thorton, the original “Miss Harlem Shake” is displayed as a life-size moving photo. Yearly our customers vote on a new Mr. or Miss Harlem Shake from the Harlem community. To learn more visit our Miss/Mr. Harlem Shake page. Harlemcam, the only 24/7 public live cam in Harlem is located at our flagship. It captures what’s happening on the street in real time.
Despite the arduous decades of economic and civil strife that followed, the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance helped sustain a vibrant, thriving community, and has since inspired the current “New Renaissance,” marked by top-quality dining, nightlife, entertainment, shopping, and lodging options to match any cosmopolitan area in the world.

Harlem Shake Gets Respect

Harlem Shake was featured in amNewYork, Black Enterprise, Bloomberg, BonAppetit, CBS -TV, Cosmopolitan, Crain’s New York Business, Eater, Edible, Elle CROATIA, Food & Beverage Magazine, Food Republic, Fodors, Forbes, Gotham,  Gothamist, Hot 97.1, The Infatuation, National Geographic Traveler, New York Magazine, NY Amsterdam News, New York Daily News, The New York Times, New York Post, Reader’s Digest, Refinery29, Serious Eats, Tasting Panel, Time Out New York, Time Out New York KIDS, Thrillist, Travel Magazine,  The Spruce Eats, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Where Traveler, WPIX-11,  WNYW – Fox 5, Yahoo, Zagat  and many more media outlets. 

Our Leadership

Jelena Pasic

After building her family’s restaurant business for 11 years, Jelena recognized the Harlem market for great burgers and shakes was woefully underserved. This led to the birth of Harlem Shake, which was founded in 2012 and officially opened in 2013. Today, she has over 20 years of restaurant experience under her belt and currently oversees strategy, finance, HR, culinary, community involvement, and marketing strategies for Harlem Shake.

Emil Radoncic

Emil discovered his professional passion in the restaurant industry and built his career working with steakhouses and fine-dining establishments such as Wolfgang’s, Sparks, and Peter Luger Steakhouse . He co-founded Harlem Shake with Jelena in 2012, and currently oversees company systems, procedures, and protocols.

Partner, Social Media
Dardra Coaxum

DarDra is Harlem born and raised: an embodiment of the neighborhood’s prideful spirit. Her spirit stems from the culture and diversity of the people in Harlem, as well as the history behind the city. She currently oversees social media, design for new locations, and seasonal decor. You can often find her in the Park Slope location where she leads customer relations.

Harlem Shake is not a 100% Black-owned restaurant; we have Black owners as well as White owners of Harlem Shake. We have always believed in being inclusive through our hiring practices from our PR and social media company to food stylists, photographers and videographers, and our hard-working staff members.As we continue to grow our brand we are diligently looking to increase ownership opportunities for Black/Brown people that believe in our brand, messaging, and most importantly our never-ending spirit of inclusiveness.

Our Store Managers

District Manager
Camisha Louis

Purchasing Manager
Pedro Ramirez Navarrete

Store Manager - Harlem
Arturo Villeda

Our Values

Respect Individuality

At Harlem Shake, we welcome what makes you unique. Our restaurant is a safe harbor of self-expression, where everyone can rejoice in their individual character traits––so long as everyone is able to respect their neighbors.

Good Times Only

Harlem Shake brings friendly service and a welcoming vibe to all our visitors. Inside our doors, the only times we have are good times. If you don’t leave with a smile, we haven’t done our job right.

Take Care of One Another

Harlem Shake is proud to be deeply entrenched in the surrounding community. We hire predominantly within Harlem itself, and we’re committed to supporting a variety of local cultural institutions, youth organizations, and nonprofits through charitable giving.


Harlem Supports

Our hiring policy is to hire members of the Harlem community; nearly 65% of our staff resides from the east to west side of Harlem. As a part of the village of Harlem it's important we collaborate with our community businesses and nonprofit organizations. We support our neighbors at African-American Day Parade, Black Ink, Cultured Movement, Harlem Business Alliance, Greater Harlem Coalition, Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem Eat Up, Harlem Haberdashery, Harlem Run, heartforharlem, Mama Foundation for the Arts, Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, The Laundromat Project, MMPCIA, Power of You Teens, NYC Health & Hospitals/Harlem, Trinity Harlem Church, The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York, Inc., United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and many others.

Proud Members of

Greater Harlem
Chamber of Commerce
Harlem Business
Harlem Park
to Park
NYC & Co.
Did you know that our annual Miss (or Mister) Harlem Shake winner gets to pick a Harlem non-profit organization of their choice to be gifted $500 on their behalf?
1 win