The South meets El Barrio at Harley’s Smokeshack & BBQ located on 116th Street and First Avenue. Harley’s brings forth a new culture of food to the neighborhood, and there are two things I believe keep East Harlem’s residents coming back for more – the El Barrio Apricot Margarita and the restaurant’s detailed décor.
The drink menu is an extensive one, ranging from craft beers to sangria, but one of the most popular cocktails on the menu is the El Barrio Apricot Margarita, as mentioned by Jessica Rosario, the manager who has been at Harley’s since the grand opening in December 2011. “Out of all the cocktails we have, I feel like the El Barrio Margarita is on the menu to bring attention to the people of El Barrio. Anyone from here will say ‘Oh, an El Barrio Margarita? Let me try it’,” said Rosario. This cocktail manages to establish a connection between East Harlem residents and the relatively new BBQ joint. The El Barrio Apricot Margarita is not limited to apricot, but has a variety of different flavors, including mango, raspberry, passion fruit and strawberry.
One step into Harley’s Smokeshack & BBQ transports you to an old saloon down in the South. The southern theme of the restaurant was well thought out and is present throughout the entire space, including the restrooms. At the entrance, patrons are greeted with a full wall of southern state license plates, and as they walk further into the restaurant the theme continues to play out. The southern saloon props at Harley’s include, horse shoes, steer head skulls and a life size horse and carriage.
Harley’s prides itself on authentic smokehouse flavors. The meats are smoked for 18-20 hours in the in-house 1000 pound wood smoker. Louis Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Carolina Brisket Sandwich, Louisiana Jambalaya, are some of many Southern BBQ dishes on Harley’s menu. I have visited Harley’s a number of times since the doors opened to neighborhood residents, and the menu items are not traditional dishes one would usually find in East Harlem. “I think this (Harley’s Smokeshack & BBQ) is great for the neighborhood. I feel like a new attraction is good for any neighborhood, especially if it’s out of the norm and unique. If you look around here, there’s only Chinese stores, pizza shops, fast food and Cuchifritos,” said Rosario.