The Skeptical Diner: Harry’s Food and Cocktails

At the invitation of a friend, I recently headed out to Harry’s Food and Cocktails on Washington Avenue. It’s a big place (it picks up where the defunct Nochee left off) and it smacks of attitude. But was there a soul beneath its flashy design (ala the Town Talk Diner) or merely a carefully-honed business concept (ala, say, Applebee’s)…?

Our experience was quite mixed, so it’s probably best to break this down to some very concrete pros and cons and then stagger toward a conclusion.


An amazing Grain Belt chandelier This thing contains hundreds of bottles, and appears to stretch a solid ten feet down from the ceiling.

Saltines You get a whole basket of Saltine crackers at your table. I love these things! I probably ate about 14 crackers. There’s probably a really good review to be written about how impossibly great Saltines actually are, an idea that rarely comes up because they’re about as fancy as tap water.

The Grain Belt / Jim Beam boilermaker Pretty tasty at $4.50, and it’s the first thing listed on the drink menu. Respect.

The Plowman’s Platter At $14, it’s a large but pricey charcuterie plate. But while it doesn’t look like much, the selection of cheese, crusty bread and meat was impeccably balanced. Both hearty and smart; quite a combo.


Saltines My friends were not nearly as amused by the crackers, which subbed in for a proper bread basket.

The entrees Our group ordered four different things, and all — including a burger, pot roast, rib-eye steak and salad — were some combination of “decent” and “meh.” None were cheap, and all were essentially what you’d expect to get at a hotel restaurant catering to business travelers with generous expense accounts. I did not, for this particular meal, have a generous expense account, so the cost was less than entertaining. It’s probably too much to demand imagination when it comes to doing a pot roast, but I would’ve settled for it being properly tender.

The desserts They’re eight dollars a pop. For eight bucks, I’d like to see more than apple crisp (which we didn’t order) or chocolate pudding accompanied by five eerily turd-like miniature brownies.

The whole frickin’ attitude A Counter Intelligence piece on Harry’s suggested that it was intended as a loving tribute to the hard-working grandfather of co-owner Dwight Bonewell. If memory serves, however, the top of the menu reads something like this: “In 1904, Harry was born to privation in a house in St. Paul… blah blah blah, whatever.” That sort of sniggering faux-old school atmosphere seemed to pervade the entire restaurant; it felt like a mockery, not a tribute, and while there were hints at the kind of unpretentious Midwestern charm and quality that this place should have possessed, it never truly followed through.

Ultimately, the bill was just far, far too high for the nature and quality of the food provided. For a rollicking drink-swilling Midwestern food-scarfing experience, you can go somewhere like Town Talk or Buster’s on 28th; there’s no need to blow the month’s grocery budget at Harry’s.

9 Comments so far

  1. Bill K (unregistered) on November 5th, 2007 @ 10:03 pm

    I took my parents there when they were in town. We had a great meal and everyone really enjoyed it. I thought the food was pretty good as did everyone else in my party.

  2. Mark (unregistered) on November 6th, 2007 @ 10:10 am

    I also had a so-so experience with Harry’s. I was excited to try the poutine – the French Canadian version of french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds – and it was tasty, but ridiculously expensive at something like $12.

  3. lauren (unregistered) on November 6th, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

    yes — I too have had a so-so experience at Harry’s. The food was tasty, but over priced for my budget. Our server was definitely pushy and had an attitude!!

  4. Erica M (unregistered) on November 6th, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

    I was excited to try the poutine

    I didn’t know there was a place to get poutine in town. I’ve always thought that a poutine stand would be very successful downtown or in Dinkytown at bar time.

  5. James Norton (unregistered) on November 6th, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

    I would love to see Minneapolis get like 30 more street stands of all shapes, sizes and culinary/ethnic persuasions, poutine included. Somebody in government should get on that.

  6. ranty (unregistered) on November 7th, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

    I’m pretty sure I recall someone getting food poisoning from Harry’s recently… so that has kept me away from the place.

    The chandelier sounds cool though. Maybe I should check it out just for drinks.

  7. Mark (unregistered) on November 8th, 2007 @ 11:22 am

    I have eaten at Harry’s several times and the variety of burgers that I have had there have been absolutely top-notch fantastic. Unfortunately, they have removed several of them Espana (Manchego & Paprika), Gourmet (Guyere and morels) and the Dara (can’t remember but it was great). I also really liked the meatloaf. However, everything is WILDLY overpriced.

  8. ZenRhino (unregistered) on November 9th, 2007 @ 10:09 pm

    The GM of this place used to run a very nice bar in KC (named Harry’s Bar & Tables, a coincidence I’m told).

    Same sort of intended clientele — your upscale business expense account types.

    Unfortunately, instead of coming off as swanky and comfortably decadent, Harry’s (in Mpls) is just brassy and expensive and not nearly as warm.

    Really a shame.

  9. EILEEN (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

    I ate there and felt like it was very high quality, nice ambiance and very affordable. All of this with free parking downtown, you can’t beat it.

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