Sunday, 7 July 2013

Haper's Burger Bar

I am going to admit that I wasn't excited for our visit to Harper's Burger Bar... Why? Well, Tonia and I visited Harpers not long after it opened, and we were so disappointed with the food that - in spite of the amazing reviews we were hearing from friends and strangers - we never went back. Here, though, is where I continue my trend of being honest and admit that - here it comes - I was wrong.

Let me tell you a bit more about Harper's before I describe exactly how I know that I was wrong...

Self-described as "Kingston's Local Burger Joint", Harper's is, like many other stops on our adventure, situated in downtown Kingston on Princess Street. It really is nice to see places that are thriving in a downtown that seems to have shifted over the last couple of years to having many empty store fronts; and Harper's really is thriving. Offering a "choose your own adventure" style of burger-dining that allows you to choose appetizers, salads, burger toppings, burger patty (choose from beef, turkey, chickpea, shroom, chicken breast - grilled or spicy fried, wild salmon and lamb!), bun (choose from white, whole wheat, pretzel bun, lettuce-top, vegan and gluten free!) and side (choose from fries, waffle fries, salad, coleslaw - creamy or tangy, poutine on fries or poutine on waffle fries!), Harper's really allows to you be completely in control of your meal for each and every aspect. The only way that they could give you more control is to let you into the kitchen to cook your meal yourself... but if that's what you want, then you might as well stay home, and what fun would that be?!

At first glance, the menu is slightly overwhelming... but - hold on, take your time, and you realize that it is actually really well laid out and makes perfect sense - guiding you through your options right down to the last crumb. The atmosphere, on the other hand, is anything but confusing - in fact, Harper's has a comfortable, modern design that feels open and bright. From exposed brick on the walls to wooden booths with clean lines to hanging light bulbs and coloured glass panels separating customers from the door, each design element is simple, but together, creates a fantastic environment that adds to your dining experience. Harper's has even managed to put a small patio out front - adding to the summer experience for patio lovers. 

The service at Harper's is good. On our night, it wasn't great, but it was good. When we first sat down, one server took our drink order because he happened to be free, and the nice thing was that another server delivered our drinks and they knew where they went. As our friend Karla, who was joining us for dinner stated: "That was very good - there wasn't any 'auctioning off' of drinks!". Such a simple thing if the staff are paying attention, and it was a nice gesture. From there, the service continued to be good - our server was attentive and certainly delivered things in a timely fashion - but the drawback was that she almost seemed too rushed. At the end of the meal, for example, her final sentence (while some were just finishing wiping their mouths with their napkins) was "Anyone for coffee, tea, dessert, bills, how would you like the bills, all separate? Okay!" and she rushed off. Many at our table hadn't even heard her ask and were confused when the bills arrived... but ultimately, not the worst service we've ever had.

Here's what we all decided to order:
Carrie: Deep fried pickles to start (gotta try them everywhere!!), and the smokehouse burger (applewood smoked cheddar, seed to sausage molasses-cracked pepper bacon, crispy onion straws, S. Carolina BBQ sauce) with a chicken burger on a pretzel bun and a side of poutine.

Tonia: Shared my deep fried pickles (although I wouldn't let her have too many!), and ordered the deluxe (monterey jack, local bacon, avocado spread, roasted garlic-rosemary mayo) with a chicken burger on a white bun and a side of onion rings.

Karla: (Thanks for joining us, Karla!) the classic burger (secret sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion) with a beef burger on a white bun and a side of fries. 

Todd: Smokehouse burger with beef burger, pretzel bun and a side of fries with gravy.

Jon: (Thanks for joining us, Jon!) Jalapeño poppers to start, and the Steakhouse burger (brie, sautéed spinach, soya-glazed shrooms, crispy onion straws, green peppercorn mayo) with a beef burger and a side of waffle fries.

The food was very nicely presented - especially the appetizers, which were served in silver cone-shaped dishes that seemed to go on forever and kept us eating much longer than we expected. The burger trays seem like small portions at first glance - but don't feel let down or be confused - you will certainly be full. It is a lot of food.

So why don't I get right to it. The reason that I was wrong - the reason I should have come back sooner and listened to all of the (apparently much more intelligent) people in Kingston who have been raving about Harper's... our scores:

Carrie: 4.75 forks. There were 8 pickle spears - I could only see 6 at first, so the extra 2 were a nice surprise... especially since most restaurants only serve 5-6 - and they were all delicious. Not my favourite in town, but certainly delicious. At first, the fries of my poutine were disappointingly "soggy" or under-cooked, but then I just got into the gravy and cheese curds enough to realize that it was a lighter gravy that had been doused well enough over all of the fries that the crispiness was reduced. The cheese curds were awesome. The burger was phenomenal - my only complaint was that the chicken burger:bun ratio was a little lacking (the bun was bigger than the chicken so some bites were just bun), but the BBQ sauce was amazing and I was surprised to enjoy the crispy onion strings on top. I'm sad I've been missing out.

Tonia: 4 forks. Tonia liked the food - she said it was "good" with a smile. The onion rings were a little bland and the pickles were more doughy than she would have liked, but all in all, Tonia was impressed.

Karla: 4 forks. Karla was somewhat speechless. When I pointed that fact out, she said "not that it was that good, but it was good". Karla especially liked the bun.

Todd: 4.25 forks. Todd's meal was consistent with what he expected - he liked how the burger was built, pointing out that it was easy to eat. Todd also liked his pretzel bun, and he was happy with the portion size - stating that it was the "perfect amount of fries".

Jon: 5 forks. Jon was very happy with his meal, stating that "everything was really good". Jon especially thought that it was nice to have the option of waffle fries (something I hadn't thought much about until he said it - and it's true; many places don't offer waffle fries). He also really enjoyed the poppers - saying that they were just spicy enough... This made me smile because he was sweating as he said it. 

Overall score: 4.4 forks!

And with that, Harper's... All I have to say is, I'm sorry... And really - my apology is as much to myself as it is to you because, since I haven't been coming to eat, I have been missing out on your food as much as you've been missing out on another satisfied customer. I do make this promise, though: now that I know better, I will be sure to visit again. No more silly stubborn rejections. You are officially in my good books, and on my recommendations list.


Check out more about Harper's and their menu by clicking this link.

Harper's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

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