What’s old is new is, well, old. The beat up barn board wall fixture, the boxcar typefaces screen printed on boxes like that restaurant just got off a stage coach in Wyoming circa 1887. Bars, coffee houses, breweries, and restaurants are over saturated with heritage, vintage, the whole “Est. four years ago but looks 100” aesthetic that screams “We’re authentic! Snapchat here!”
For a long time Harmony Lunch, actually established over 80 years ago, stood as place that wasn’t trendy, that wasn’t trying to be something. It was just a good burger and milkshake for a good price.
Then in October 2016 it closed. Walking by on that auspicious day you would have seen a lineup outside of old timers, locals, and fans queing to grab one last pork burger before they were gone, only to be a fat soaked, cheese melted memory recalled at the smell of frying onions. Dramatic? Maybe, but Harmony Lunch was an uptown icon. As the city changed, it stood still.
So when it was announced that instead of closing for good, new owners would be reopening Harmony, you could colour me skeptical. I could see it like a revelation from the hipster Gods, vintage menus with trendy fonts, Harmony branded lunch boxes ready to hold leftover pork and beans for your break working the docks [insert name of your startup here].
Finally sitting down, in the newly renovated space I was relieved to pickup a basic printed menu. Nothing fancy. Just a list of diner staples with some twists on the restaurant’s previous faire. The onions are still being fried on the flat top griddle and, apart from the prices, a new garage door, and some slight changes in decor the place is pretty much the same. Was this a trick? Was a dude with an ironic mustache going to pop out and wait for us to ask him if we could order, because that’s what they do in Brooklyn now?
No — it was just a nice guy, very eager to please. In fact throughout the meal several staff members checked in with us despite the place being pretty busy.
They’re covering something up. There’s a catch, I thought. So I put the place to the test. Harmony burger, fries, vanilla milkshake, and coffee. The milkshake came classic diner style with the leftovers in the metal mixer. The coffee came with refills. The Harmony burger came with fried onions, melted cheese and a bun that reminded you of the burgers you ate after baseball practice when you were 10.
The only downside is the price increase, which now is comparable to any other pub uptown. Part of the charm of the old place was you could get a burger, fries, and a bottomless coffee for under $10, but I doubt there’s many places left anywhere with that kind of price point. One upside is you can add a classic pork burger to your plate for $5.
Look, it’s not the old Harmony Lunch. It’s the new one, and it’s pretty good.