Harry's Cafe (Lakeville, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
There's a trickle-down effect in American dining. Some chef discovers something new, then it becomes trendy, and before long it's being served at every restaurant in town. The menu at Harry's Cafe feels like the final stop on that trickle-down chain. It has a little bit of everything. Remember the "blackened" craze? There's still a Cajun-seasoned burger on the menu at Harry's. Wrap sandwiches made a big splash a few years ago, and Harry's offers several. This is a sound strategy for a restaurant: offer plenty of likable, recognizable fare.
Harry's does some things very well indeed. Often they're at their best when adding their twist to dishes you already know you like. Take the simple club sandwich. Their Lakeville club is a tasty triple-decker sandwich served warm on hearty grilled bread, quixotically cut into three, not four, pieces. It's a fine sandwich, and so big we couldn't finish it.
Everyone at our table liked the shrimp stuffed portabella appetizer: grill-roasted mushroom caps topped with sautéed shrimp, baby spinach, and melted mozzarella, served on a bed of lemon rice. Every ingredient was fresh, and they combined well. We were also pleased with the deep-fried calamari and zucchini appetizers.
For dinner, the broiled walleye platter was tasty, seasoned with lemon, wine, and butter, though we'd like it a little less greasy. The homemade garlic mashed potatoes were slightly lumpy in that good way, done with skin-on potatoes but not enough garlic. The sautéed vegetables, a mix of zucchini and other squash, came in a huge portion.
And that's one thing we can say with certainty about Harry's: the portions are huge. You'll want a take-out box for something, we're sure.
Much on Harry's menu is homemade. We love all the salad dressings, especially the Dijon honey mustard salad dressing. It livened up the otherwise bland chicken walnut salad. The soups are great. Try the potato leek.
Harry's has all the standard lunch sandwiches you're used to: Reuben, cheese steak, barbecued pork, several kinds of chicken, grilled cheese, and portobello mushroom. They serve salmon salad, not tuna. The burgers are fine, and so is the veggie burger, which can be substituted for meat in any of their menu items.
Even though Harry's kitchen does many things pretty well, or even spectacularly, we caught a few missteps. The hand cut fries sounded great, but for some reason they're dipped in batter. And they're not always served as hot as they should be. Perfect fries are so good and easy to make, they should be one of Harry's signature dishes. And that weird off-brand ketchup is just not okay.
But the homemade desserts are wonderful. Good brand-name ice cream has gotten good indeed in the last 20 years, but Harry's homemade vanilla ice cream is spectacular. On the other hand, some of the desserts are garnished with an aerosol topping that isn't whipped cream, and, given how big the desserts are, isn't necessary.
Harry's is both a restaurant and a bar, and the two sections feel separated, even though they're in the same room. It's a large airy room, with red roses and cloth napkins on all the tables. These touches are a fancy counterpoint to the games showing on many televisions.
Atmosphere: Family-friendly sports bar
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