Pokes and prods aside, I’ve been here twice: once with C a few days removed from opening day and another time with my parents for lunch. On our first visit the place was jam packed, the service was prompt and courteous, and the food was delicious. On my second visit the place was less packed, the service was horrible, and the food, after two trips, was forgettable.
Harper’s is one of the newer additions to the burger and fries scene that has taken downtown Kingston by storm. It’s located a little ways down Princess Street right beside the Sleepless Goat on Princess and Wellington St. It’s owned by the same people who own Le Chien Noir and Atomica’s near the Brock Street Commons but I have to say that I’m still undecided on how I feel about it. I still appreciate their desire to stick to local ingredients and to offer Kingston a higher quality burger, but their flip-floppy restaurant experience is lost on me. Anyways. Enough about my ambivalence and more about the review!
I think this, like our Geneva Crepe Cafe adventure, was a pre-fellowship dinner and we decided to go check it out on a whim (we hadn’t realized that it had opened already). When we entered the place was packed with people and we were lucky to get a seat so quickly. We sat in the middle of the restaurant which gave us kind of a nice view of everyone else eating, but I kind of wished we had gotten a booth. Oh well. As I looked around I noticed the demographic of the patrons, mostly young university students who look the part of the eco-movement. What was nice, though, was also seeing locals out and offering their patronage to Harper’s. I do honestly hope that this place becomes a fixture in downtown Kingston.
The space itself is intimate and dimly lit. I’m feeling mixed about the televisions around the room because while I really like watching Top Chef while I’m eating I feel like it cheapens the place a little bit. I really did like the exposed brick interior and the general decor the restaurant though.
Some cool things that they offer at Harper’s are a kid’s menu, a lunch special, spiked milkshakes, and blue plate dinners (hip diner versions of: fried chicken, salmon filet, and strip steak. Oh how I wish they would do a meatloaf). Harper’s is trying to play the part of trendy diner and after looking through their menu I’m mildly convinced. One thing to highlight is the lunch special which takes place daily between 11.30am-4.30pm, which includes their classic burger, a side of fries, and a fountain drink for $10. Not bad.
what we ordered
(our bad on the pictures…it was REALLY dim in there haha)
C tried one of their shakes (I have never understood her affinity to drinking things like shakes or smoothies while eating…) with her meal. She ordered their chocolate shake ($5 – made from Kawartha Lakes ice cream). It was crazy light (even I drank some!!) and didn’t have as strong as a chocolate flavour as I thought, which was really pleasant.
C ordered their Classic Burger with a side of onion rings, but added cheese and bacon onto her patty ($9.50). The onion rings were so forgettable. I can’t emphasize to you enough how forgettable they were. They were your run of the mill onion rings that you could have gotten from Harvey’s. We were both expecting some kind of fancy thick cut onion rings with panko batter or something. To be entirely honest I like A&W rings waaaaay more than the ones at Harper’s. The burger itself wasn’t bad, it was thick and relatively juicy, although C found it a bit too salty.
I ordered the sliders with a side of their Yukon Gold fries ($12.50 for your choice of three miniature versions of their signature burgers with your choice of side). Now, I’m really big on burgers and I couldn’t decide which veritable taste sensation I wanted to isolate a burger to so I opted for the sliders. I ended up getting: easy (Ontario cheddar, bacon, soya glazed mushrooms, HBB sauce), umami (brie, balsamic candied onions, tamari glazed mushrooms, white truffle aioli), and deluxe (Monterey Jack, avocado, local bacon, roasted garlic-rosemary aioli). I liked a lot about these lil guys. The sliders were a good size, nice variety of ingredients to taste different, and cooked well.
My only complaint was with the presentation of their lettuce, onions, tomato, and pickles. Come on. With all of the thought that went into the ingredient combinations of the burgers, you can’t think of a better way to present it than slicing them together and tossing it on the basket?
3 (out of 5) for food
3.5 (out of 5) for atmosphere
If you had asked me my thoughts after my first visit to Harper’s I would have raved to you about the service and food. But after my second visit I would tone down my zealousness towards it and tell you that it’s totally worth a try with an open mind.
I will probably go back when they (hopefully) switch up their burger menu a little bit or to try their blue plate dinners. Other than that I will be taking my (and C’s probably haha) burger patronage to Five Guy’s Burger and Fries over and over again.