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Heaven found in Harbord Room

So, CHers, thanks for your recs for my birthday dinner this weekend. I gave my SO the shortlist and he chose Harbord Room. We had a reso for 9pm, and the lovely, ambient but happening and buzzing room was definately still buzzing then. Overall the service was attentive but not overly excellent, but the amazing food and even better music was just right, making for a truly special evening.

Loved the wine list and had a time deciding between by the glass or bottles, but in the end we went with a bottle of the Organized Crime Gewurztraminer ($52 i think). the wine mark-ups were a bit much, but i'm a sucker for the Ontario VQA whites.

We started with the composed seasonal salad ($11), which featured heirloom red and yellow beets, a crumble cheese of some, a toasted nut of some kind, and roasted apples, with a balsamic based vinaigrette. Beets are my new favourite things this winter, and this salad was phenomenal - it may have been actually worth $11!

After a few spins of The Boss, New Pornographers, Arctic Monkey, Belle and Sebastien and the other amazing music, our mains arrived. SO had the burger, predictably, which came with a small dish of frites and a small salad fro $14. Equally predicatbly, I had the salmon, which was described as "lightly smoked", accompanied by yukon gold potato/apple pancake with smoked bacon and slow cooked cabbage, and came with heirloom beets and a horseradish dressing on top and shallots underneath ($24). SO said the burger was one of the top 5 he's ever had, topped with a sharp white cheddar and carmelized onions, and the frites, which i sampled amply, were definately up there with the classics - skin-on, kosher slat, thick but not too thick - almost better than swiss chalet. the spicy ketchup and garlic mayo were the perfect sides. my salmon was thick,with a few beets on top, and the shallots cut the horseradish nicely. the potato pancake (rosti pretty much) was sizeable, and the smoked bacon definately added to the flavour. one of the btter salmons i've had this or last year, by far.

i wish we wanted dessert, but at 10:30 pm on the increasingly cold night, we called it an evening after a cup of tea, with the room still humming and parties still arriving. A birthday worth remembering and a meal, not overly priced, great portion sizes, great service, that I'd gladly go back for. Especially in patio season. Heaven indeed!

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Harbord Room
89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

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  1. Phew - and yay! Really glad you loved it. The burger is outstanding. There aren't enough spots in this city that combine a cool vibe with great food - so often it's one or the other. I discovered this place after the summer but I've heard it's a great patio.

    1. Thanks for the great review! This place is on my "must try soon" along with Weezie's.

      1. Thanks for the review LemonLauren - been meaning to check out Harbord Room for quite some time now. Hope to make it out there soon.

        Cheers~!

        1. Glad you had a great night!

          It's one of my favourite spots in the city and we try to get there about once a month. I still champion that burger as the best I've had in the city, and probably anywhere. My sister was in town from the states last month and dragged her there without hyping it and she said it was the best she'd ever had period.

          Also they added a grilled cheese small plate to the menu that we tried on Saturday. It's on a firm bread with walnuts in it, a thick slab of applewood smoked cheddar ooozing out of the sides, and honey to dip it in. I can't begin to tell you how tasty this was, the honey sounds weird but really added to the whole thing. It comes with a small salad that included grapes, grilled pear, and some wallnuts which made for a nice balance.

          5 Replies
          1. re: abigllama

            Hey abigllama - I keep meaning to check out the Harbord Room brunch as I've only been for dinners. I'm assuming your cheddar sandwich was part of their brunch menu. How was the rest of the menu? Was it busy there? Good coffee??? Thanks.

            1. re: peppermint pate

              It is actually on the dinner menu as an appetizer... and I have been trying to recreate it ever since I tried it!

              1. re: Minnow

                Was there for brunch last August. It was fairly mellow and we ate out on the patio in the back. The famous burger is on the menu along with other brunchy stuff. I had the breakfast poutine which was good, but like mary sand said is a bit on the salty side. Other friends had eggs bene and really enjoyed them.

                As far as the grilled cheese, like Minnow said it's on the small plate on the dinner menu. It was priced around $10, it's a bit on the smallish side but super rich. Me and SO split it as a starter and it was perfect. I have no problem paying a little extra for something that enjoyable. I think if it was any bigger it would be like a cheddar and butter brick sitting in your tummy later.

              2. re: peppermint pate

                I've had Brunch at the Harbord Room and I just found it kinda mediocre... For sure the room is beautiful, especially if you sit in the front booth but the food itself is kinda whatever. I agree with the rest of the posters that the burger is one of the best, juicy, succulent etc. My friend had the Breakfast Poutine and we had high expectations but it just tasted salty, and fatty but had no other flavour. Been there for dinner too and eventho we all got different things, everything looked the same with this ubiquitous brown gravy. This grilled cheese that everyone's raving about? Way overpriced for what it was. Tiny too!

              3. re: abigllama

                Second abigllama's recommendation of the Harbord Room hamburger. It's the best burger I can remember eating in Toronto. The fries are great- nice to see a fry that resembles an Ontario chip wagon fry, instead of the trendy frites about town. The home-made ketchup and aioli are a nice touch.

                Also would recommend the Kaffir Collins for a cocktail- interesting flavour twist on a Tom Collins and not nearly as sweet:) Nice to see a place with some innovative cocktails, great food, and service with a sincere smile. Everyone seemed to be smiling and enjoying themselves- not sure if it was just a lucky night, or if it's always like that at the Harbord Room.

                Can't wait to try brunch.

              4. We're planning an office lunch on Friday and I've decided that that's where we're headed. Thanks for the review!

                2 Replies
                  1. re: latoya

                    Oops, never mind... I was looking at the wrong website! My bad.

                1. Thanks for the feedback. My SO is a cheese freak, if we hadn't been fulll/on a budget, I am sure he would have done cheese for dessert. I loved the wine list but would love to try some killer cocktails, too. How are the desserts there?

                  I neglected to mention they also spun some early Killers and some Tegan and Sara. Music matters way too much to me in a resto.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: LemonLauren

                    And the acoustics are decent? The problem I run into with music in some restaurants is that because of the acoustics, the room design and the direction the speakers are facing I wind up hearing mostly the bass portion of a song. It can be kind of entertaining playing "what's that song" when the vocals sound like they're coming through a tunnel, though.

                    1. re: befuggled

                      It's moderately loud, but the music is still in the background, so it doesn't make conversation difficult ,although it might not be the best place if anyone dining with you is somewhat hard of hearing and would like to converse over dinner. The acoustics are clear, and there isn't too much bass, so you can always tell what song is playing. I actually didn't even notice where the speakers were located.

                      There was more of a hard rock theme to the music while I was there last night- GNR, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, can't remember what else right now. The music was reminded me of the music that was playing at Babbo on my last visit.

                    2. re: LemonLauren

                      I forgot to mention at the meal last week the waiter talked us into splitting a chocolate tart. It was served with tangarine sorbet and cream. Was excellent. The sorbet balanced out the rich chocolate nicely.

                      I've only had desserly one time before that as usually too stuffed. They had a made to order hot chocolate cake that was pretty good but not great, but don't think it's on the menu anymore.

                      befuggled I'm sensative to loud restos so know what you mean. Can really spoil a meal with the "what?!" thing all night. Never had a problem at Harbord Room. Music is there and enjoyable but doesn't invade the meal or your conversations.

                      1. re: abigllama

                        agreed. although it does interupt a conversation when i get giddy about the awesome music and start singing along...but that's just me.

                        was anyone cold from sitting by the door?