Ever since I came to UW, Harmony Lunch in uptown Waterloo has always been a bit of a mystery to me.
A box of a restaurant with genuinely retro style, Harmony is perpetually out of place surrounded by its modern counterparts and, for some reason, I always imagined an older, seedier cast of Cheers hanging out there. But this week, to challenge myself and any notions that I have, I rounded up another brave friend to check out the classic joint.
Established in 1930, the restaurant clearly showed its age from the instant we stepped inside. As they say on the website, “Walking through its doors at 90 King Street N. is like time-traveling back 70 years.”
With its laminated menus, scuffed hardwood floors, and yellowed walls, the place is just begging to be torn apart by Restaurant Makeover. However, its ancient decor did retain a cozy feel that made me feel right at home.
There were no intense glares from the regulars here, as the clientele included a group of middle-aged men and, lo and behold, another student our age studying there.
The servers (who include descendants of the original Harmony founder) were efficient and courteous, and, for this occasion, I opted to order their iconic pork hamburger with onion rings and a quintessential chocolate milkshake. This resulted in a very “hefty” $13 bill (including tax) with $1 taken off for the student special. Definitely affordable.
The milkshake that arrived was … well, can a milkshake ever be bad? Harmony’s was rich and well-blended, without being too thick, but I did detect the disappointingly familiar taste of Chapman’s ice cream. However, for just $3.50, it wasn’t too bad; just something I could have made at home (although goodness knows I’m not going through that effort).
The onion rings that arrived were satisfactory, though just past the verge of being cooked too long, which was a pity. I must also note that their portions are tiny; the onion rings arrived on a tiny saucer and the hamburger is about the size of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, if only a bit thicker.
But oh, that burger. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting because I’d heard that Harmony’s special was pork burgers, but I wasn’t anticipating that level of flavour.
The pork patty was well-seasoned and tasty, topped with oodles of one of my favourite things in the world: caramelized onions. The soft patty (clearly hand-rolled) was complemented by the crispiness of the bun, but I couldn’t identify whether the cheese was Kraft or not. Anyway, even though the portions were tiny by any other restaurants’ standards, I definitely found it satisfying enough for a quick lunch.
Overall, I was glad I’d taken the risk to enter Harmony Lunch. It has broken the mould by surviving for so long, and I predict that even after I graduate their burgers will still be gracing uptown Waterloo. The service was second to none as we ordered and finished our meal in an admirable 17 minutes, yet my friend and I lingered there long after we finished, and that was okay because we felt right at home.