After Penn’s premier chocolate chip cookie-dough pancake factory closed in May 2011, we were left with a 40th-and-Walnut-sized void in our hearts and stomachs. Fast-forward a year and a half, and surprise! HarBar! Though the soft opening of the seasonal, healthy joint went down last week, we stopped by for the official first day (hard opening?) Thursday evening with a list of questions to be answered:
- Why the tacky fountain outside?
- What does HarBar look like inside?
- Would the average Penn kid have a reason to come here?
- Should you take your date here?
- If you do, should you and your date sit downstairs or in the swanky upstairs room?
- WHY DIDN’T YOU SEAT US UPSTAIRS, STEPHANIE?
For answers to >1 (but <3) of these questions,
8:04– Knowing that drinks will be spendy, we sip 40s at home and chat about our evenings. We wear the classic gray trouser-navy blazer combo and Ann Taylor bitch pants with a drapey top.
8:07– Roommate: “Ali, what are you wearing? You look like a chubby pin-up girl.” Said roommate is drinking Froot Loop vodka.
8:50– We arrive in style for what turns out to be “our first date.” We sit inside, fearful that the spooky terrace fountain would spit on us and our food.
8:51– Keith comes to our table and takes our drink orders. “Are you our waiter, Keith?” “No.” “Ok. We understand.” We get the House Pinot Noir and the Blood Orange Negroni (both $8). The Pinot is wine-y, with hints of alcohol, while the Negroni is bitter and drunk-making, as any negroni should be: “They just want us to have a good time. They can tell we’re nervous.”
8:57– Keith surprises us with a plate of the Autumn Scallops on the house (normally $23) “for your first date.” Can they tell it’s not going well already? One of our party calls them “Sympathy Scallops” and insists the salty chunks have the mouthfeel of breast implants. We finish them anyway.
9:03– This evening’s REAL protagonist, Keenan, our waiter, stops by to introduce himself and give us our menus. We strike up a conversation. Keenan is a wandering gypsy from Santa Monica who is “afraid of commitment.” After shamelessly flirting with us, he recommends the Sausage Flatbread and the Bison Burger. We feign interest and order the Harvest Flatbread ($4), the Slow-Roasted Chicken Sandwich ($10) and the Tofu Stir-Fry ($10).
9:04– Keenan warns us that the sandwich is served on an elliptical baguette. We reconsider.
9:05– “It’s fine. I’ll get the chicken sandwich anyway.”
9:07– We look around HarBar. It’s surprisingly empty for a new place, and the patrons already seated give us the stink-eye. We peep polka-dotted booths, a mysterious upstairs seating area, an inspirational “GiveLoveServe” plaque above the open kitchen, and a so-so looking staff. The usual. We conclude that it looks like a mediocre hotel lobby.
9:10– Ali gets a walking escort to the bathroom. “Are they singles or do they accommodate multiple people?” she wonders before she leaves.
9:13– Singles. “Nothing special. Long mirrors– could see my belly button in the mirror.”
9:14– “Make a note of this: 9:14– really drunk.” We make a note of this.
9:16– The flatbread arrives. It’s REALLY flat. Matzoh-level flatness, “like if you put Wheat Thins in the microwave with Sargento on top.” DO. NOT. GET.
9:17– Keenan, our waiter, is on Bite Watch, checking up on us as we pop each crusty board into our mouths. “It’s okayyyyyyyyyy.” “Should’ve gotten the sausage!” We groan. Ali finishes the flatbread anyway.
9:20– “This negroni is ne-grindin’ up on my bladder,” Ali puns before heading to the bathroom for round two. The food arrives.
9:23– Ali returns and we start eating. The stir-fry is fragrant, slightly spicy, and yums. It’s tasty, but nothing special. Good news, though: it’s under 500-calories and produced from locally-poached tofu, which is HarBar’s “thing.”
9:25– The sandwich is very chicken-y. “I am not for or against this sandwich,” Ali says, before proceeding to remove her lipstick to allow for bigger bites.
9:27– Bite Watch resumes, this time with a waitress. She insists the chicken sandwich is her “fave, since it tastes like chicken soup in hard form.” Ian gets grossed out. “Yeah, for sure…” Ali finishes it anyway.
9:30– A fart peals through HarBar from under our table. “It’s a 500-cal fart that smells like a 1200-cal one.”
9:31– Keenan walks by, looking to flirt some more. We are still unsure of his intentions but waft the smell like the dickens just to be safe.
9:34– At this point, HarBar is about half-filled and we try to figure out the clientele HarBar is trying to attract. The vibe screams, “I’m in town for a business trip and I’m looking for a non-committal waiter bearing 300-calorie sandwiches!”
9:37– “It’s a place to bring your marketing class to throw down.”
9:40– Keenan comes by to collect our plates and ask if we’ve got room for dessert. We don’t, but we do. He lingers, asking how our date is going. We stage a fake fight to put the waitstaff on edge. How do you handle crises, HarBar?
9:41– Keenan senses the end is near for us and tries to move in for the kill with a tray piled with desserts. He succeeds. We get the Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse Cake and the Pumpkin Pie (both $3). They’re tasty, but really tiny because of the whole “under 500-calorie” thing. We finish them anyway.
9:44– Keenan resumes Bite Watch and continues to flirt with one of our party. The other gets jealous. We ask for the check.
9:47– Keenan’s love interest leaves a phone number on the receipt with a note: “FYI, this was not a real date. You probably figured that out.”
9:50– Check accounted for, we part ways, Ali to Charles Plaza to close the earlier fart-calorie disparity, Ian home to write this post before his computer got thirsty for water and broke. (Yikes!)
The next day, 4:48– Text received: “Hey. This is Keenan from Harvest. You both fooled me in regards to the first date.”
5:33– We set up an actual date. (Not at HarBar.)
In conclusion, if you’re in the market for hardened chicken noodle soup, okay-ish tofu stir-fry, a tough negroni and a boyfriend from Santa Monica, go to HarBar! Otherwise, have you considered BYO-ing Commons?