There’s something reassuring about restaurants being named after a sole founder — it suggests a long, welcoming history, a knack for crafting classic menu items (or unique family recipes) that come out just right. It makes diners feel like they’re on a first-name basis with the establishment itself, which is a plus, given that ordering and eating food in a new restaurant can be daunting. Harry’s Coffee Shop is no different. Harry J. Rudolph, Jr. opened shop in 1960; today, Harry’s three grown children, run it.
The diner stands out among a sea of plain white buildings with its bright red awning and retro lettering. Built on the hope that it would bring happiness and a sense of “neighborhood comfort” to customers, the diner quickly became a hotspot for breakfast when it opened in 1960. Now, the bustling restaurant has a long wait time even in the early hours of the morning, testifying to the fact that challenging parking conditions cannot deter customers from Harry’s comforting ambience.
Twenty minutes after our arrival, my family and I were finally seated and struggling to choose breakfast. Prices tipped toward the high end, but we were willing to make the sacrifice for good food. The cracked leather seats and many pictures that adorned the walls made me feel at home. Framed newspaper articles above the booths, most of which were faded yellow with age, boasted of the restaurant’s excellence, and the humdrum background noise that comes with classic breakfast diners was soothing and familiar.
While my mother and sister both chose heaping plates of pancakes, I decided to give the lunch menu a go – big mistake. In a restaurant renowned for its breakfast delights, it is no wonder that the deluxe cheeseburger fell flat with its rubbery lettuce, tasteless patty and bland hamburger buns. Of course, the next course of action was to eat off the plates of my dining companions.
Never in my life have I tasted such delicious, mouth-watering pancakes. Biting into them reminded me of eating cake, the almost sponge-like feel making me disappointed to swallow. They weren’t tough and overcooked, but just the right amount of fluffy. The thick syrup and soft butter, already melted from the warm temperature, coated the pancakes in rich taste, making every bite richly sweet. I chewed in contentment and nostalgia, reminded of happy childhood memories of weekend breakfast. Unfortunately, the eggs tasted as though they had sat out for a long time, but the sausage patties that came as a side dish were so good, with their slight hint of spice, that we had to order a second round.
In the end, I did feel as if I had found a piece of home in this diner. Looking back, I should have adhered to my love of late breakfasts instead of taking a risk with the cheeseburger, but I still consider this experience successful. I will be seeing a lot of Harry’s Coffee Shop in my future.