The first time I set foot in Chucks Burger Bar, I made conversation with a cute blonde girl (what a surprise). We were talking about how great the food was and she asked if I’d ever been to The Harbour Diner before. I told her no and she explained that if I wanted to find really good comfort food that I should make time to go. She then pimped out their Lobster Macaroni & Cheese like it was the greatest thing she’d ever eaten and I was sold. My visit was put on the back burner until yesterday when I hit it up with Marie for dinner.
I checked out their web site earlier in the day and it was made clear to make a reservation before coming. When we arrived I could understand why. The place was completely full. Including the bar stools, I’d say The Harbour Diner seats 30 people maximum. Looking around it feels like you’re being seated in your Grandmother’s kitchen. In fact Marie noted that her Nonna had identical chairs at her place. It puts you in the kind of comfort zone you get when you’re home. Our server Kassie was very pleasant and helpful over the course of the evening. She went through an assortment of specials with us. I already knew what I wanted based on an episode of You Gotta Eat Here.
Ridiculous Cheese Bread $8
Marie and I were split on whether to get Nachos or try the bread. I’m glad we went with this choice. This bread was fantastic. The calabrese, typically a tough bread, was very light and crisp. The cheese was thick and melty and brushed with garlic butter. It had a slight tang at the end of the bite and after a bit of interrogating I found out they brush the bottom with just a little blue cheese mayo. It all came together so well. If/when I return, this’ll definitely be ordered again.
Potato Wedges – $5
While the bread blew me away, the wedges were disappointing. I’d like to think we just got a bad batch as the cooking was very uneven. Some tasted right on the money with a crisp coating and a nicely cooked potato. Others felt completely undercooked. I doused them in black pepper (Marie and I are both pepper fans) but they couldn’t be salvaged. The wedges are typically a side dish with various items on the menu but I’d explore other options.
Harbour Diner Meatloaf – $12
Now this is what truly sold me on The Harbour Diner. I’d seen this dish on You Gotta Eat Here. I don’t typically eat Meatloaf. It’s not exactly a staple of a Caribbean household. On the few occasions I have had it, it’s been disappointing. This was anything but. I’d built so much hype in my mind for this dish and it met all expectations. The meatloaf itself was cooked perfectly. The mashed potatoes had just a hint of garlic in them and were very light. The real kicker to this dish though was the Peppercorn Gravy. My God was that gravy delicious. It complimented the meatloaf so well. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it. The photo may not even do justice to the sheer size of this dish. It was a BEAST! I came in very hungry having skipped lunch and could barely finish it.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – $9
Marie got the sandwich and said she was really happy with it. We couldn’t figure out what they do with their Buffalo Sauce. It was spicy but didn’t have the typically thinner consistency you’d get with hot sauce. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say it was more akin to the sauce in a Butter Chicken dish. I took a bite and the chicken was thick and juicy. The hot sauce didn’t have an immediate impact but felt like little shots at my tongue when the after taste kicked in. I passed on the Coleslaw but Marie said she enjoyed it.
OK side story
We arrived at what I would consider to be the “first dinner rush” at 6:30pm. After finishing up dinner, Marie checked her phone and saw that Chris had commented on her Places Check In. He lives very close by and we invited him to join us for dessert. The place was relatively quiet and we figured we’d just add him to our table. Well that got wacky quick. A second rush came in around 7:30pm. The table that was empty since we got there was now occupied. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was going to ask two girls behind us if we could switch tables as they occupied a table for 4. Our server asked me not to go down that road though. I had to suck it up and call Chris back saying I made an error and we couldn’t have him for dessert. I called and and explained how I dropped the ball. Mid call, out of nowhere, the couple that sat down beside us offered to give up their table. To say I was surprised and well… dumbfounded would be an engrossing understatement. The place, after the second rush, was completely full. Never have I come across anyone who’d be willing to give up their table in a full restaurant to complete strangers. “It’s cool man, we’re going to take a walk and come back in a little while.” WOW! The guy got up, explained what’s up to our server and the couple bounced for 15 minutes before coming back to a table. Writing this now, I still can’t get over the level of generosity two complete strangers sent our way. I kept shaking my head and smiling last night and I’m doing it again as I write this. There really are great people in this world.
Desserts – $4 + $1 for whip cream or ice cream scoop
The Harbour Diner‘s desserts change daily. They had around 6 pie choices and this amazing Chocolate Pear Tart. It wasn’t overloaded with Pears, which was fine by me. The tart was thick but didn’t feel heavy or dense. I really enjoyed the whip cream. I’m finding more and more that good whip cream is hard to come by (hi Dana). Marie and Chris both ordered the Peach Raspberry Pie. Chris got Ice Cream but I forgot to ask him if he found it made a big difference over whip cream.
I really enjoyed my experience at The Harbour Diner. The service was on the ball and friendly. The food was mostly (sorry potato wedges) top notch. The portions were great, especially at the price point. If you’re in Hamilton, I’d highly recommend this restaurant. Do yourself a favour though and make a reservation.