Harper’s Burger Bar (Kingston) – A needed addition to the Kingston scene
I am finishing up the last posts I have on Kingston and I have been finding myself getting more emotional. I’ve been to Harper’s numerous times over the last few months but I’ve never remembered to bring my camera. And that final night I did. Harper’s will forever be in my heart as my last meal in Kingston.
Named after the owner’s daughter Harper (who I also believe is the cutesy face that is blown up in big proportions at the back of the restaurant), it shares its lineage with Le Chien Noir and Atomica, both of which I like. It burst onto the Kingston burger scene a bit late, in October. I was there within the first week. My initial thoughts were: great burger but expensive sides! In the real world, 14 bucks for a burger and fries is reasonable. But somehow, knowing that the basic burger was 10 bucks and the fries were 3 bucks made me pissed off at the fries. All of a sudden, I was assigning value to the fries and being way more discriminating. I guess I have a right to be… I did pay $3 for them.
Things have changed over the last several months. Food has been added to the menu (hot dogs notably) and other food removed (fried chicken, steak, and fish). I’ve had 3 incarnations of their poutine and each one has been different. I love how Harper’s adapts itself and is constantly changing. Other restaurants should take a hint and try to improve as continually as Harper’s does.
Here are two unique creations from Harper’s. On the left is a Belgian Lambic Framboise and chocolate ice cream beer float for $9. The raspberry beer and the chocolate ice cream really played well off of one another. This was really refreshing and delicious. My only complaint was the foam. All floats will have a degree of foam but beer tends to be pretty fizzy and when mixed with ice cream, I found it quite foamy. It is texturally challenging but tasty nonetheless. On the right was the Berry-Boozy (raspberry infused vodka, cassis, strawberry ice cream) for $9.75. This was fantastic. I was so drunk after it. It was sweet, satisfying, cool, refreshing, and soooo intoxicating. It might be a bit on the sweet side for some.
This is the Bull’s Eye (Monterey jack, fried farm egg, local bacon, grilled jalapenos, South Carolina BBQ sauce ) for $11.5. The poutine was extra for $4. I don’t have a lot of great things to say about the poutine except that it is an improvement. The curds are mildly more squeeky than before and the fries are wayyyyyy better. They are finally crispy, thin, and soft, all at once. My issue is the amount of gravy. Each fry was swimming in this bowl. You lose all of that beautiful texture, the gooey cheese with the smooth gravy with crispy bits of potato. I wouldn’t get the poutine again.
But this burger is outstanding. Really outstanding. I am going to include it in my top 10 list of things to eat in Kingston. Let me give you the play by play. The bun was crispy but soft. It didn’t add nor did it detract from the burger. The meat was seasoned, soft, and juicy. But where this burger is elevated is the combination of soft oozy egg yolk that gushes when squeezed all over the beautifully spicy grilled jalapenos. If you think it is too much flavour or too spicy, the cheese just balances it out and sharpens everything. Then, end your big fat bite with a sweet and sour BBQ sauce. Each bite is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
This is The Main (beef burger with Montreal smoked meat, gouda, coleslaw, house 1000 Islands dressing) for $10.5. The beef burger is again delicious and well seasoned. But I found this flavour profile a little strange. You get the saltiness of the smoked meat then the sourness of the salad dressing. I barely tasted the gouda. It is almost like a salad on a burger? A confusing burger for my poor (and stupid) tongue. J enjoyed it however. She liked the sweet tang of the coleslaw mixed with the saltiness of the smoked meat on the burger.
All in all, I like Harper’s Burger Bar in a lot of ways. They continue to evolve their menu and they seem to really respond to their customers. Their beef is top notch and their other ingredients are fresh and local (if locavoring is your thing). But what blows me away is the innovation and interest the chef has in his/her food. Each burger is unique and while the burger/bun is exactly the same, they are each worlds apart. Each burger is an adventure.
Harper’s Burger Bar, 93 Princess St., Kingston, ON, 613-507-3663, www.harpersburgerbar.com