Cari Taylor-Carlson
Dining

Harbor House Boasts Spectacular Views

There may be no better place to linger and look. Oh, the food’s pretty darn good, too.

By - Aug 22nd, 2019 04:27 pm
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The view from Harbor House's patio. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

The view from Harbor House’s patio. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

If you want to impress out-of-town friends, take them to the Harbor House, find a table on the seasonal patio, and inhale the extraordinary view of Milwaukee’s skyline. That’s what I did with two companions on a recent Sunday. We came for the music and a quick glass of wine, but once seated in those ultra-comfy Adirondack chairs, we knew our quick glass, followed by dinner elsewhere, would instead, extend into the eve.

We were lucky, found a table in the shade, shortly after we arrived. Some of that shade, a precious commodity on that steamy sunny Sunday, was occupied by people with laptops who appeared oblivious to the view, hard to ignore when the skyline, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the spectacular Northwestern Mutual building glistened in the distance. Dozens of bright red geraniums in planters framed the view across Lake Michigan’s sparkling water.

The patio menu featured oysters, the main draw on this Sunday. It changes daily, depending on what’s available. While we noted most customers appeared to be there for the oysters, we went directly to the daily menu for the New England Style Clam Chowder. It was memorable, loaded with chewy clams, creamy, rich, but not cloying, a chowder that hinted of the sea, with an underlying fresh, subtle briny flavor. We ordered cups; we should have ordered bowls.

The menu left no doubt this is a seafood restaurant. We noted the obligatory Filet Mignon, Bone-In Ribeye, Roasted Semi-Boneless Chicken, and a Charbroiled Burger, but everything else made choosing a main from the list of seafood options an exercise in budgetary largesse. There were Sauteed Sea Scallops with Roasted Sweet Corn, Alaska King Crab Legs, South African Lobster Tails, Alaskan Halibut, Block Island Swordfish, and more, all flown in daily. Vegetarians will find Zucchini Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, and basil olive oil, or Vegetable Fettucine enticing choices.

Since we knew dessert was on our radar, we chose relatively modest dinners. My companion’s Grilled Salmon had crisp edges, yet it stayed perfectly tender. The chef sauced it with tomato provencal and set it on artichokes, fingerling potatoes, and asparagus. If it’s true that we eat with our eyes, then my companion would have devoured this lovely plate before she took her first bite.

For the Crab Salad, a scant, albeit exquisite serving of tender juicy sweet lump crabmeat, the chef placed the crab on grilled asparagus. Strips of pickled radish added a tangy sharp edge to the citrus mayonnaise that dressed the salad.

For dessert, despite our server’s Key Lime Pie recommendation, we chose Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Blueberries, the Rhubarb Tart with Amaretto Ice Cream, and the understated Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, unexpectedly garnished with a caramel tuille and surrounded by sugared pecans. The cake, a study in a moist succulent dessert, with or without its thick layer of frosting, could have served the three of us. That cream cheese frosting, food of the gods, gave it an indulgent richness. I savored it, one tiny bite at a time.

As we nibbled our desserts, we had front row seats to a fiery sunset that lit the skyline, while one by one by one, the lights in the buildings came to life. They twinkled in the waning afternoon, a lovely finale to drinks and a light meal on the patio. We couldn’t have asked for more, the food, the servers, the magnificent view, all gave us an eve to remember. A gift.

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On The Menu

The Rundown

  • Location: 550 N. Harbor Dr.
  • Phone: 414-395-4900
  • Hours: Patio Opem: 11:30 a.m. Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. Sun; Happy Hour 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri (special menu); Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon-Sat; Bruch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sun; Mid-Day Menu: 2:30 p.m. to 5: p.m. Mon-Sat, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sun; Dinner: 5 p.m. Mon-Sun
  • Walk Score: 64
  • Website: http://www.harborhousemke.com
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/bartolottas
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harborhousemke/?ref=ts
  • UM Rating: 8.0666666666667 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)
  • Menu size: 52
  • Price range food (small plates): $6.95-$21.75
  • Price range food (entrees): $13.50-$55.75
  • Wine list size (bottles): 181
  • Cuisine Style: Seafood, wine bar

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