At Harry's, the small things, like mini sandwiches, stand out

Contributing Restaurant CriticAugust 30, 2012 

  • RESTAURANT REVIEW

    Harry's at Hamburg

    Address: 1920 Pleasant Ridge Dr.

    Phone: (859) 264-8023

    Hours: 11:15 a.m.-midnight Sun.-Thu.; 11:15 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri., Sat.

    Other: Vegetarian options. Full bar. Parking lot. Starters $1.99-$14.99; salads $8.99-$13.99; two to four mini sandwiches $7.99-$8.99; sushi $3.75-$39.95.

    Online: Bluegrasshospitality.com/harrys

    Other locations: 3373 Tates Creek Rd., (859) 269-9922; 3735 Palomar Centre Drive, (859) 977-2620

People who live in or frequent Lexington's Hamburg area know that the shopping district unofficially extends outside Man o' War Boulevard, and they probably also know that Malone's restaurant has a presence there.

A sign towers above Pleasant Ridge Drive but unfortunately does not signal that Harry's, another member of the Bluegrass Hospitality Group of restaurants, shares that location (other Harry's are at Lansdowne and at Palomar). You could easily overlook Harry's unless you had done your homework, or were hungry, curious or both.

On my first visit for this review, I happened to be both straight from the gym and intrigued by the mini sandwiches, a bright and overdue idea.

I left a fan. For less than $40, two of us split an enormous salad, sampled six minis and two sides — and had a couple of beers. A second time, for almost the same tab, I split another salad and shared a quesadilla and an order of sushi.

The house chopped salad was a guilty pleasure for which I want to apologize but won't. Its iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers are predictable. Ditto the light creamy dressing, and even ham and cheddar cheese. But less expected were radishes and — here comes the guilty part — Fritos. The corn chips added a crazy salty crunch that made the salad much more interesting.

Lighter is the Mediterranean shrimp salad. Abundant mixed greens in a simple vinaigrette are dotted with red onion, garbanzos, peperoncini, cucumbers, feta cheese, roasted red peppers, pitted Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts. The shrimp come skewered, but who needs work? Politely ask the kitchen to get rid of the sticks.

Harry's also offers the menu from Aqua, Bluegrass Hospitality Group's foray into sushi. These choices serve an undermet need — feeding Hamburg area diners sushi — as well as being a riff on surf and turf. I tried the popular tuna lover's roll, a slightly spicy inside-out roll stuffed with tuna and avocado and draped with raw white tuna.

The concept was great, but the execution fell short: Sushi is visual, so rice tumbling out is unattractive, and the tuna was too warm to imagine its ocean origins.

One could discuss the quesadilla, but why? Apart from the delicious hot salsa with cilantro, it was what it was.

Plus, if I spend space deconstructing quesadillas, then there won't be room to praise the mini sandwiches — which, apart from their overuse of American cheese, are the best reason to bring your business to Harry's.

Order the Trifecta plates so you can sample three items for $8.99. They are the ideal intersection of self-indulgence and portion control. They come either with my now-favorite slaw in town — a lighter version made bright and refreshing with sliced scallion rings — or comparatively boring crinkle-cut French fries that seem dated when you look around at what so many other restaurants are doing with fries now.

I loved the ham and brie mini, all gooey and smeared with apricot preserves. Another terrific baby sandwich is the Juicy Lucy, which lives up to its name and contains a center of melted cheese. I liked the spiciness of the Buffalo-style fried chicken sandwiches and the complexity of the maple Cordon Bleu chicken with ham and melted Swiss cheese. Even fish and chips works as a small bite. I guess I'm pretty psyched about them all with the exception of the BLT, and only because the bacon was tough.

Malone's management has figured out how to keep its 24-ounce porterhouse under one roof while catering next door to clients who want smaller meals with greater variety and prices consistent with leaner times.

Harry's is a super lunch option for visitors to and residents of Hamburg.

Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.

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