After my last review of Prime at Anthe's was published, a longtime friend contacted me via email to suggest that if I liked my experience at Prime, then I would certainly enjoy an experience at the Olde Harbor Inn. While Prime at Anthe's is on the western side of Portage Lakes, the Harbor Inn is right in the thick of them. It was clear from the onset that a visit to the Harbor Inn was going to be as much about the view as it was the food.
Prior to my visit, I decided to do a little homework. Here is the Yahoo Maps page for the restaurant where I started my research. Strangely, this site had a link to the dinner menu that was served at the restaurant, but didn't list the actual restaurant's own website address. I read through all of the user-posted comments and wasn't sure whether to expect top notch service or to be hit on in the men's room.
What struck me through a visit to both their lunch and dinner menus was that a far more reasonably priced meal could be had if one went for lunch rather than dinner. Seeing that it was nearly lunchtime today, I made the decision to drive across Rt. 619 and up South Turkeyfoot Lake Road until I hit Portage Lakes Drive. Located at 562 Portakes Lakes Drive, Akron, Ohio, they can be reached at 330-644-1664. Parking was either in front of the restaurant or across the street in a gravel-strewn lot specifically for Harbor Inn patrons.
You can see the sign as you approach the parking lot:
As I crossed the street and walked towards the front of the restaurant, I noticed something which at first seemed quite odd; the kitchen is actually in the front of the building. It took me about a half second to realize that on a lakeside property such as this one, the kitchen had been stuffed into the least desirable spot in the entire building, by the road.
I also noticed that there were several doors in which one could enter. This sign proved helpful:
While I had my choice of either the lounge or the dining room, it was the beautiful sunny shots of the lakeside view that won me over:
My server took my drink order, told me the daily lunch specials and left me to look over the lunch menu:
And the back:
This was identical to the lunch menu posted on their website, so I wasn't wholly unfamiliar with the items listed. I decided to start with a bowl of their Roasted Eggplant Cream of Mushroom soup. After returning from the restroom (sadly without an explicit invitation from a total stranger), my soup was waiting for me at my table:
The soup was creamy and rich and had a deep umami flavor from the mushrooms. Studded with loads of sliced mushrooms, as a Cream of Mushroom soup this was wonderfully successful. That being said, I really had to dig around for either a textural eggplant presence or the flavor from the roasted eggplant. When I did finally find a small piece of eggplant, it essentially tasted like Cream of Mushroom soup. I'm not sure what the chef was trying to achieve by using roasted eggplant in this soup, but sadly, it was wholly lost on me.
Along with my soup came a basket of warm rolls with butter:
The rolls had been topped with savory fried onion bits. And while the rolls were nice and warm, unfortunately they had been nuked just a little too long and the texture was a bit too chewy for my taste. Given the choice of warm rolls versus chewy texture, I think I would've preferred my rolls served at room temperature.
For lunch today I decided to go with the Southern Fried Fish sandwich. When I asked my server what accompanied the sandwich, her reply left me wanting for something additional. "Chips," she said. "Homemade?" I asked. Sadly, "Nope." was the answer I received. So, for an additional $1.49, I decided to upgrade to the French fries instead.
After about fifteen minutes, I received my platter of food:
The menu was not kidding when it stated that it was "too big for the bun to hold." It's almost impossible to see the nicely toasted bottom half of my sandwich bun underneath that enormous whitefish fillet. The fish had been nicely cooked and the coating was uniformly browned and not greasy. I was a little worried that the thinness of the fish might have rendered it into fish jerky, but the minute I cut into it, I was rewarded with copious amounts of steam and moistness.
The French fries were immediately recognizable as being fried-from-frozen. I've had these "breaded" French fries at other establishments and they are fairly decent. While not my favorite French fry, the kitchen did a good job at cooking them thoroughly without leaving them limp or greasy. Paired with a bit of ketchup, this was definitely $1.49 well spent.
Sitting in a small cup next to my sandwich was homemade tartar sauce:
Chock full of freshly chopped capers, this was a fantastic way to dress my sandwich. The fattiness and brininess from the sauce complimented the fried fish quite nicely. Heck, even the sauce by itself was quite tasty.
After trying out the cole slaw,
I was on the fence. Not about whether I enjoyed the crunch and the flavor of the side dish; I did. The cabbage and carrots had been finely shredded, a sign that this was a commercially made slaw. However, the creaminess of the dressing belied a commercial origin. With the flavor being fairly traditional, I had to resort to asking my server when she came to collect my plate after I had finished eating. "Oh, definitely homemade."
My lunch today, with tip, was right around $21. While that certainly isn't cheap for lunch, it was certainly cheaper than what you'd pay at dinner. Then again, I was impressed with the food, the service, and the view. I definitely think that the mood could be very romantic in the evenings as the sun sets over the water and I could totally see myself sitting out on their deck, enjoying the cool spring and autumnal air as it blows gently across the lake.
Personally, gentle reader, I plan on returning to the Olde Harbor Inn for another meal. Having yet to be the object of lewd and lascivious behavior apparently rampant in the men's room, I feel that perhaps I am not getting the full Harbor Inn experience. Well, that or maybe I should just stop believing everything I read on the Internet.
[Ed. Note: While I didn't actually have dessert today at the restaurant, I couldn't let it slide that one of the desserts actually had "peanut butter moose" in it. I have to wonder if the moose prefer JIF or Skippy?]