Harry's Bar and Burger
121 North Main Street Providence, RI 02903 (map); 401-228-7437; harrysbarburger.com
Short Order: Excellent value (1/2 off Happy Hour daily) and good, high quality burgers make Harry's a must-try for Providence locals
Want Fries with That? Frozen, skin-on spuds are okay, better with chile; sweet potato fries a safter bet
Price: Harry's Classic Cheese, $4.79; Double Wide $6.69; MOAB, $5.69; Chili fries, $3.59; sweet potato fries, $2.59
The college student's schedule is often quite astounding. Hours in the library and class complement hours at bars, parties and sporting events. Although one's schedule is quite predictable, the question still remains: When is a collegian to eat? There's meal plan, but cafeteria food can be questionable. And McDonalds and Subway might be easy on the wallet, but get old fast. For Brown and RISD carnivores, the answer might be Harry's Bar and Burger.
Harry's, a burger joint specializing in good beer and small burgers (they call them sliders, but sliders they are not), opened on College Hill a couple years ago and has since become a mainstay for students with big appetites and thin wallets. While its prices are always reasonable, Harry's really shines during its daily Happy Hour (3 p.m. - 5 p.m.), during which all burgers are half off. At any burger joint this would be a steal, and Harry's luckily cooks a solid patty.
Harry's hamburger philosophy is straightforward: simple, classic ingredients, small smashed burgers and reasonable prices. All burgers come two to an order (you can request a third, and you may want to if you're very hungry), but fries and other sides/snacks will run you a few more bucks.
A Classic with Cheese ($4.79) starts with about two ounces of fresh Hereford beef, somewhat coarsely ground, smashed onto a hot griddle. The result is a small, crusty and generally still juicy burger, reminiscent of a miniature Shake Shack or Smashburger patty. Toppings of shredded iceberg, crinkle cut dill, onion, and special sauce (read: thin Thousand Island dressing) on a Martin's (or Martin's clone) potato roll complement the burger with grace. In fact, this topping combination is nearly flawless, especially when you splurge for a Double Wide with two patties on each mini potato bun. The results aren't revelatory, but still plenty tasty.
In my many, many visits, however, I've found the moisture level to be Harry's least consistent element, as juices are sometimes plentiful and other times nonexistent. Still, even on a not-as-good day, Harry's makes one of the better burgers on College Hill with the combination of a fresh, well-seasoned burger blend and intelligent toppings. Speaking of intelligent toppings, Harry's has a load of 'em.
From pulled pork to mushrooms and Swiss, the elaborate burger toppings at Harry's satisfy non-purists quite well. The MOAB (Mother of All Burgers) with onion strings, bacon, cheddar and mushroom is a fan favorite, and probably my favorite toping combo. The Pastrami Burger, however, is also quite satisfying—playing like a beefy take on the bacon cheeseburger. Best of all, not one of these topped burgers costs more than $6. These options ensure that groups will be able to experience several kinds of burgers in one meal, unlike restaurants with fewer options.
There is also a Southwest Turkey burger ($4.79), but let's not talk about that. All you need to know is that the attempt to get crust produces a dry patty that is only suitable for those adamantly opposed to red meat.
Sides are solid, if not as impressive as the mains. Slightly pale, skin-on from frozen fries are okay alone (though requiring ketchup) and better topped with cheese and a ladle of beer-infused chili for $1.50 more. Sweet potato fries ($2.59) are crispier and tastier than the white spuds and come with a green herb-based kryptonite sauce for dipping.
Boasting only the food, Harry's would definitely get my recommendation. The restaurant's value, however, elevates it to "must-try" in my book. What does this mean? Essentially, a broke college student can think about waking up at 1 p.m. on Saturday, actually wake up at 2:30 and enjoy a couple delicious burgers and a Naragansett tall boy for close to the same cost as a Big Mac Value Meal. Yes, two cheeseburger sliders and a beer will cost less than $7 during happy hour. You'd be hard pressed to find a sit down burger option with prices like these anywhere else on the hill.
Harry's might not produce a destination burger for AHT'ers passing through New England, but they definitely dish out a consistently tasty burger for the voracious burger eater and the casual diner, alike.
A final note: Harry's service and speed is spotty—I've had great waiters and not-so-great ones and I've waited 10 minutes for food and up to 40, depending on business that day.