To say Westside residents have missed Harold’s Cabin since it temporarily closed in March 2020 would be putting it far too lightly.
Thankfully, the time has come for the restaurant at Congress and President streets to reopen with even more of those quintessential neighborhood vibes thanks to a dining room reconfiguration and new menu filled with elevated pub fare and homestyle family recipes.
“It’s going to be even more cozy and comfortable. That’s what we did well, and we want to continue doing that,” said Harold’s Cabin owner John Schumacher, who will open the doors in September. “We want to continue to be part of the community — that’s what we did better than anything.”
Patrons will immediately notice changes when they walk in the door for the first time in over 18 months. A chalkboard lists daily specials, and upon entrance, guests will order from the counter before grabbing a seat in the reimagined dining room. Tables are more spaced-out, and by adding seats on the now-covered roof and upstairs bar, Schumacher says he’s able to seat as many people as before the pandemic.
The layout changes and switch to counter-service fit in with the transition to a more laid back “pub and bar forward” offering Schumacher believes will better serve the neighborhood.
“One of the advantages that’s occurred because of this is it’s not too often that a business gets to hit the pause button and review because once you’re open, you don’t have a lot of time for analysis,” he said. “It’s tough to take a step back, and we’ve had that opportunity.”
According to Schumacher, who plans to return to the kitchen for the first time in years, the post-pandemic Harold’s Cabin menu will feature around 12 items, along with daily specials and happy hour. Look for “street cornbread,” chicken and crackling nachos, a reinvented “Cabin Smash Burger” with cheddar and caramelized onions and pickle-brined Rice Krispies chicken, a family recipe. For dessert, don’t miss the “Campfire Tortillas,” dusted with cinnamon-sugar and served with a cold glass of milk, Nutella, peanut butter and sliced bananas.
“I’ve been working on [the menu] for a while, but what I’ve found is I’ve tweaked it 30 times, and I’m continuing to do that,” he said. “The salads will be pretty creative using a lot of the local produce, and we’re going to have some herbs upstairs that we’ll be able to use for both the kitchen and the bar.”
Like before the pandemic, patrons can slide into a bar seat for a Coors Banquet, local craft beer or new signature cocktail like the “Norma Jean,” made with locally sourced Nippitaty organic gin, elderflower and yellow chartreuse. And fans of Harold’s “Salty Raccoon,” a smoky rosemary-infused tequila concoction, can now order it frozen — Schumacher dubbed it the “Frosty Raccoon.”
Schumacher knows reopening after the extended closure won’t be easy, but he’s confident that the Westside neighborhood will welcome the restaurant back with open arms.
“It’s like pulling a used car out into traffic again. You don’t want to get out in the fast lane right away; you just want to ease it out there and see what works best,” Schumacher said. “The outpouring of support has been phenomenal from customers, folks in the neighborhood, people I know and people I don’t even know. That’s part of what being a restaurant is all about is community and building a family, and that’s part of what we’re about.”