The newest South Loop eatery is a neighborhood restaurant with an urban vibe. Harbor, as it is named, reinvents traditional American cuisine with a menu that pays homage to the Great Lakes region. The official opening was January 2020 in the former Gioco space at 1312 S. Wabash Ave. The location is a short walk or ride from downtown or Grant Park.
(I attended a media event to sample the food and enjoy the ambiance, but I would definitely return on my own. Unless otherwise noted, the photos are mine.)
Chef and partner Anthony Bernal, an industry notable, curated the menu of small plates, house-cured charcuterie, soups and salads, thin-crust pizzas, and main entrees. On the raw bar are shrimp, oysters, crab and other favorites from the seas. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are plentiful. Locally sourced ingredients are emphasized.
The savory dishes are prepared on a rotisserie, grill and hearth in an open-view kitchen.
The beverage program includes a robust selection of wines from around the world, regional beers and craft cocktails.
Of the foods we tried, the kuri squash hummus with veggie dippers was light and flavorful. The crispy-crust pizzas were hot and cheesy, smeared with a rich tomato sauce. The lentil falafels were as addictive as popcorn. Fellow media-ites praised the oysters, but I’m not an oyster person, so I can’t say. Probably because I’m from the Midwest and didn’t grow up with them. What I can report is the shrimp were firm (don’t you just hate mushy shrimp?), and the crab claws were meaty.
A couple more dishes intrigued us for another time: Fried Chicken Pickle Pizza, which is literally layered with nuggets of fried chicken, havarti cheese and pickled cucumber. Also, the Lake Trout with carrot puree and mushrooms.
Harbor is decorated with warm, inviting woods that contrast with stone accent walls. A design element I especially like is how the space is segmented into areas for both intimacy and conviviality. You can sit at the cocktail bar or at high-top tables and make new friends, or dine at a table near the fireplace for a cozy repast.
Down a short but wide flight of stairs, take a seat at the counter and observe the craft and technique of the chefs as they prepare your plate. Beyond the open kitchen is the main dining room with banquette seating and large glass doors. Watch the street traffic go by. The doors open to patio seating when the warm weather arrives. Two private dining rooms also are available for groups or special events.
For more information, visit Harbor.