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A restaurant dining room with a brick wall, wood floor and three high-top tables surrounded by leather bar stools.
Taste & Sip

New Harbor Restaurant Anchors in Chicago’s South Loop

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.)

A wood outdoor sign reads: Harbor.
Welcome to Harbor Chicago, in the South Loop neighborhood. Photo by Harbor.

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.

A row of plates filled with cold shrimp, cocktail sauce, and crab claws.
Shrimp, crab claws and a zesty cocktail sauce.

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.

A wood board with a dozen falafels with white sauce stuck with toothpicks
Lentil falafel.

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 pizza topped with cheese, morsels of fried chicken and pickle slices
Fried chicken pickle pizza.

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.

Three bowls, from front to back, of mixed-greens salad
Fresh-dressed salad fixings.

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.

A chef slides a pizza into a stainless steel wood-fired oven
Chef at work in the open kitchen.

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.

A long wood-topped dining table, set with cutlery and glassware, surrounded by gray upholstered chairs
Private dining room. Photo by Harbor.

For more information, visit Harbor.

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