3159 N Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
I’m an avid fan of the Chicago music scene’s much-loved pair of brothers Chris and Mike Schuba. A part of Chicago music since 1988 when they purchased the Schlitz building that became Schuba’s Tavern, the brothers now boast two venues since the opening of their Lincoln Park club, Lincoln Hall, a little over a year ago. The brothers Schuba have earned a place in my heart for not just owning two of the best places to see live music in the city, but for making their venues one-stop shops for bar-flies, diners and music fans alike – a concept I find to be entirely brilliant. Both venues house simple yet classy bar fronts and a small restaurant that is separate from both the bar and the bands so diners can eat in peace. As much as I love the idea – and despite years of attending shows at Schuba’s almost weekly – up until this past Valentine’s Day I had never dined in Schuba’s adjoining restaurant, Harmony Grill.
At the urging of a $30-for-$15 food and drink Groupon, my boyfriend and I headed over to Harmony Grill to test out their grub and enjoy a little Valentine’s Day date. When we arrived at Harmony Grill at 5pm the joint was hardly bumping; in fact, we were the only people in the copper-hued room. While the privacy was nice, it did seem a little odd to me that a place I had heard so much about was absolutely dead at what was almost dinner time, but I chalked it up to people having late-night Valentine’s Day plans and it being a Monday night. Of the entire evening I have to say that my favorite part of Harmony Grill was the décor – the golden lighting that was cast across a room coated in copper sheeting gave the place a very calm and warm feeling. A varied array of art depicting different musicians and concert posters reminded us we were in a concert venue, but if it weren’t for the pictures you’d have no idea you were dining in a music hall. Harmony Grill is blissfully devoid of the “bar food” vibe you normally get when eating in the same building that music is played in.
We ordered artichoke cheese dip to start, a pricey appetizer I normally would have said no to if it weren’t for our Groupon. At $7.50, the modest bowl of baked dip and thin strips of toasted flat bread seemed pretty steep, even if it was a relatively tasty combination. Overall the beer list wasn’t quite up to par with our palates, which are partial to craft brews, but we did manage to find a satisfactory bottle of Lagunitas IPA. We went with the Georgia Reuben and the Turkey Chipotle Club, both sandwiches done up with a little extra pizzazz. My Reuben was vamped by apple-slaw and carvings of roasted turkey in lieu of corned beef, but otherwise followed tradition with swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and marble rye. It was a pretty solid sandwich, though the wimpy pile of overly fried sweet potato fries I was given on the side left much to be desired. My cohort was pleased with his club, but I have to say that it really wasn’t because of anything special Harmony Grill did. A basic combination of toasted white bread, sliced turkey, tomato and bacon was dressed up a bit by some avocado and a fried egg but, as I pointed out to my boyfriend, it was no different than the turkey, avocado and egg on wheat I had made for lunch earlier that week. He went for the much bragged about mac n’ cheese that Harmony spices with a “secret blend” and bakes with buttery breadcrumbs. We both thought it was pretty delicious and for the $2.50 tag on of choosing it as a side, the portion was right – but once again, it wasn’t exactly a super culinary discovery. If I had to pick my favorite take on mac n’ cheese in the city, Harmony Grill wouldn’t be able to stand up to competitors like The Meatloaf Bakery’s (2464 N. Clark) Mac-nificent Pasta cupcake.
We wrapped up our meal with a chocolate bread pudding served with Maker’s Mark sauce and whipped cream, which was also so-so. The texture was great, the cream a nice complement, but overall it tasted more like burnt chocolate than anything else. As a whole this dessert is the perfect example of the impression I left Harmony Grill with: it sounded better than it was. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the food was bad, but it wasn’t memorable and it certainly wasn’t worth the average price tag of a hefty $10-$15 for things like sandwiches, burgers and macaroni. For the time being I think I’ll continue to boast about how great the room and sound is at Schuba’s, but keep my mouth closed when it comes to Harmony Grill. Mom always did say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”