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Harmony Bar

In a word: Comes together real good.

The specs: #0231
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Madison Date Night, QSC, and Yelp; MySpace profile; Harmony Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Latest Harmony Bar news and reviews

JM ate the cheddar burger with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Swiss burger with a Capital Amber.
Paul ate the pulled pork sandwich with a diet 7-up.
Sara ate the cranberry chicken breast with sesame noodles with a diet 7-up.
JM and Nichole gave Harmony Bar an A- (see our grading rubric).

Harmony Bar

February's cold snap had subsided just enough for us to leave the house again when it was time to try Harmony Bar. We would have braved even colder weather for this Madison institution, a friendly neighborhood bar with lots of character.

We started off our dinner with the bleu cheese chips. You could go to the Harmony just to eat these, they were so good. Fried to a perfect golden brown, most were crispy on the outside but had a tender spot in their centers. The sour-cream-and-bleu-cheese dressing (which is closer to sour cream in consistency) made the thin potato slices disappear fast.

Chips

The pizzas come universally recommended, but this time we tried the Harmony's other offerings. The bottom line seemed to be that Harmony has great buns - any dish served on a toasty heel was a hit.

Pork sandwich

Paul described his pork sandwich as being as good as any in town. It was served very hot, with tasty, fresh coleslaw on the side, and was large enough to share.

This was good news for Sara, since her chicken dish was just ordinary. The cranberry-pear sauce was not as good as memories of it were, and the sesame noodles, while a nice twist, were just OK.

Chicken

JM and Nichole's burgers were about exactly perfect bar fare:

  • Bun: As previously mentioned, perfect. Over-sized white bun topped with sesame seeds and toasted, and not too thick.
  • Meat: Generous hand-made patty, moist and tender, done on the rare side of medium.
  • Bun/meat ratio: 1:1. Over time the bun squished down but held its own against the meat and toppings.
  • Cheese: Melted into the meat, tying it all together.
  • Misc.: The big, ripe tomato slices were tops; the too-thick, pale iceberg lettuce, not so much. Still, an 8 of 10 overall.

Burger

Though the burger may have left a little to be desired from JM, he knew that the Harmony supports local improv and great pizzas so he gave 'em the benefit of the doubt.

All in all, we enjoyed our meal and our conversation which the casual and mostly quiet back room of the Harmony Bar only made the more comfortable.

Comments

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I love the Harmony - great review guys. These types of places are what Madison is all about!

I am most sure I could have made a meal of those bleu cheese chips!

If you’re a vegetarian, the Harmony has one of the best vegetarian dishes in town, the Walnut burger. I am not a vegetarian, but I order it because it’s much lighter than a hamburger and just about as satisfying. One of Madison’s landmark dishes.

The improv comedy at The Harmony is top rate and HILARIOUS!!

See Spin Cycle the second Sunday of each month at The Harmony.

Very overrated. Acceptable, not great burgers. Greasy fries. A very good beer brat. Dirty bathrooms on weekends. High level dive bar for the locals with average food.

I have to agree with Bridget. **Very overrated**. I go there relatively often since it's close to home, but when I hear "lots of character," I understand that to mean lots of televisions. They definitely have that.
If you're comparing food offerings with that of a dive bar, yes Harmony fares well. But it's pretty generic beyond that. Their beer selection rarely changes, the staff is superficially friendly, and competent, but clearly jaded. I have heard "back-in-the-day" stories about how they used to have really good food, but that was before my time. On the other hand, they do have really cool old bird's-eye maple-fronted coolers. I also find something oddly endearing about seeing those sport utility perambulators lined up outside in the early evening. (In warmer weather, of course.)

Thanks to these recent comments, I craved a walnut burger and bleu cheese chips yesterday. Thanks a lot.

What I'd really like to do is get the recipe for those burgers. Anyone? Bueller? I'll start with Google, at any rate.

My boyfriend and I tried to go to Harmony Bar for dinner last month; the very second we walked in we were greeted by the bartender saying "Hey how are ya can I see your id." We understand that this is an important question, but as a greeting it was a little irritating. After checking our id's (we are over 21) you would think the follow up question would be what can I get you to drink? Nope, she walked to the other side of the bar leaving us standing in the entryway confused. We walked past the full bar and looked in the dining room, which was also full. In plain view of the bartender and waitstaff, we waited an obligatory few minutes and then left. The entire experience was really awkward and I don't think we will be returning.

And I wonder, can you call it a "neighborhood bar" when you walk in on a Saturday night and they ask for $10 to get in the door? No, that's a nightclub. A neighborhood bar, on principle, would never get into that messy business. They may expose local talent, but they wont cut off their noses to spite their customers.

Um, just so you know: The Harmony is also a blues bar! So, on the weekends they book national (no, NOT just local) blues and R+B acts. That's why there is a cover! OK? And, yes, it is a neighborhood bar. They support local community centers and neighborhood organizations generously. And, to the person who got carded: awww. Poor baby. Guess what: it's a BAR. Get used to being carded; it's the law. Whiny. And, it sounds like you got Allison as your bartender. She can come off salty and harsh at first, but she is a real sweetie deep down- and makes a nice martini! Too much personality for you? I guess go elsewhere. xoxo

For a neighborhood bar... It's unfriendly.

Food is so so

The Harmony is where it's at,the heart of Madison. Besides being the best pizza and walnut burgers around they have excellent specials each night, the paella and cajun shrimp burger are just two of the options that take it out of your "typical bar food" category.Sounds like the couple above needed to be a little bit more direct,not all bars have servers and if the back dining room was full maybe they should have taken initiative to ask bartender where to order food, do you need someone to hold your hand and guide you? As far as getting asked to see your ID? THATS THEIR JOB! I have worked in the service industry and seen co workers get fined for not doing this, who cares if you pass the eye ball test that's what bars do, come on people, sounds like you belong on the west side of town

Not everyone is going to like every place and so it’s no surprise that some people don’t like the Harmony. My suggestion would be if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t go. My wife and I live on the far west side and we consider the Harmony our neighborhood bar because it is friendly, unpretentious has good food, good inexpensive drinks, and great music. A word about the cover charge. Most weekends, it’s $7, which is not much to pay for the quality of the bands they book. When it’s $10 that’s usually because it’s a higher priced band. Even if you think that’s a lot to pay for good quality music, the drinks at the Harmony run $3 - $3.50 and if you have more than two, you’d better be walking or taking a cab home. So you’re talking about under $20 for a fun night out. Keith and Allison, the owners are both very friendly and no bar in town does more fund raisers for the community than the Harmony. If your server seemed impatient because you weren’t sure what you wanted, it’s because they’re busy and they’re trying to serve people as quickly as possible. How often have you been to a bar when you have to wait 10 minutes to get the attention of a bartender? That doesn’t happen at the Harmony. When you step up to the bar, you’d better be ready to order because it won’t be long before someone asks how they can help you.

catlady, yup, sounds like you had Allison as a bartender. She can be unfriendly to people she doesn't know. As a longtime eastsider, I'm sorry you were treated so poorly. The Harmony can be clique-ish. And I guess the expectation was she'd come back to take your order after she finished whatever she was doing, but she should have told you that. I used to go there often, but stopped going after Jo left years ago. She's the one who put the Harmony on the map as far as their food, and the quality of the food was excellent when she was there. I still get cravings for their homemade potato chips, though, and their burgers are good.

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