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September 2018 View more

New Zealand lamp chops | Photo courtesy Harry & Eddie’s

In downtown Hinsdale, 29 East First Street has seen a few occupants over the years. Before it was Mexican eatery CiNe, preppy outfitter Lilly Pulitzer, or bistro-boutique combo Embrace, it was the historic Hinsdale Theater, built in 1925. Though the theater was designed by architect William Barfield, the latest restaurant to open here, Harry & Eddie’s, was named for two of the village’s other founding architects: R. Harold Zook and Edwin H. Clark. With its crystal chandeliers, damask wallpaper, and film reel decor, the restaurant succeeds in channeling the building’s founding era.

Grand Pacific Smash | Photo courtesy Harry & Eddie’s

Classic Cuisine

Harry & Eddie’s is a joint venture between Brian Goewey’s BG Hospitality Group and CiNe owner Peter Burdi, who also operates Il Poggiolo and Nabuki across the street. Goewey and culinary partner Mike Bomberger told me that they hoped the deep menu—with trendy grain bowls and entrée salads, as well as classic sandwiches and steakhouse staples—would appeal to families on Monday nights and date-night couples on Friday or Saturday.

Of the appetizers I tried, the classics won out over the nouveau. I’d order the beef carpaccio—with its perfect ratio of paper-thin tenderloin to briny capers to crispy greens—again and again over the zucchini fries, a popular choice according to my server. Though the Parmesan dipping sauce was addictive, the fries skewed soggy and the portion seemed small for the $9 price tag.

The lamb chops, crusted with dabs of Gorgonzola, resting in demi-glace and served with mashed potatoes and asparagus spears, made a classy Saturday night meal indeed. I’d come back any day of the week for the Thai steak and noodle salad, with its saucy noodles, marinated filet, crunchy napa cabbage, juicy cherry tomatoes, and whole leaves of mint and basil that provided an herbal pop. It was only when I peeked back at the menu that I realized the dish I was served was missing a few things (mango, peanuts, roasted coconut), so I can’t help but wonder if it would have been even better if complete.

Desserts—such as the pistachio-chocolate pudding in a retro sundae cup—looked diminutive but were exceedingly rich. The peanut butter pie in a jar, with its chocolate cookie crumb base, nutty mascarpone mousse, and crown of whipped cream, was—weirdly and wonderfully—a dead ringer for Baker Square’s Reese’s peanut butter pie.

Vintage-inspired decor | Photo courtesy Harry & Eddie’s

Lively vs. Loud

Some early reviews on OpenTable and other such sites dwell mostly on the noise level (read: it’s loud). It’s true that the surrounding hard surfaces—the white-painted brick walls, tin ceilings, and pristine marble bartops—don’t do much to dampen sound, especially on weekend nights when a pianist is positioned between the bar and dining room.

The noise is slightly at odds with the owner’s aim to be family-friendly, unless your idea of a family dinner out is craning to hear your spouse on one side of the booth while your teens sink into their smartphones on the other. If so, then thumbs-up emoji. Those craving a more conversation-friendly volume might prefer the skinny courtyard patio decorated with string lights and hanging planters.

Then again, one person’s loud is another’s lively, and you can’t get much livelier than sitting in the bar sipping a Super Tuscan to a soundtrack of excited chatter, plinking ivory keys, and the swish of ice in the bartender’s shaker.