Phantom Diner

The Comfort of Home - The Phantom Diner, October 2011

Written by The Phantom Diner | Oct 13, 2011 7:12 PM

Even casual film buffs know that near the end of the 1939 MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz,” the main protagonist, Dorothy Gale, gets back to Kansas by clicking the heels of her ruby slippers and saying over and over again, “There’s no place like home.”

Well, I’m here to tell ya that in Harrisburg,there’s no place like Home 231.

That’s the relatively new downtown/midtown restaurant at 231 North St. between Second and Third streets.

While only open since spring, it hit its stride early and promises to be as successful as owner Nick Laus’ other restaurants: Café Fresco Center City (and Level 2, its hip, dress-coded nightspot upstairs) and Café Fresco out on Paxton Street near the Harrisburg Mall.

And that’s despite the fact that these other places are not like Home.

Home stresses basic foods and local-grown freshness, has an easy homelike feel to it and a menu that varies with the season and the best products available.

It is, like most new restaurants, geared toward casual dining but has a classy feel both inside and out. (There’s a tent-covered courtyard in back that’s a delight in warm weather.)

Décor is clean and simple, bordering on dull and dark. But the staff is terrific. The customer is important. And the fact the owner owns multiple restaurants really shows in how Home is run.

It’s a fun place for groups of, say six; this is mostly because too many of the “small plates” are too good to pass up, and a larger group can order a bunch and share.

On multiple visits, I didn’t taste anything that wasn’t wonderful. And on one visit during which initial service was slow and less than attentive, the unprompted arrival of a variety of “small plates” — on the house and with apologies — more than made up for the wait.

And I love this kind of menu.

home231_frontThere are soups and salads, including a much-admired jumbo lump crab salad with corn, watercress and curry vinaigrette ($13). There’s also a nice spinach salad with chicken ($9), and all salads can be had with various add-ons.

I can’t recommend every “small plate” because I have to (and will) go back again. But the many that I’ve eaten are well worth ordering.

During my visits, there were day boat scallops with sweet garlic, asparagus and truffle ($13); crispy rock shrimp with smoky Buffalo sauce ($9); chorizo corn dogs ($6); a crab cake ($13), and Prince Edward Island mussels ($10).

Pray that when you’re there the “small plate” menu includes homemade potato chips with truffle ($4); Home’s amazing deviled eggs with bacon and red beets ($5); mac and cheese with smoked ham ($7), and fabulous homemade pierogies with caramelized onion and sour cream ($7). You really need to try these.

Also, three “small plates” won my heart: filet mignon tartare ($13); fried green tomatoes ($6), and an artisan cheese plate with a glorious selection of three local cheeses served with sliced fruit ($12).

There are also sliders that can serve as “small plates.” Three grilled kielbasa sliders with sauerkraut and whole-grain mustard are $10, as are three pork barbecue sliders with homemade sauce and pickled red onion.

Any two of these smaller dishes can easily serve as a light (and delicious) supper.

But there also are sandwiches. They run from $9 for a grilled cheese or a Rueben or chicken salad with lettuce, tomato and onion, to $11 for a turkey club with smoked bacon and avocado, or $10 for a made-to-order classic burger with cheddar, lettuce, tomato and Home’s homemade sauce.

And, for heartier appetites, there are entrees. They range from $17 for chicken pie with peas and carrots to $27 for the whole grilled fish of the day or the filet mignon with fingerling potatoes and asparagus. Both of the latter entrees — the fish was a bronzini — won raves from dinner mates during one visit.

There are familiar dishes, “comfort food” for some, such as meatloaf, organic chicken breast with Brussels sprouts, ricotta gnocchi and fish ‘n’ chips.

Then there’s hanger steak or crab cake with hand-cut fries, rainbow trout and house-made pasta.

I’ve had the trout and a pappardelle pasta dish with a light sauce and veggies, and I can heartily recommend both.

Dangerously, there are also wonderful desserts, including homemade donuts, homemade ice cream, a hot fudge sundae, seasonal pie and a coconut custard cake you’ll think your grandmother made. Desserts are reasonably priced at $5 or $6. And there’s coffee and good espresso.

Plus, there’s no automatic gratuity for larger parties, no reason not to try this place and no reason (I’m betting) for not leaving a generous tip. For, at least in the Capital City, there’s no place like Home.

HOME 231

231 North St., Harrisburg; 717.232.4663; www.home231.com
Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner, 5-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; Brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday; Reservations highly recommended; Restaurant parking lot nearby; major credit cards

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