Bar Harbor: Affordable family dining with a view of the bay
By Jennifer Murphy
Photos by Chelsey Granger
If you’re looking for a good burger, friendly people and a cozy place to watch the bay, you’re looking for Bar Harbor. The burgers cannot be beat. Just give a one-third pound olive burger with onion rings a taste. You won’t be disappointed.
Harbor Springs’ iconic Bar Harbor building has been around since the late 1890s. The historic bar and restaurant has been at the corner of State and Bay streets for more than a century, in one iteration or another, since the days of steamships on Little Traverse Bay.
Recently remodeled after new ownership took over, the Bar Harbor of today is a comfortable spot after a local basketball game or snowmobile trek.
Owners Jeff Gardner and Norm and Christine Van Wormer wanted to breathe new life into the local hangout. A steward to the history of the restaurant, Gardner says, “I feel blessed to be a part of it.” In buying the restaurant, the new owners wanted to honor the past while allowing a new generation to enjoy the establishment.
Bar Harbor’s wild past has certainly calmed down. The catchphrase “last call Bar Harbor” is the stuff of local legends. Legends that the new ownership and staff are happy to reminisce about. Gardner explaines that “last call” meant at the end of the night, everyone who could fit in the doors would be at Bar Harbor, enjoying the last of the evening’s libations. This was a place that brought friends together to give them one last chance for fun on any given night. He even has his own hat printed with the catchphrase.
The Bar Harbor of today is a far cry from those wild nights. Then, when the red light was on, at the top of the neon Bar Harbor sign, local police knew to head in to break up a fight that was a bit too out of hand for the bartender. Back then, the bar was known more for its spirits than its food.
At one time, the restaurant was part of what was called the “Bar-Muda Triangle” consisting of Bar Harbor, The New York and The Pier restaurant. All three restaurants are still standing against the test of time.
Rich in a history of rowdy fun, today’s owners have brought Bar Harbor back to life. Completely remodeled, the bar is welcoming with comfortable booth seating, televisions for watching sporting events and an open/airy concept. You can even talk to the cook as he flips your burger of choice. The new owners were also intent on keeping prices affordable for family dining.
Grab a booth near the windows and you’ll see “the beauty is in the view of the water. It’s wonderful to sit here and look out and watch the seasons go by,” Gardner says. His philosophy is “the more the merrier” when it comes to family dining. He wanted to be sure to have a “more friendly and accessible” restaurant for kids.
Gardner was also insistent upon Bar Harbor having one of the best burgers in town.
“This place was always known for its hamburgers,” Gardner says.
The olive burger was especially a crowd favorite. It’s comfort food that Bar Harbor serves to its guests. A hearty burger that satisfies restaurant-goers, is exactly what they have today.
“Make it delicious, make ’em fantastic,” Gardner says. “The food is great. We make comfortable food.”
His whole philosophy is for families to enjoy their time in the restaurant, watch a football or basketball game and come back often.
Bar Harbor also offers paint and pour events and discounted pricing to lift ticket holders and Lyric Theatre-goers. Follow Bar Harbor’s Facebook page for more information.
Find the crew — Stephanie, Holly, Logan, Rachel, Shannon, Julia, Doug, Steve and Howard — waiting for you at Bar Harbor.
“They’re looking forward to seeing ya,” Gardner says.
Written By By Jennifer Murphy, photos by Chelsey Granger