Harriet’s Inn fits its neighborhood like a favorite pair of jeans

We're going to need a bigger plate. The fries don't leave room for the sides.

We're going to need a bigger plate. The fries don't leave room for the sides.

In every neighborhood, there’s that one house where everyone seems to end up; kids congregate after school for snacks, and grown-ups gravitate over on the weekends for burgers and beer. The vibe is come-as-you-are casual, the food is unpretentious, and the hosts are happy to see you. If that neighborhood hangout was a restaurant, it would be Harriet’s Inn.

Built on a corner lot at 40th and Lyndale in south Minneapolis formerly occupied by a gas station, the restaurant has the look and feel of a sprawling suburban basement – in a good way. There’s lots of wood; a large, comfortable bar area; plenty of large-screen TVs; and a cozy fireplace. It’s the type of basement you picture in a Minnetonka McMansion, a place to relax with friends, watch the game, and have a few beers.

The restaurant calls itself a quintessential neighborhood pub, which clues you in to the type of food you can expect. The emphasis is on comfort food standards that include burgers, pot pies, hot dishes, and tacos. There are also salads, soup, wraps, and flatbreads. The website boasts that the menu offers “nearly 60 choices.” That’s a lot of items to execute, and with this many options, it can be hard for the kitchen to be on point with every dish, every time.

The pot pie, for example, looked enticing, but was overly salty. The walleye, one of the Inn Favorites, spent a little too long in the fryer and its presentation was haphazard: The fish fillet slid around atop a pile of fries accompanied by a dish of “roasted corn,” which had been caramelized to the point of being gummy.

Luckily, you’re always safe with a burger, and the menu gives a nod to that local favorite, the Lucy. Purists will go for the classic Lucy with American cheese; for the more adventurous, there’s the Buff ‘n’ Blue Lucy with buffalo sauce and blue cheese, or the Hot Lips Lucy with serrano peppers, habanero jack cheese, and spicy bistro sauce.

The bar offerings are beer and wine only for now, but as with the food menu, the selection is vast. There are 28 regional and craft beers on tap and more in cans and bottles. Wine drinkers can choose from 24 options available by the glass, a nice change of pace from many places where choices are limited if you’re not buying a bottle. Bartenders are also getting creative with cocktails starring beer and wine.

The busy bar scene at Harriet's Inn.

The busy bar scene at Harriet's Inn.

Harriet’s Inn offers daily specials Monday through Friday that help make a night out more affordable; shed the Monday blues with the $6 burger and fries deal, or show up for pork and PBR Thursdays to get a pulled pork sandwich, fries, and a 16-ounce can of Pabst for $10. You can take advantage of happy hour almost all day during the week, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. to close. On weekends, happy hour starts an hour earlier, going from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close. Take advantage of the weekend happy hour drinks with brunch from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The service is genuinely friendly and was attentive and efficient even on a busy weekend night when the place was packed. The restaurant was a demographic melting pot of families with kids, couples out for date night, and groups of friends of all ages. The room was buzzing with conversation, laughter, and the clinking of glasses. Ensconced in a cloud-soft leather chair in front of the cozy fire, we had the urge to linger — which was only tempered by compassion for the newcomers lined up and waiting for a table.

Harriet’s Inn

4000 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis