“It was a full-on labor of love. We came in with sledgehammers swinging,” says the Harbor’s Andrew Krajacic of the venue’s extensive remodel. Located on the First Street block of Pine Avenue, that prime spot, which Andrew now co-owns with his brother Chris Krajacic, had been a revolving door of dining concepts; it was gastropub/nightclub Moonshiners, a Le Creperie, and even a Hooters at one point.
But the Harbor, which opened over the summer, fits into the prospering Downtown Promenade quite comfortably. It’s a vast space—6,650 square feet, to be exact—and feels as much a game hall as a restaurant and bar. There are communal tables throughout, a cozy living room area near the entrance and games aplenty. You’ll find shuffleboard on the patio, giant Uno cards on one table and a retro Pac-Man arcade game by the bar. Pool tables, dart boards and honest-to-god Skee-ball alleys are in the back, each adorned with the Harbor logo. And all the games are free of charge for patrons. “It’s not just sitting around, drinking,” says Chris. “We wanted Harbor to be a social environment—someplace you could go on a date, play each other at pool instead of the usual string of questions.”
Games aside, where the Harbor shows up the previous tenants of 130 Pine Avenue is in its menus. Chef Andy Taylor calls his cuisine craft American: “something approachable, but with a twist.” His creations include the Hickory Lacquered Chicken Nugs, a plate of veggies and chicken bites coated in a smoky glaze, then drizzled with mustard sauce, aged white Cheddar and cilantro.
The thick, grilled three-cheese sandwich is also stuffed with tri-tip and served with a sweet tomato soup for dipping. The top-selling white clams come out as a beautifully arranged bowl of huge and buttery mollusks, kale, garlicky white beans and bacon with a fanned-out array of savory toasts.
Currently, the Harbor offers brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends. Dinner is served after 4 p.m. on weekdays, as well as all day on weekends. After the New Year, the company plans to expand its food service to include weekday lunch hours.
That brunch, though: Massive vanilla-buttermilk pancakes are stacked high and topped with a spiced peach-blueberry compote. The Harbor Benny is an eggs Benedict topped with chunky matchsticks of braised bacon and a handful of tatsoi greens, all smothered in jalapeño hollandaise sauce. The blueberry-gin-cured lox comes piled over a fresh bagel with cream cheese, sea beans and citrus-pickled red onions.
Displaying hundreds of liquor bottles, the massive bar is managed by David Schmidt, a mixologist heralding from New York, where he worked under Iron Chef Marc Forgione. There is nothing precious on the Harbor’s cocktail list; a Coke can with the top lopped off is used to hold a strong whiskey cocktail. There’s a tequila drink that is unapologetically blue. Sure, there are coupe cocktails adorned with herbal sprigs, but there’s a confidence to these drinks that’s rarely seen in other art-cocktail joints.
Although the Harbor stands squarely between craft-cocktail/hipster-menu stewards the Federal and Bo-Beau Kitchen + Roof Tap, this rookie may just have them beat—or at least up for a little friendly competition.
The Harbor, 130 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 269-0832; www.theharborbarlb.com.