By: Jen Merrill
Harmony Hall in Middletown is just a stone’s throw away from the endless blur of cars on Route 283, but you’d never know it once you’re there. The serene surroundings that owner Karen Taylor has maintained and operated since 1997 are quite a sight to see and visit.
“You’re so close to everything, but it feels so peaceful,” says Taylor as she sits in her establishment. “I go to Harrisburg almost daily, and it takes me seven minutes to get from downtown to here.”
The accessibility of this beautiful location has helped it become a popular marriage and reception spot for central Pennsylvanian couples, but Harmony Hall is much more than just a venue for your wedding day.
Since a soft open earlier this summer, Taylor started serving lunch on weekdays.
The menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and a varying selection of desserts.
“It was really important to us to do something different,” says Taylor. “Our burgers are hand-patted. It’s a really good-quality beef. We use a brioche roll instead of a regular bun. They are shiny and have a nice little potato bread texture. Our shrimp are larger shrimp. Everything’s fresh. There’s nothing prepared. We make the bruschetta. We could certainly buy value potato chips, but I just think doing as many things homemade as we can is very important.”
The menu came together in a collaborative effort between Taylor, her staff and her clientele.
The Tuscan Grilled Chicken Sandwich, for example, was inspired by a popular dish she often served at weddings. It starts with a brioche bun stuffed with a juicy marinated chicken breast that’s smothered in mozzarella cheese and chunky homemade bruschetta, topped with crisp romaine lettuce and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
“To me, eating starts with the visual and ends up with how great it tastes,” explains Taylor. “If you put something out that doesn’t look pretty but tastes fantastic, people may not want to try it.”
Taylor counts the Artichoke Pate as Harmony Hall’s “trademark item.” The appetizer includes a mound of crunchy, deliciously seasoned Karen’s Pasta Dippers® ready to be dunked into a creamy blend of artichokes, cream cheese, garlic and Parmesan cheese. You can’t start your meal here without them.
“Creating the menu was a long, hard process, but it was a lot of fun,” says Taylor. “And everybody had something that they liked. We have an item on the menu called Pigs on a Log, and it’s an item I thought, ‘No way, no how!’ But everybody that orders it, raves about it.”
Why are they raving?
Because who in their right mind can pass up mouth-watering pulled pork smothered in cheddar cheese, ranch dressing and barbecue sauce, piled on top of a generous mound of crispy French fries?
Beyond the new lunch menu available, Taylor has held weekly lawn concerts throughout the past two summers, and this summer’s concerts benefited a selection of charities that the owner holds close to her heart.
“There was a class reunion at one of the concerts. You can rent our pavilion out and have a big birthday party. Corporations can have employee outings,” says Taylor. “You can have gatherings here. It can be just you hanging out with some friends.”
When Taylor talks about her venue, the passion of 25 years of experience is evident. She wants people to come visit Harmony Hall and fall in love with it the way she does each and every time she steps foot on the premises. Then taste her food, and you won’t want to leave.
“To me, eating starts with the visual and ends up with how great it tastes. If you put something out that doesn’t look pretty but tastes fantastic, people may not want to try it,” explains Taylor. “We also wanted to have a really good value. In this economy, people are very budget-minded. We wanted to have something that people felt was reasonable. Here you get a very nice portion and a great atmosphere.”
Harmony Hall is open for lunch on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.