Harvest brings locavore chic to this side of the Schuylkill.
When Marathon Grill closed in May 2011, it left all of Penn wondering what would occupy the corner across from FroGro, down the block from Smoke’s, kitty–corner to McDonald’s and behind the Rave. As of two weeks ago, Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar calls this corner home.
The space has been completely renovated in what owner Dave McGrogan describes as a 70s California style. Warm wood, natural light, a large recycled glass bar and room for private dining characterize Harvest’s interior. The menu, which centers around local, organic foods, changes every season, and the majority of dishes are under 500 calories. We had quite the sampling (see below). They have several dishes that go over the 500–calorie mark, denoted on the menu by a plus sign. Regardless, the chefs at Harvest are doing a spectacular job at packing tons of flavor into fewer calories than there are in a Big Mac. Executive Chef Anthony DiPascale told us that working at Harvest is vastly different from a typical menu development process because they work with 75 farms throughout the year. They even work with farmers to create custom produce, like square watermelons, which fit perfectly on square plates for a summer salad.
To keep the calories on par, Chef Anthony relies on nutritionists and a computer program. Though most dishes are under the 500 calorie mark, DiPascale explained that if it goes over, they have a lot of fun with it; he talked of adding more and more meat to a charcuterie plate once it passed the threshold.
When asked how Harvest will fit into the life of a Penn student, McGrogan had given it some thought. “Kids who come from Northern New Jersey where their parents go to Whole Foods once a week are not going to get to school and eat McDonald’s,” he says. He firmly believes there’s a place on campus for diners who prioritize local, seasonal and healthy food that’s “relatively affordable.” He also calls Harvest “a good place to get educated about wine” and encourages students to try some and chat with the knowledgeable staff. They offer both full glasses, half glasses and $10 flights (a good way to try any three wines on a budget). While Harvest is a little expensive for a full meal and wine, seasonal cocktails (just get the cranberry bourbon — you’re welcome) and flatbreads make it a viable option for Friday night drinks. It gives Tap House a run for its money.
However, for affordable brunch along the lines of Marathon, Penn kids will have to keep looking. Sabrina’s, anyone?