This column offers a sampling of dining experiences in the area. It is not intended as a review of the restaurant other than to provide the reader with one diner's experience. It also appears in The Herald's Friday entertainment section, "Ticket."
HARRY & JEAN'S
LOCATION: 1940 Cinema Drive, Rock Hill
HOURS: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner: 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; Sunday Brunch Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
WEB SITE: Harryandjeans.com
AMBIANCE: Comfortable casual upscale restaurant
Before heading to see a Rock Hill Community Theatre show, a friend and I met for dinner. Just off Dave Lyle Boulevard off Interstate 77 in Rock Hill, tucked in near the movie theater at Manchester Village, is Harry & Jean's -- a place to find an fine meal and dining experience, yet still casual enough.
I'd been next door to the piano bar, Bentley's Gin Mill, and sipped martini happy hour specials but had never been next door for a meal. After meeting at the front fountain, my friend and I headed in to be greeted by a hostess. We were quickly seated in the left dining area of booths, and just as quickly, the waiter came to us with menus.
The soft, big band and jazz music put me in the mood for a dirty martini. My friend cruised the long list of specialty alcoholic beverages and wines, and decided on a raspberry cosmopolitan.
The appealing dinner menu runs the course of something for everyone, even vegetarians and low-carb options. The appetizers include lobster bisque ($4.99), shrimp cocktail ($9.99), calamari ($7.49) and more. Salads include a cob ($9.79) and Jean's spinach ($6.29) and charbroiled or coconut chicken ($8.99). There also are sandwiches, such as a black-and- blue crab cake or tuna filet ($9.99) and Harry's roast beef, Monte Cristo or Carolina Reuben.
We couldn't decide on our entrée, so we agreed to share our two dishes. The home-style meals have flair.
We ordered the mouth-watering fresh salmon seasoned and charbroiled over hickory ($17.79) with a choice of buttery sauce (we chose lemon pepper at the waiter's suggestion) that rivals any salmon I've had. We also ordered a meal complement of scrumptious cauliflower au gratin -- like my mother's Monk Dish of cauliflower and cheese only there's little additions, such as bacon.
Our other main dish was the zucchini and portabella bake ($14.99) with baked layers of sliced zucchini, portabella mushrooms, Romano and Swiss cheese, topped with roasted red pepper and a wonderful tomato sauce with a side of creamy Romano grits. The cheese is a nice addition to this Southern staple.
We also opted for the garden salad for ($3.49) with a wonderful bed of green leaves and a great house dressing of blue cheese and creamy red French -- what a wonderful combo. We were served a basket of warm Portuguese corn bread that has a tear crust and wonderful softness inside.
We saved room for dessert because who could resist from the list of Grandma's Caramel apple crisp, Mom's gooey brownie, Jim's Carrot Cake, grand crème brulee and chocolate pecan pie. We shared the Lemon Chess Pie ($4.49) and what a wonderful take Harry & Jean's has on this Southern treat. Delicious! But if you don't have room, there also are after-dinner drinks and espresso to wake you back up.
According to the Web site, the owner, Ralph Meranto, looked to create an environment that reminds him of his grandparents' home on the farm and a menu based on family favorites. I'd have liked to been a friend invited for dinner.
This "passionate American food" will leave any diner with a passion for Harry & Jean's.