HARDING'S | 32 E 21st St. (bet. Park Ave. & Broadway) | 212.600.2105 | hardingsnyc.com | | | | | Harding's on Urbanspoon

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ONE OF MY FAVORITE ADVANTAGES of living in New York City is the ability to enjoy something new just as easily and readily as being able to fondly wax nostalgic. And far more often than even natives might surmise, that phenomenon occurs in Gotham's ever-evolving food scene.

One such blossoming restaurant that is flourishing with culinary innovation—while keeping itself firmly grounded in more traditional ideologies—is the excellent and handsome Harding's, located in a warm, bi-level, big open space in the GRAMERCY/FLATIRON DISTRICT.

My early week's visit found me enjoying their newly more neighborly-priced lunch service. The lunch menu features eclectically familiar dishes, from a roasted chicken Waldorf salad with walnuts and dried cherries to a lobster roll with lemon aioli and pickled fennel.

And so as it is the season, Harding's offers up a pumpkin dish: a hearty, rich and yet light pumpkin pie soup, topped with spiced whipped cream, toasted pumpkin seeds, and puff pastry "crust".

Pumpkin Pie Soup

Expertly balanced between sweet and savory, this was one of the lightest servings of pumpkin I've ever had. It was still full of flavor and deftly complimented—and never overwhelmed—by a deft, humble touch of aromatic seasoning, as well as the two pleasantly contrasting textures of both the crunchy, toasty pumpkin seeds, and the crispy-baked, airy "croutons" of puff pastry.

And as I chose the soup as my "novelty" selection, I can hardly try out a new place without researching their burger. I order their house burger, which employs a blend of ground angus chuck and shortrib. I opt for the cheese, but as is my custom with a first-time burger, I eschew the bacon option, as I always want my palate to taste the flavor and cooking aspects of the beef, undistracted by any other proteins.

Cheeseburger with Fries

Even more to my liking, the burger arrives more modestly adorned, with solely a nicely toasted bun and no tomato/onion/lettuce to further dilute the burger. Cooked a perfect medium rare (that only happens about 15% of the time I order a medium rare burger), it was juicy, crumbly, properly salted, and layered with the flavors of rendered beef fat lacing the interior of the burger while giving great sear, char, and taste to the burger's exterior.

(I would assign this as a MODEL BURGER, using the metrics of my FAVORITE NYC BURGERS post, but only if you can imagine it as that rare low-maintenance model, who's actually very bright and has a wonderful personality. Maybe I'll call it a GOTHAM BURGER, as it is, like my city, beautiful, vibrant, entertaining, and down-to-earth!)

That description could just as easily describe Harding's executive chef, Ariel Fox, whose James Beard-recognized history in the culinary arts has made her a scholar of the agricultural and organic food movement, and definitely one of NYC's brightest chefs to look out for for many years to come.

Chef Ariel Fox

The whole restaurant is big, open (almost cavernous), and yet still very inviting. Again, like the city itself, it makes you feel comfortably "at home" in no time. I look forward to taking the 6 train back down to Harding's often to revisit one of my newest favorite burgers (and the New York-sized pile of crispy, hot, skin-on fries that it barely shares the plate with!). It's one of those (unfortunately still rare) places that actually make you love this city that much more.

(Or if you let the splendid yet understated decor set in, maybe you'll love your country a little more too...!)


Bun Apple Tea!


HARDING'S | 32 E 21st St. (bet. Park Ave. & Broadway) | 212.600.2105 | hardingsnyc.com | | | | | Harding's on Urbanspoon