Everyone waiting in line for Harmony Lunch’s grand reopening had a story about first dates and family dinners spent at the uptown diner. But it was Tim Woolner’s tale that took the greasy pork burger.
The Waterloo native had made the six-hour drive from Little Falls, N.Y., so as to not miss out on the occasion.
“I have a photo of four generations of Woolners at Harmony Lunch — my son, my dad, my grandpa and myself,” Woolner said. He didn’t want to miss out on the celebration, so he planned his vacation around July 29.
He was joined by his mother, Anne, sister, Laurie, and seven-week old nephew, Owen (possibly the youngest Harmony Lunch customer of the day), all of whom live in Waterloo.
“Seeing us was just the onions on the burger,” said Laurie.
“Or slippery burgers, with fried onions, as we like to call them,” said Anne.
After 86 years of serving their famous comfort food in Waterloo, the Marks family closed Harmony Lunch in October. HIP Developments then scooped it up for $1.5 million and brought on local chef Nick Benninger to update the menu.
Despite renovations, Harmony Lunch looked close to how it had before Bruce Marks flipped the last burger. The major change on Saturday was the garage-style door that opened the dining area up to the sidewalk and jaunty Classic Chordsmen Quartet.
“We are thrilled to be part of the reopening,” said singer Dennis Dueck, adding he and Harmony Lunch go way back.
A certain degree of sameness is what Benninger was after — to preserve the quality and legacy. Wib Meyer, a customer for 30 years, confirmed Benninger had achieved his goal.
“The onions smell the same, the chairs look the same and the burgers taste the same,” Meyer said.
Benninger also updated equipment and the washrooms, added a few TVs and reinstated milkshakes and the liquor licence — craft beer is now on tap.
Before Harmony Lunch’s 11 a.m. official reopening, a line had formed half a block back. Heading that line was Mike Tieleman, who’d shown up at 8 a.m. to guarantee himself the first meal.
“I’ve been eating Harmony Lunch since I could chew, and it’s a taste I didn’t want to miss out on,” he said.