By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Sometimes you just crave fried clams. And Harry's Restaurant on Route 9 has been the place to go since 1946. But Harry's is adding some healthier options to its menu so folks can indulge their clam craving once in a while, but stop in often for the new choices.
There will still be the classic meatballs, for example, but now there's a turkey version as well. Or try coq au vin, stuffed portabella mushrooms, a veggie burger made with portabellas, kale salad with quinoa, pot roast au jus instead of with gravy, a turkey and kale rollup sandwich or an extra vegetable instead of French fries.
“The restaurant industry is growing up, trending in different ways,” said Jon Cohen, owner of Harry's, which his parents founded. (They are included in the mural on the wall opposite the entrance.) “When my father started, this was a brand-new industry, mostly mom-and-pop restaurants, with a few major players like Howard Johnson's.
“Today, it's inundated by chains and uniformity. They don's cater to the customer the way a small organization can.”
Cohen is listening to his customers and hears a call for lighter, healthier fare.
“Mothers today are trying to feed their families healthier foods. So my first appeal with these new items is to mothers. They can bring their children here and get the type of foods they want. We'se still doing hearty, comfort food, but healthier. We'se still a diner.”
Cohen also has seen his teenage customers changing the way they eat. Burgers and fries remain popular, but “a lot of the teens are vegetarians now. They want pasta, portabella mushrooms, zucchini sticks. We want to have a lot of things for them to eat.”
Harry's added several of the lighter entrees about six weeks ago, and the initial response has been “amazing,” Cohen said. “The more people who order the healthier foods, the more healthy foods we will have.
“This will evolve as we go along. Our customer will ultimately dictate what direction we take.”
Harry's is starting with additions to the lunch and dinner menus, and then will take a look at the breakfast offerings.
“We'se in the very beginning stages, but we want our customers to taste a little of the world, have something different,” like Mediterranean-style chicken mirabella, he noted.
“It's bold and it's difficult,” he acknowledged. “We don's want to drive away our loyal base. We will still have the foods you'se been coming here for years to eat. But if you'se looking for a healthier version in a comfortable place at a reasonable price, we'sl have that, too.”
Harry's was already doing a little of that, not salting the fried clams or French fries, but leaving it to customers to add salt if they want to.
“When the dietary trend changes, you need to acknowledge that trend,” Cohen said. “We don's want to become a statistic in the chains versus the mom-and-pop businesses.”
What won's change is the look and feel of a 1950s diner, the friendly service from staff that has worked at Harry's for years, even decades, and the idea of comfort food.
“The bottom line is we are trying to set the restaurant up for another 10 to 15 years,” Cohen said.
Harry's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is one of the few Metrowest spots open past midnight – to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant opens at 7 a.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. weekends. The breakfast menu is available all day.
Most sandwiches and burgers are in the $4.75 to $7.50 price range, and dinner entrees are generally $11.95 to $18.95, with a lot of choices under $15.
Harry's is cash only, no credit cards, but there is an ATM machine in the restaurant.
For more information or for takeout orders, call 508-366-8302 or visit www.harrysrestaurant.com.