By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Jon Cohen's family has run Harry's Restaurant on Route 9 since 1946, so he does not make changes lightly.
But the gradual introduction of healthier menu options to the fried clams and burgers Harry's is famous for, and now the availability of some coffee drinks with added liqueurs to enhance the dinner experience are the sorts of changes Cohen feels will help his business continue to prosper.
Harry's started adding some lighter, healthier dishes to the menu about a year and a half ago with such options as a veggie burger, roast beef au jus instead of with gravy, stuffed portabella mushrooms, or an extra vegetable instead of fries. The menu additions have been done slowly, testing customer acceptance.
“Now we are looking to speed up the additions to the healthy portion of the menu this year,” Cohen said. “As a business plan, it's definitely showing its value. We are growing because of those options. Our regular customers say they have to wait for a table.”
Not every customer is willing to pass up the fried clams, but the new menu items help avoid the “veto vote,” when some people in a party want healthier choices, he said.
Cohen finds Harry's is attracting more young customers, and the restaurant has taken to advertising in high school newspapers to drive that business.
“We'se asking them what they want,” he said. “They still want the “heavy artillery,” the macaroni and cheese, chicken wings and cheese fries, but they recognize they can's eat that every day. We'se trying to find options at price points they can afford in times when it's hard for a kid to find a job.”
Harry's has also recently received a cordial license from the town of Westborough to supplement its long-time beer and wine license. It's not a full liquor license, but it does permit the restaurant to expand its beverage business. Cohen expects to focus on the addition of after-dinner drinks such as coffee with liqueurs added.
“So far, there's a lot of interest in what we'se doing, but we'se going to go slow to make sure we can control it.” He expects the new options to help expand Harry's dinner business.
Harry's is trying to hold the line on prices, but Cohen said he may trim the number of items on the menu both to control costs and to avoid overwhelming the kitchen staff as new menu items are added.
He's not going to eliminate the restaurant's famous lobster roll however. “That's the most enormous success we ever had,” he said. In preparation for the recent snowstorm with predicted high winds, the restaurant staff was taking the letters advertising the lobster roll off the outside sign to keep them from blowing away. “People stopped and asked. They were upset we might not be selling lobster rolls.”
The menu changes do not mean a change in the restaurant's 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.? “We'se still a diner, just with a healthier appetite,” Cohen said. His parents started the restaurant, and are pictured in a wall mural opposite the entrance.
Harry's is located at 149 Turnpike Rd. (Route 9), just west of the Lyman Road intersection.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, opening at 7 a.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. weekends.? It's open until midnight Friday and Saturday and until 11 p.m. other nights.
Harry's is cash only, no credit cards, but there is an ATM machine in the restaurant.