Since opening in August, note. Bistro and Wine Bar has been the song of Midtown.
On the corner of North Second and Harris streets in Harrisburg, there are notes – hundreds of notes.
They’re in the dozens of European wines – in those reds and whites. They’re in intricate dishes like the venison osso buco with toasted walnuts, Brussels sprouts and pancetta lentil ragout. They’re in the Frank Sinatra record spinning on the record player.
All of these are part of the inspiration for note. Bistro & Wine Bar – a wine bar with a European dining experience located in Midtown. The creation of owners Ruth Prall and Michael Giblin, note. opened in August and was designed with the idea of focusing on experiences – on the notes.
Americans rush through meals, rarely relishing the time to relax and socialize. It’s the Europeans, Prall says, that have it figured out.
“My experiences abroad were more based around spending time with each other and enjoying the moment,” Prall says. “With note., we wanted to create an atmosphere – an experience – that slows life down for people. Have them enjoy the little things.
“Whether it’s the intricate notes of flavor in the food or wine, or the notes of the music we have here, that’s what makes note. special. And that’s the inspiration.”
note.’s intimacy starts with its design. The building – a 1910 Victorian home that previously featured the restaurants Bayou, Table 15 and Jayyid Harvest – has an eclectic design and vibe. The small restaurant area seats about 40 people at tables with varying heights. Come summertime, outdoor seating will allow for 12-16 more patrons. Inside, lights are dimmed, with candles at each table. Hardwood floors and the wood panel ceiling make it feel homey.
Each table gets its own little experience. Not all of the flatware matches, and that’s on purpose. There are special sets of salt and pepper shakers. My dinner companion and I had replica Oktoberfest beer steins. As a veteran of the Oktoberfest experience in Munich, I happily noticed those steins immediately upon being seated.
Squeezing 40 patrons and a bar into an area the size of a large living room isn’t easy. Tables are quite close to each other, which feels like an intimate Manhattan dining experience.
Behind me is a large chalkboard with a continually updated wine list, as well as the charcuterie and fromage list.
Admittedly, I’m not a big wine person. My German heritage turns my taste toward beer. That’s where my strengths lie. However, the beauty of note. is that the wait staff is incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to drink pairings.
I chose my dinner entrée and allowed our server to do the rest. He suggested the Vivanco Reserva, a 2007 Tempranillo from Spain. If that means as little to you as it initially did to me, just know that it’s red and it pairs well with a red meat dinner. My friend opted for a Pinot Grigio, and both were priced at around $9 a glass.
note. features nearly 40 different wines – mostly European. Prall, who has taken introductory sommelier classes, works regularly with head bartender Andrew Edsall to ensure note. is providing a top-notch wine list. Edsall has 25 years experience in the industry and is a key component in all the alcohol-based decisions at note. All wines are priced at $10 or below per glass, with the option for the whole bottle as well.
If wine isn’t what you’re looking for, note. has a full bar to make any mixed drink. There’s beer available as well, but I suppressed my inner German in exchange for the full note. experience.
That experience began to hit a crescendo once we started delving into the food. For an appetizer, we chose the mussels, prepared in a bacon tarragon sauce that was spectacular. Sweet and savory, the sauce was wonderful with dipping bread as well.
The shared dishes, which range from $8-$15, have a heavy seafood presence, including scallops, steamed clams and oysters, all cooked and prepared with too many sauces and seasonings to list. Just know that nothing is done simply or blandly at note.
That’s the work of chef Emi Starr. note. changes its menu seasonally and will keep its current winter menu through the end of the month, according to Prall. Three to four special dishes are prepared each night, in addition to the regular menu.
“The team in the kitchen is so phenomenal and creative,” Prall says. “If they weren’t coming up with new specialty dishes, they’d probably get bored. They’re just so great at what they do.”
note. works locally to procure much of its food, including purchasing vegetables and fruits through Broad Street Market. Its desserts are baked daily by Swinnerton’s Sweets.
For dinner, I chose the sirloin coulotte, topped with prosciutto and served with a roasted garlic potato puree and green beans. My friend opted for grilled mahi-mahi, served with saffron and roasted red pepper risotto, as well as pear ginger chutney. These entrees were $26 and $23, respectively.
note.’s winter menu had plenty of meat options, including the venison osso buco, smoked chicken cacciatore and slow-smoked shaved brisket. But options like penne a la vodka and specialty salads grace the menu as well.
I’m not exaggerating when I say our entrees were perfect. My sirloin was perfectly done to a medium finish and was delicious with the topped prosciutto.
For dessert, we opted for the Trifecta – a sweet peanut butter mascarpone dessert with chocolate on a salted pretzel crust.
Throughout the dinner, music plays in the background. That’s the record player in note., and patrons are encouraged to choose a record from the extensive personal collection of Prall and Giblin.
When the check is brought to the table, it’s delivered in a little book. Inside, patrons have written – you guessed it – a note on their experience.
“Sometimes when I have a free moment, I’ll grab a couple books and flip through them,” Prall says. “This is what keeps us going. It’s knowing people are having these wonderful experiences and sharing it with us.”
Our 8 p.m. reservation saw us sitting at the back wall by the chalkboard. I wrote in the little book at 9:50 p.m. It’s safe to say that without even trying, note. accomplished what it had set out to do. For at least one evening, everything slowed down, and we experienced the notes – the wine, the food and the music.
• 1530 North Second Street, Harrisburg; 412-7415
• Tuesday, 5-9:30 p.m.; Wednesday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.