Casual meets elegant in Midtown Harrisburg
The large glass windows at Cafe 1500 allow for plenty of first impressions while walking toward its front door. The American bistro, which features a California theme of healthy eating, sits on North Sixth Street and has introduced a modern dining atmosphere into Midtown Harrisburg. It’s quite evident, right away, through those windows.
Cafe 1500 has a unique vibe. Elegantly draped white tablecloths spur an immediate impression of a fine dining experience. Hardwood floors and high ceilings with exposed ductwork make the place feel bigger than it is, but they also play against the white tablecloths, giving the room a more casual feel.
Owner Richard Hanna, who has also operated Roxy’s Café at the corner of North Street and North Third Street, put general manager Amanda Poindexter in charge of running his new restaurant.
It’s happy hour for 30 more minutes, and I’ll always take advantage of half-price cocktails. I order the Dark and Stormy – a highball drink with dark rum and ginger beer garnished with a lime and mint leaf. Poindexter has personally worked with the bartenders to put together the drink menu, which offers an array of craft cocktails – from the Tequila Sangria to the Ladies Love It martini (made with Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain Liqueur, a muddled cucumber and simple syrup). Cafe 1500 offers a variety of beer and wine as well.
While sipping on the cocktail from my corner window seat, it’s easy to notice the nuances in Poindexter’s effort to create a modern dining feel. The bar layout, decorations and tables all have a straight-edged, modern look without the adornments of an elegant dining arrangement. The glass windows stretching from floor to ceiling give a great view of Harrisburg’s downtown.
Suspended lights hang from the ceiling, but they aren’t of much use on this summer night – the setting sun shining through the western windows is all I need to peruse the dinner menu. And those same orange rays double as a backdrop for the live music being performed in the corner – a man and woman duo crooning Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
Dinner entrees are wide-ranging, including fish, steak, chicken and pasta options. The restaurant’s signature Cafe Steak – with a shallot demi-glace, garlic spinach and frites – highlights the dinner menu, which also features tarragon mustard chicken with roasted red skin potatoes and Hoisin-glazed salmon over jeweled basmati rice.
In a true California mindset, Cafe 1500 offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan options as well. Its vegetarian crepes with sauteed vegetables and goat cheese, served on quinoa, are among nearly dozen vegetarian options.
Vegan salads, like the golden beet and lentil salad with apples, shallots, arugula and citrus vinaigrette, are available, as well as a vegan black bean burger with roasted tomato, watercress, shallots and pico de gallo for those in a mood for more than a salad.
Poindexter says the bistro uses the freshest ingredients it can get and has a seasonal menu for that reason. Vegetables are purchased from local markets, including the Broad Street Market. The summer menu is lighter and healthier. With the fall season fast approaching, Poindexter plans to mix up the menu by adding new spice-themed dishes that include cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as sweet potatoes and short ribs.
I ultimately settled on the salmon tempura appetizer and the antipasto pizza. However, I could have ordered about six different things that sounded just as appealing. The salmon tempura came out perfectly done without being too greasy or covered with too much batter. It’s accompanied by a honey-wasabi tartar sauce, which pairs perfectly with the salmon.
My antipasto pizza had a pepper jack cheese crust with garlic, spinach and salami, as well as Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. It makes for a light pizza that isn’t greasy at all, and still filling at the same time.
Poindexter hopes to catch the summer happy hour crowd by opening at 4 p.m., and outdoor seating is also available on the porch. It’s all a work in progress, while ensuring the bistro only expands as business allows.
Between the view, the live music and the modern feel, Cafe 1500 has created an atmosphere that welcomes anyone. However, nothing trumps the food. Currently, the lunch menu features a variety of gourmet soups, salads, sandwiches and pizzas.
Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday and includes the regular breakfast items like eggs and pancakes. But just like the lunch and dinner menu, brunch features unique dishes as well. French toast is honey caramelized with pulverized almonds and homemade whipped cream, while omelets are made with asparagus, shallots, roasted tomatoes and chives.
Despite the modern looks and fine-dining appearance, Poindexter wants the bistro to be a place anyone can visit.
And when you visit, see if you can grab a spot by those large glass windows.
• 1500 North Sixth Street, Harrisburg; 831-8322
• Lunch: Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; Brunch: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.