The Kitchen at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center – or HMAC for those familiar with the Midtown music venue – officially opened today with a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting. To mark the occasion, live performances are planned throughout the day with “supergroups” the Baseball Project and Minus 5 – featuring REM’s Peter Buck and Mike Mills – slated to play HMAC’s Stage on Herr tonight.
The new cafeteria-style bar and restaurant is part of a larger renovation project that has been stalled over the past seven years due to funding issues. Now, owners John Traynor, Chuck London, Gary Bartlett and Mike Giblin are in position to finish what they started.
The 132-seat Kitchen is accessible from Third Street or from inside via the Stage on Herr. On the menu is a variety of southern-inspired and locally sourced options, including small plates, big plates, sandwiches, salads, sides and sweets ranging in price from $4 to $18.
Wines, spirits, cocktails, craft beers and ciders are available at the 20-seat bar. The bar offers 16 draft beers (regional brews like Tröegs and Spring House were on tap at last night’s soft opening event), along with a selection of bottled beers.
So where does the southern-inspired menu come from? The Kitchen’s kitchen is led by chef Louis Ray, who hails from Texas. Along with Harrisburg native and chef de cuisine, Matt Hickey, they’ve created a substantial and soulful menu – from fried pickles and chicken fried olives to slow cooked brisket on a brioche bun – which you can find listed on the massive blackboard wall next to the bar.
The large dining room, scattered with recycled wooden tables and red metal chairs, continues outside into a courtyard facing North Third Street. There, diners will be able to eat, drink and listen to live music from the bright red picnic tables by a small stage area. Off to the side of The Kitchen is the internet café and lounge which leads out to another courtyard by the Third Street entrance.
Traynor and his partners fell in love with the old building and purchased it in 2007 with the idea of creating an entertainment venue with a restaurant in the heart of Harrisburg. The building dates back to 1860 and was originally the Jewish Community Center. It was also home to the Harrisburg Police Athletic League before sitting vacant for a few decades.
“It was the building that called,” says Traynor of the reason he chose to invest in Harrisburg. His outlook is poetic, likening the stately structure to an old lady they’ve dressed up and taken out on the town.
In addition to the newly renovated restaurant space, the building’s second floor ballroom is next in line for its debut, which is projected for some time in June. The room will be a mixed-use space, hosting large-scale nationally touring music acts as well as catered events. Also in the works is the basement level dance floor which will incorporate the former community center’s swimming pool into the layout, offering a unique, sunken dance floor experience.
Traynor is proud to welcome talent booker Lisa White to the team. White was booking national acts for seminal Washintgon, D.C. music venue 9:30 Club for years before she decided to partner with the HMAC in hand-picking local acts to pair with more established acts. Traynor explains that they are interested in cultivating an authentic, less-corporate environment in a city that is hungry for something different.
• 1110 N. Third St., Harrisburg
• Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m.-12 a.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.