Harlan's is a place that I'm sort of surprised I haven't talked about earlier. It's one of our favorite places to go for comfort food - breakfast or dinner. It's been an old stand-by in the Quad Cities for well over 50 years.
When U.S. Highway 6 was one of the main east-west roads through the nation, the Triangle Truckport was one of the busiest restaurants along the busy highway. Harlan Hagberg opened the Triangle in 1953 in, basically, a triangle that consisted of Highway 6 (later Kimberly Road), Hickory Grove (the main road into Davenport from Highway 6 at that time), and Fairmount Ave. (see map).
In 1960, a severe blizzard hit the Davenport area and a number of trucks were snow bound at or near the Triangle Truckport. A photographer for the Davenport Times, the forerunner of the Quad City Times, took this picture (click to enlarge) showing the tangled mess of trucks around the truck stop. Legend has it (mainly from Harlan's) the picture won a Pulitzer Prize for journalistic photography. But a quick check of former Pulitzer Prize winners doesn't turn up any indication of this picture winning any award. Still, it's a pretty impressive photo.
When Interstate 80 opened in 1962, the Triangle Truckport was located too far away from the super highway to have trucks stop in like they used to. So Harlan Hagberg changed it from a truck stop to a family restaurant and renamed it Harlan's Fine Foods. They continued their reputation of good, home-cooked meals at a fair price.
Over the years, the place expanded with little additions here and there to increase seating capacity. For a number of years, the Hagberg family lived above the restaurant. Eventually, they made the upstairs living quarters into office and warehouse space.
In 2000, Harlan's son, Jeff - who had taken over for his father a few years earlier - built a newer and bigger building just to the east of the existing restaurant. The move effectively tripled the capacity of the restaurant. With the move, they tore down the old restaurant and used the land for more parking.
And with the move, the biggest mistake they made was that they weren't prepared - staff-wise - for the large crowds that came to the new Harlan's for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Service and the food suffered for a while, but Jeff Hagberg got it figured out and the restaurant quickly became a better version of what it was before.
On nights that I don't feel like cooking and I'm in severe need of comfort food, we like to go out to Harlan's and get either a hot beef sandwich or a hot pork sandwich. It's a sandwich piled high with meat on white bread and served with a scoop of homemade mashed potatoes in between, then smothered with a rich beef or pork gravy. It's out of this world.
By the way, speaking of Harlan's potatoes - they do make all their potato dishes - mashed, hash browns, french fries, etc. - from real potatoes. They say they go through two tons of potatoes each week.
Cindy and I just went out there last night for dinner after running some late day errands. Both of us got hot beef sandwiches - I got a full order and Cindy got a half order. We both got salads - Cindy likes Harlan's homemade creamy garlic dressing and I like their Russian dressing.
Sometimes we'll get soup, as all their soups are homemade. They make a very good vegetable beef, along with good chili and chicken noodle soup.
They always have daily specials at Harlan's, along with a breakfast special through the week of a couple eggs, two pieces of bacon, toast, hash browns and coffee for $2.99. It's a good bargain and it really packs in the older crowd in the morning. But I do like their omelets and a side of homemade corned beef hash when I go for breakfast.
Prices at Harlan's are pretty reasonable - we got out of there last night with the hot beef sandwiches ($5.99 for a full - $4.49 for a half), two salads, and drinks for a tad over $20 bucks with tip.
Once they got rid of their growing pains after they moved to the new building about 7 years ago, Harlan's continues to serve some of the best comfort food I've had anywhere.