A sign behind the counter at Harmon's Lunch warns customers. "This is not Burger king. You don't get it your way. You take it my way, or you don't get the damn thing." In our estimation that's fine, because Harmon's hamburgers are just right. Doneness is not an issue. They are all cooked medium – nice and moist but not oozing juice or pink inside. They are lunch counter patties par excellence, sizzled on a seasoned old griddle and sandwiched inside soft Portland-bakery buns that are buttered and heated just enough that they become ultra tender mitts perfect for hamburger-holding.
Among the options you do have when you order a hamburger is a slice of cheese melted on top and, better yet, grilled onions. The onions are fried until melting soft, and they add sweet, smoky luxury to the little package. Also available are mustard and a vivid red relish. Lettuce and tomato? Forget about them. "They are not available on a Harmon's hamburger!" declared proprietor Peter Wermell. "Never were, never will be."
The menu is severely limited. The only other entrée is a hot dog – of which we saw no evidence on anybody's table or in the small open kitchen behind the counter. The one side dish is French fries, and they're super: thick cut and delivered too hot to handle. However, when this little shop gets crowded, as it so often does, ordering French fries can delay delivery of the meal. You see, while fifteen hamburgers will fit on the grill at one time, the fry kettle has room only for four orders of potatoes. Therefore people who come only for burgers sometimes have their order put to the head of the line while potato-eaters wait. On a busy summer Saturday, it's not uncommon to wait a half-hour for a meal.