As a moviephile, I am not sure what took me more than two years to get to the Harbor Square Theatre and its adjoining Harbor Burger Bar.
All I can say is that until the renovation of Northfield’s Tilton and Ventnor’s theaters open, there really isn‘t a choice to be made. The Harbor Square Theatre is THAT movie-going experience that I have been craving since visiting the Alamo Drafthouse chain in Austin, Texas.
Granted, the Harbor Square Theatre is no Alamo, but it’s the closest thing we have thanks to Owner Brett DeNafo, a longtime local entrepreneur who has successfully made the once horrible Harbor Square Theatre into a fun movie-going experience. And he will do the same thing for the Ventnor and Tilton theaters this summer.
For now, take the ride to Stone Harbor. My wife and I live in Somers Point, so driving to Stone Harbor or Mays Landing’s very worn Regal Theater is about the same distance, so it’s a no brainer for us, especially when you factor in Harbor Burger Bar, an adjacent, cool-looking, modern burger bar where you can grab some grub and walk right into the movies.
We decided to check out “Captain Marvel,” a decent but by no means great Marvel flick that we probably enjoyed more because of our first Harbor experience.
We walked in, stopped at the Burger Bar and looked over the surprisingly massive menu that certainly expands on its name, offering salads, appetizers, sliders, flatbreads, wings, paninis and even a full bar with alcohol — including spiked shakes, if that’s your thing.
Where else in South Jersey can you have a drink, a full meal and check out a movie? Only the Harbor Square Theatre.
Unlike the Alamo and some other eat-in theaters I have been to, the Harbor Square does not have eating tables or anywhere to put your food, so we decided to keep it simple, sharing some fine mozzarella wedges ($9) that were golden fried to perfection and served with a basic marinara. We would have rather tried the Guinness nachos ($10, add $4 for meat) with black olives, jalapenos, pico de gallo and a house-made Guinness cheese sauce, or the creamy cheese crab dip ($14) with lump crab and warm pita, but we thought that would be too daunting without an eating surface. Maybe next time.
We snagged two burgers for their simplicity, and as much as we wanted to love them, they fell short. Advertised as a custom short rib and brisket blend with signature seasoning on a fresh-baked brioche, the meat seemed frozen despite ownership’s assurance they use only fresh, never frozen meat. Either way, that fresh meat flavor we were hoping for was just not there. My choice — a bacon, mac and cheeseburger ($16) — was saved by a scrumptious, homemade mac and cheese and chopped bacon, which made my burger decent. My wife’s Cali Burger ($15) with fresh avocado, pico, pepper Jack cheese and chipotle mayo was just too dry to have its ingredients overcome the blandness.
Despite our mediocre burgers, we would run back thanks to other options that we want to check out: buffalo chicken eggrolls ($12), crab fritters ($15), pulled pork sliders ($15) or maybe even their lamb and bison burgers. They also have tuna tacos, a Caribbean-style mahi-mahi entrée with grilled pineapple, wings, a few panini including a Cuban version and about a half dozen flatbreads, including one with buffalo chicken made with Hank’s Sauce, a Sea Isle City-based hot sauce company.
Some other things we liked:
The salted caramel spiked shake ($12) was awesome with vanilla ice cream, Fireball whiskey, butterscotch liqueur topped with caramel drizzle and pretzels
The snack bar fountain drinks are $5.75 but they come with unlimited refills from one of those snazzy Coca-Cola machines that lets you choose hundreds of flavor combinations
The popcorn ($4.75 small) was fresh and fluffy but the best part was the unlimited, serve-yourself butter station complemented by a Create Your Perfect Popcorn Station with a half dozen flavored seasonings including garlic parmesan, caramel and white cheddar.
The theater seats are large, plush, comfy, high-backed chairs that slightly recline, but we wish our theater had more of an incline
The Dolby sound system is one of the best in the area, only outperformed by Tropicana’s IMAX … for now
So if you’re looking for the ultimate date night or just a fun movie-going experience, head to Stone Harbor and get a feel how most other areas have been enjoying movies for years. Here, we’re just getting started.