Harner's Bakery and Restaurant
10 W. State Street
North Aurora, IL 60542
August 1, 2008
Earlier this year, The Kane County Chronicle polled its readers to find the best breakfast restaurants in the area. The results are no longer posted on the paper's website, but we have them saved right here. They're at the bottom of the page after a nice profile on the Blueberry Hill restaurant in Aurora.
Deservedly, Mother's took the top spot for best breakfast, beating out multi-location votes for Colonial, Egg Harbour, and some place in Oswego called Southern Belle's. The award for best pancakes also went to Mother's, who topped Colonial, IHOP, and Nikarry's. It's affirming to our sense of taste that our fondness for Mother's is shared by so many, and not just rooted in the convenient fact that it's just a few minutes' walk from here.
Also on the list for best breakfast and best pancakes was a restaurant we'd never heard of before. Harner's in North Aurora (not Aurora, as its residents probably love to remind everyone) is nestled next to the Fox River, pretty well cut off from us by road construction on I-88 and Oak Street, but it was still worth the detour to check out.
You'll be tempted by the treats in the bakery as you walk through the door, and you'll probably make plans to pick some up after you finish eating. We would have done this ourselves if we didn't have errands to run, and if it wasn't one of the hottest days of the year. Leaving a box of cinnamon rolls or cupcakes in the car on a 90 degree day just wouldn't have been the best idea. Still, we browsed in the bakery for a while before being seated. Harner's has two distinct dining rooms, the first having a bar to sit at and some ceiling fans, the second having an added-on feel of a room addition but with a nice view of the Fox River and the Fox River Trail. We were seated in this second room, which was adorned with a brick fireplace and decorated with taxidermy. Can you find the jackalope?
You'll find a limited selection of pancakes on their breakfast menu, but the prices are reasonable. I went with the standard order of three pancakes and came away satisfied but unamazed. Pretty good, but the fourth-best pancakes in all of Kane County? I just don't know. I imagine that most of Harner's loyal customers keep coming back for the atmosphere and the camaraderie, or at least that's the impression I got from the photo collages that line the walls next to the doors to the (spacious) restrooms.
Ayinsan here. Harner's is not just a breakfast place. It's a bakery, too. You walk in and are greeted with a huge glass display case filled with cookies, donuts, cakes and cinnamon rolls. Some of the cookies have cute animals faces, which I imagine would be fun to bite in half. There was a plate of free samples atop the display case. I tried one--some sort of shortbread nut cookie, I think. Pretty good. I wish I lived close to a place like this, so I could just walk in every morning and buy a nice, hot cinnamon roll. Of course, it's a good bet that I wouldn't be able to restrain myself. I wouldn't stop at one cinnamon roll. I'd stuff my face with frosting-laden confections until I lay helpless, bloated and groaning on the floor.
We were seated in a room with wood-paneled walls and lots of windows, providing a nice view of the surrounding scenery. Harner's is tucked next to a little wooded area near the river, so you actually see trees and water through the windows, rather than looking out at a gas station parking lot or a convenience store.
The waitress brought us a bread basket almost as soon as we sat down. Along with the standard rolls, there were some little pieces of nut-bread, very dense and sweet, almost like cake. We didn't have to wait long for our food. Really, the whole experience would have been quite pleasant, except we were sitting next to a table filled with really loud people. I immediately felt a twinge of dread when I looked at the table next to ours and saw a baby in a high-chair, but really, the baby wasn't too bad. Aside from one or two shrieks, it mostly stayed quiet. The woman sitting across from it, however, had a terribly annoying, high-pitched, nasally laugh, like a duck choking on a kazoo. And she laughed a lot. And of course the adults at the table kept poking the baby and egging it on, trying to get some kind of oh-so-precious reaction out of it. The few times the baby did laugh or shriek was mainly because Choking-Duck-Laugh-Woman and her giggling friend wouldn't leave it alone.
Eventually, the group left, leaving us to enjoy our meal in peace. For a change of pace, I got the biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs. The menu gives you the option of ordering either a full or half order. I really could have gotten the half order, but my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I couldn't finish them.
I tried some of Joe's pancakes. They were delicious, chewy, dense and sweet. If I come back here at some point (which I probably will) I'm definitely ordering the pancakes.