We were in Harrisburg for two days, and decided to hit a few of the best rated restaurants from Trip Advisor. While Char's at Tracy Mansion wins hands down for location, the kitchen appears to be resting on its laurels. Char's is located across the street from the river. Dinner on the porch yields excellent views and the perfect ambiance for a romantic evening. We also had the luck of going on a night when they had live music -- a saxophonist playing along with recorded tracks.
The service was excellent -- Our waitress, Lana, was excellent and took great care of us. She provided us with drink menus as soon as we were seated, and made sure we had the beverage of our choice before reviewing the menu and specials. Overall, I think the kitchen has a lot of promise, but suffers from sloppy execution. Sadly, the errors were on what most cooks would consider the basics. First the highlight - our appetizer was very good -- a mushroom "wellington" with tempura artichoke. I was expecting something heavy, but the kitchen used a very light hand with both the wellington and the tempura. It was delightful. From this great opening, we expected great things from the rest of dinner. Sadly, our expectations were not met. I ordered the clams. While they were tender and well flavored, the broth they were served in was inedible because of extreme over salting. The pesto that came served over the clams was delicious, but had the texture and appearance of mud. This is the only time in my recent memory that I've left a restaurant hungry because of the poor quality of the food preparation. My husband's fish dish -- a Hawaiian variety of snapper -- was seriously overcooked. While the fish was very flavorful, it was cooked "hard." The side dishes -- roasted cauliflower and a stuffed miniature pumpkin -- were delicious, but seemed at odds with the fish. There was no synergy in the dish.
When I brought the over-salted clams to the attention of the server -- later in the meal than I should have (my bad) -- she notified the kitchen and comped our dessert -- a perfectly reasonable and responsible response.
One of the things I liked about this menu is that they offer petite desserts for those who need a little sweet, but don't have the appetite for major indulgence. Our Tiramisu was very tasty, but the layer of cocoa powder on top was little thick -- causing a chalky mouth feel that I would rather do without.
It could be that we caught the kitchen on an off night. If in Harrisburg again I would definitely give Char's another try, but would be resentful if I didn't get better quality for the price. There are other restaurants in this city that offer a higher quality and better value meal for people who love food.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.