Photography by Sally Ibarra Barceló
STYLED BY AMY SCHAUS
Just off the shores of Lake Ned sits a Winter Haven legend — a casual eatery that feels like home whether it’s your first visit or you’ve been around since the beginning. Harry’s Old Place is a rustic restaurant reminiscent of a simpler time. This fine seafood establishment has remained a staple in the area for over 30 years and continues to deliver fresh food and exceptional service to the Winter Haven area and beyond.
“Everyone in Winter Haven knows Harry’s Old Place,” says Dwyane McQuillen, the restaurant’s newest owner. Harry’s Old Place has been around since 1980 after two friends, Harry and Bruce, decided to travel down from Philadelphia, eager for a new business venture. Originally known as Harriston’s, the restaurant started out in its Garden Grove building but then later moved to a new location on Cyprus Gardens Boulevard when they outgrew this location.
After the original building became available again (and after Bruce married his wife, Jenny, adding a third partner to the trio of owners), they moved back over to their original location on Cyprus Gardens Boulevard where the restaurant is still located today. When people would ask where the restaurant was, regulars would answer with, “It’s over at Harry’s old place.” And they ran with it. Since 1992, the iconic Winter Haven restaurant has been known as Harry’s Old Place.
As a seafood establishment on the edges of a lake, it’s no surprise that they are known for their seafood. Starting with their appetizers, a few staples include baked and steamed oysters, fresh steamed clams and mussels, and Florida gator bites. Many items on their menu have been served since they first opened their doors in 1980.
“We’re famous for our fresh fish. We have more of it than anyone,” says McQuillen. Once you step foot into Harry’s, you will find before you walls covered with chalkboards that detail out their daily specials and at least eight to as many as 12 different fish offerings, including haddock, monkfish, snapper, salmon, corvina, and so much more. The fresh fish offerings span across both the Atlantic and the Gulf.
Although you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, there are a few items that remain near and dear to the locals. Their No. 1 seller? Harry in a Bag, which is their grouper option topped with crushed pecans, Ritz crackers, and assorted seasonings.
Harry’s Old Place also understands that seafood is not for everyone, so they have plenty of additional items that maintain the same quality as their seafood specials. They offer an assortment of steaks, including filet mignon, ribeye, and New York strip. Chicken and pasta dishes are also great alternatives.
When McQuillen assumed the role as the newest owner of Harry’s Old Place, he sought to continue providing the same food and service that the Winter Haven area has grown to love. McQuillen brings with him an extensive background in the restaurant industry. With over 20 years’ experience, he has helped open five different restaurants all over the state. He moved to Winter Haven several years ago when the company he was working for got offered to open two restaurants on Disney’s property.
With a passion for the food and service industry, the next step for McQuillen was to venture off into his own business. When the previous owners of Harry’s Old Place were nearing retirement and seeking to hand off their ownership, McQuillen knew he had to jump on the opportunity. He has already made significant improvements to the establishment, including the addition of a full liquor bar and outdoor seating.
However, even with these improvements, the food and service have remained the same. “It’s always been good here. We’re just trying to maintain that,” says McQuillen. As he has taken on this new endeavor, McQuillen is thankful for the continued support of the local community and for the help from the previous owners.
French Onion Soup: Award-winning soup that is housemade with large chunks of onion and topped with bubbling Swiss and mozzarella cheese
Broiled Combo: Broiled white fish, shrimp, scallops, with baked crab imperial and steamed crab legs
With over 30 years of business behind them, Harry’s Old Place still continues to draw in the crowds. It’s not uncommon to step foot into Harry’s on a Friday night to find every seat filled and for there to be a line out the door — a line in which regulars are more than willing to wait in order to get their Harry’s fix.
The constant support is largely a product of their consistent quality and service over the decades. As corporate chain restaurants have risen, Harry’s Old Place has remained true to its Southern charm and laid-back, Mom-and-Pop feel. “All we’re trying to do is carry on that tradition,” says McQuillen.
Harry’s Old Place
3751 Cypress Gardens Road
Winter Haven, FL 33884
863.324.0301 | harrysoldplace.com