Budget Beat

Budget Beat: Harvey's -- The Wineburger King

I didn't plan my Thanksgiving very well. The missus and I were due at the palatial Scottsdale estate of a distant cousin at 4, but it was 1 and we were starving and had no food in the house. We'd been foraging for an open restaurant in central Phoenix for about an hour before the lightbulb went off in my head: Harvey's -- The Wineburger King.

We'd had more than a couple of late nights at this most-cherished of dive bars, on 16th Street just south of Camelback. We love this place, for starters, because it is reminiscent -- with its warm, dark-wood booths and super-low lighting -- of the holes-in-the-wall you might find in our native Midwest. Harvey's has gotta be one of the darker bars in Phoenix. If it weren't for the couple of TVs airing sports or the neon signs pimping Budweiser and the Chicago Bears, it would be totally dark.

Sure enough, Harvey's was open for biz on Thanksgiving Day, and it was doing a good bit of biz, too. The bar was populated with assorted drinkers who seemed pretty darn happy that they had a place to hang on this holiday. With the woeful Detroit Lions playing on TVs in the background, it was a chatty scene.

We promptly ordered up a couple of beers and, of course, the house specialty: the fabulous wineburger. I'd never heard of such a concoction before going to Harvey's shortly after I moved to Phoenix three years ago. Apparently, there are other purveyors of wineburgers in town. Well, whoever thought to soak ground chuck in Burgundy before tossing it on the grill is a certified genius.

And for $5, you can't get a burger in central Phoenix that's much better than Harvey's. The taste is slightly sweet and slightly peppery. Frankly, it's kinda hard to describe beyond that. It's just simply sublime. I asked our server if the patties were formed by hand. He said, "Yes. In fact, the owner buys 10-pound bags of ground chuck and, as he's making the patties, just reaches in the bag, and eat the meat raw." Classic.

As happy as we were wolfing down our wineburgers, we were a bit disappointed in our timing, because, at 2, Harvey's would be serving turkey, brisket, mashed potatoes, stuffing, the whole nine T-Day yards. For free -- presumably as customer appreciation for the barflies who keep this joint in business. How cool is that?

It was fun to see the peeps file into the kitchen, styrofoam plates in hand, to load up on some traditional holiday vittles. The celebratory vibe at Harvey's had been kicked up a notch.

The missus and I vowed right then and there that, next Thanksgiving, if we were lucky enough to still be alive and kicking and in Phoenix, we would celebrate that most American of holidays at Harvey's. Anyone care to join us? -- Jay Bennett

Harveys -- The Wineburger King
4812 North 16th Street