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Keeping It Old School: Peter Wormell Of Harmon's Lunch

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Photo: Maison Bisson

By Katy Kelleher, Eater Maine contributing writer
Above the grill at Harmon's Lunch in Falmouth hangs an infamous sign that reads: "This is not Burger King. You don't get it your way. You take it my way, or you don't get the damn thing." For over 50 years, Harmon's has been serving up patties, cooked perfectly to medium, and the occasional hot dog (very few people go to Harmon's for the hot dog, though it is also excellent). They don't offer lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, or any of those newfangled toppings. This is old school fare at its finest: simple, delicious, and made-to-order. After all, businesses don't usually last half a century without doing something right.

To find out the secret to Harmon's success, we called up owner Peter Wormell, who purchased the landmark restaurant 16 years ago. At 61, Wormell remembers eating at Harmon's as a teenager, when it was still under the ownership of founder Marvin Harmon. The business may have switched hands, but little else has changed.

One of the few options is the "Loaded" Burger. What's on a loaded burger?
Mustard, sweet red relish, and fried onions.

How many burgers do you serve a day?
On a Saturday, which is our busiest day, we sell about 450. Normally, it's around 400.

How much does a burger and fries cost?
A cheeseburger is $2.50 and an order of fries is $2.25.

How much did the burgers cost when Harmon's first opened?
I have no idea, but I talked about it with a friend of mine who used to come here in high school, like I did. We think it was probably around 35 or 40 cents. The original owner passed away, so there is really no way to tell.

Are there any specials that people should know about?
We don't do anything special, it's just all à la carte. We do hamburgers and cheeseburgers, hotdogs, cheesedogs and fries. We also have ice cream now. It's from North Yarmouth. We've only been serving it for a year, but the shakes are a big hit.

Has your recipe or technique changed at all over the years?
The only thing that changed is we started serving french fries and ice cream. The original owner only did hamburgers, hotdogs, and chips. But as far as the burgers themselves, they're exactly the same as when I was a kid. There was this place called Simpson's in Westbrook, and that's where the recipe comes from. Mr. Simpson used to come in before he passed away, and he said the burgers were just like the ones he used to make back in the 60's. He made burgers like this back before there was anything like McDonald's.

Have you ever considered offering additional toppings, like lettuce and tomatoes?
Nope. I'm a true believer that Harmon's is what it is. If we changed it at all, it wouldn't be a Harmon's burger. People say when they come back, "We were so afraid there would be change, that it wouldn't be like what we remembered." And it is.

How many burgers do people order when they come in?
Usually two. We used to have one customer, a woman, who would order four burgers and four to go. She would sit in the car eating the other four because she didn't want us to see her eating all eight. It was pretty funny.

· Harmon's Lunch [Facebook]

Harmon's Lunch

144 Gray Road, Falmouth, ME