Harwigs blends private events, special gatherings and open seating with fine dining

Manager Chris Dreher and Executive Chef JJ Jenny stand inside the main dining room at Harwigs on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. The restaurant has been in Steamboat Springs since Jenny's dad, Jamie, opened it 44 years ago.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Harwigs, a staple of the Steamboat Springs restaurant scene for more than 40 years, is expanding its service to the public to three days a week starting Saturday, as the restaurant continues to pursue a concept that includes open seating, private parties and special events.

“COVID was kind of interesting because it was a funky time that made everybody rethink how to do things,” Harwigs Executive Chef JJ Jenny said. “It made everybody get creative.”

Harwigs adjusted its approach by offering takeout meals during the pandemic and then opened for one day a week with a focus on private parties and special events as COVID restrictions began to relax. In the last three years, that service has continued to expand, going from one day a week to Thursday and Friday last winter, and now to Thursday through Saturday.

“We were open one day a week, and we found that we did a decent number of private parties and special parties,” Jenny said. “We want to stay relevant in the conversation and not be perceived as closed all the time. That’s why we’re like, ‘Let’s open for a couple more days a week,’ and we are thinking Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which still gives us four other days for private parties.”

Jenny’s father, Jamie, first visited Steamboat Springs for a long weekend in 1975 and never really left. He entered the restaurant business in 1980 with the French restaurant Stubble Goose, which would later become L’apogee and Harwigs L’apogee, when Jamie and his wife, Sandy, purchased the building at 911 Lincoln Ave. from Katherine Harwig in 1985.

“It was the same kind of idea back then,” Jenny said. “He had this idea of this nice French restaurant with tableside service and all that classic French service. At that time, I think there were like five restaurants in Steamboat and people were like, ‘You are nuts.'”

Today, Harwigs boasts a cellar with a collection of fine wine, a state-of-the-art kitchen facility including live lobster tanks and gardens for chefs to create dishes from the ground up.

The building showcases a beautiful dining room and welcoming bar with lots of personality, as well as three private rooms for intimate dining and larger group settings.

Jenny represents the second generation and said the sense of family he feels for his staff and his customers forms the foundation for what Harwigs has to offer.

“We take pride in being a small family operation and letting that kind of permeate and show through our philosophy,” Jenny said. “We are just focused on doing the simple things well and in taking care of everybody. We treat them like they are a member of our family as soon as they walk through the door.”

Manager Chris Dreher said that sense of family is a big reason why Harwigs is so special.

“I think the family thing is my favorite part,” said Dreher. “That includes the families of the locals that have been coming in for the 11 years that I’ve been here. … That personal service that we give to people that we just met or that we have known for 20 years is awesome.”

Jenny hopes that people will stop into Harwigs for a taste of the famous French onion soup, lamb sliders, escargot or oysters when public service is offered Thursday-Saturday. The restaurant also offers some tasty treats including sticky toffee puddling or creme brûlée.

“We change our menu every week because we work a lot with the (Community) Agriculture Alliance, and we try to stay as local as possible,” Jenny said.

Starting this week, Harwigs will be open from 5-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with a happy hour from 5-6:30 p.m. Those dining at at Harwigs can choose from the Harwigs Reserve, which is an ever-changing, fixed-price, four-course menu. They can also order à la carte or choose one of the classics off of the menu. Reservations are recommended.

Those interested in booking the restaurant can visit to reserve a table or book a custom event. Jenny and his staff will create a private dinner or private gathering complete with a custom menu based on his clients’ specific dining preferences and can tailor a one-of-a kind celebration or event. Harwigs also offers private dining, a private chef and event catering.

“Our whole focus has been to just be at least a little bit different,” Jenny said. “It doesn’t have to be different in that we are doing things that are way more complicated — just different. Even with our happy hour, we’re staying away from things like tacos because everybody has a taco during happy hour, so we’re doing little blinis and other unique choices, so we can establish a break from the pattern.”

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