Harold's Burger Bar

M.J. and Greg Hargrave smile and pose for a photo outside of Harold’s Burger Bar in Centralia on Tuesday.

Editor’s Note:The Chronicle is working to assist local businesses suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 virus spread and associated government orders to close or limit commerce. There will be a feature on a local business in each edition of The Chronicle and at chronline.com moving forward. To be considered, email reporter Eric Trent at etrent@chronline.com. Additionally, The Chronicle will continue to offer its coverage of the coronavirus and its effects across the community, state and nation free outside of our paywall at chronline.com.

 

For the past two years, Harold’s Burger Bar has sat dormant after closing in 2018 following a nearly 70-year run. But something has been stirring the last couple months at the little walk-up burger joint on South Gold Street in Centralia.

Passersby gave thumbs up to the man painting the entire exterior of the building with a paintbrush; even as he put new signage outside, placed new machines inside and updated the large white menu in the window. One man even stopped by and blessed the building. It was obvious Harold’s was preparing for a reopening, but no one knew when.

Harold’s has been a part of the community since just after World War II, though no one is quite sure of the exact date it opened. The last owner, Noni Adolphsen, who owned Harold’s for 33 years from 1985 to 2018, said during a 2018 interview with The Chronicle that the burger bar opened in either 1946 or 1947. Adolphsen first began working at the walk-up restaurant in 1985.

By 2018, Adolphsen was ready to retire and the burger bar closed permanently. Two years later, during the summer of 2020, Greg and M.J. Hargrave of Littlerock stepped in. The husband and wife duo are now in the final stages of reopening the former Centralia burger mainstay.

Harold's Burger Bar

A milkshake maker is displayed at Harold’s Burger Bar in Centralia on Tuesday.

A year after retiring from coaching high school wrestling and football, Greg Hargrave yearned for something to fill his time. Plus, his body had grown tired of the self-employed landscaping job that had taken its physical toll on him over the decades.

The Hargraves had previously owned a summer-only burger joint on Lake Chelan from 2004 to 2009, eventually selling their house and restaurant there to live in Little Rock full time. But by 2020, Greg was itching to get back in the burger business.

“I loved cooking, I loved talking to people, I loved the burger-milkshake type of place,” Greg said.

The Hargraves purchased the property Harold’s sits on last summer and began renovating the restaurant in September 2020. Now, almost everything is either new or revamped, from the roof, to the hardwood flooring, the countertops, the ice cream machine, pop machine, deep fryer, a new paint job and countless other items.

The Hargraves used all local companies in the renovation, from an electrician, a plumber and Christian’s Roofing in Centralia for the roof. One of their sons helped install and refurbish some of the interior items.

“We didn’t do it all in one day, just one little project at a time,” Greg said. 

Not everything is brand new. The Hargraves kept the original grill, which has cooked untold amounts of burgers over the decades, as they wanted to retain the tradition of Harold’s. The original cash register drawers were also kept and will be used, along with the original door, which received a new paint job.

The Hargraves plan to purchase all their meats from Reichert’s Choice Meats in Centralia, their bread from the Franz Bakery Outlet on Grand Avenue and their produce from Veggies LLC next to Sunbirds.

Harold’s was known for serving customers quality burgers the old-fashioned way, making everything from scratch. One of the most popular menu items for decades was the foot-long Coney Island hot dog, made with Adolphsen’s secret recipe. 

Adolphsen shared her chili con carne recipe with the Hargraves to make Coney Island the Coney island dogs. 

“We’ve got some history,” Greg said. “We’ve got the same sauces as before. Some of the locals will be happy with that.”

Harold's Burger Bar

M.J. Hargrave puts up an ‘order’ sign at Harold’s Burger Bar in Centralia on Tuesday.

Another favorite was the Husky burger, a behemoth half-pound patty on a monster bun with all the trimmings. The Hargraves will now call it Harold’s Cheeseburger.

“We have a friend who invested in this with us and he played football at WSU,” Greg said. “He said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to have a Husky burger!’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to have a Cougar burger, so we’ll call it the Harold’s burger.’”

There is no official date set for the grand opening. The Hargraves don’t want to publicize it because they anticipate huge crowds once they do open. Greg plans to work there full-time while his mother runs the cash register, but that’s about it. 

Harold's Burger Bar

M.J. and Greg Hargrave talks about renovations made at Harold’s Burger Bar in Centralia on Tuesday.

“We’re going to get so swamped the first day,” Greg said. “And I want to present good food and stuff. I don’t want to just be rushed and people to come and say, “I ordered a burger and it took me an hour to get my food.’ We want to surprise people and all of a sudden there’s an open sign.”

When Harold’s surprise opening does take place, the walk-up burger joint will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Until then, keep an eye out for the open sign or a line of people down the street.

More Information on Harold’s Burger Bar

Owner: Greg and M.J. Hargrave

Location: 727 S. Gold St., Centralia

Phone: 360-669-0058

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily

Website: haroldsburgerbar.com

••• 

Reporter Eric Trent can be reached at etrent@chronline.com. Visit chronline.com/business for more coverage of local businesses.

Harold's Burger Bar

Greg Hargrave points out renovations made at Harold’s Burger Bar in Centralia on Tuesday.

Harold's Burger Bar

M.J. Hargrave points out renovations made at Harold’s Burger Bar in Centralia on Tuesday.

(4) comments

MikenGina

Good luck and we are so looking forward to it! [thumbup]

HeavyHemi

MnG! So nice to see some of the old Buzz crowd is still alive and kicking!

Me too, can't wait to get a burger here.

independent thinker

Congratulations on the pending grand opening! We live just down the street from you, and have watched the progress over the past months. I will definitely give it a try once you open. Best of luck and much success for you all!

Deston

I've nostalgic feelings; I went to Washington Elementary in the learly 80s, and it was the cool thing to skip over after school for a shake. I collected hundreds of bazooka jonbubble gum.comics and sent them in for a decoder ring, t-shirt, etc. During my time at Centralia college, after serving in the Army, it was on my way home and I gathered many burger and coney island footling hot dogs. When I moved back to Centralia after some years I stopped in for a footling. It was a solid disappointment. I wondered if it was that my taste and expectations had changed or if food quality had gone down and it was simply a market situation. I went back for a burger, and it was a frozen hockey puck. If I had any advice to offer the new operators, it would be to include some local sourced options. I get that given the locations and major pulse of clients that it's not likely to be high cuisine, but if there's just enough of a fresh, local sourced spice to the menu I'll walk over for a grind a few times a month just to keep the memories while not eating them. I wish the Hargreaves the best of luck, and hope they consider that some of our tastes have grown up. Here's to local grown and cooked eats!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.