The word vanguard means the foremost part of an advancing army or naval force. The Vanguard — a cocktail lounge, bar and restaurant now open in Harrison — is a nod to the women and men who serve on the home front. Set as an early 1940s factory built for the wartime effort, there are three distinct rooms that comprise the Vanguard.
Harrison is a natural fit for the venue. “We like to use history to inform our concepts and the idea of playing off the industrial past of the town piqued our interest,” say brothers Tom and Dean Maroulakos, owners of the Skopos Hospitality Group.
Honoring the Past by Serving the Present
“We wanted to pay tribute to Harrison’s industrial past; while avoiding some of the overplayed industrial motifs that we see a lot these days,” says Dean. “While doing research, we discovered the role the town and its industry played during the war. We wanted to capture the essence of that hometown and national pride that pervaded our nation at that time; and carry the feeling through into a dining experience.”
But getting back to the three distinct rooms, each plays their own role when dining at Vanguard. “The main bar room was conceived as the main factory building, a gathering place as guests arrive,” Dean says. It has two offshoots, the Cocktail Lounge and the mess hall-inspired Dining Room. “With each of these spaces, guests can have three unique experiences in one evening without having to leave the building.”
The decor is a mix of reclaimed industrial elements and contemporary furniture; with pieces that are reminiscent of cockpit seats and vintage 1940s design. Reproduction art pieces and propaganda posters, along with a custom draft tower built as a munition shell, set the tone.
The Spoils of War (aka the Menu)
You’ll find casual American fare on the menu at this 6,000 square-foot space. Vanguard can seat around 150 in the bar and lounge, with seasonal outdoor dining for about 30 at the café. The latter surrounds guests with magnolias and evergreen planters, illuminated by string lights.
The kitchen is run by Chef de Cuisine Kyle Apel under the guidance of Culinary Director Rob Stephan. “Inspired by classic American dishes of the era, our menu is a mix of casual share plates and comfort dishes,” says Dean.
Dinner options include The Vanguard Burger (American cheese, beer-battered onion rings and roasted garlic aioli); as well as scallops and linguine (chardonnay, corn and charred shishito). Meanwhile, brunch items range from chicken and Belgian waffles to avocado toast. Of course, they also serve a brunch burger (fried egg, bacon, American cheese).
The bar menu boasts Tiki-inspired cocktails, 14 draft beers, wine, and milkshakes. “Our cocktails take influence from the early Tiki movement; as sailors returned home from the South Pacific with tales of what they had tasted,” says Dean. The Take-Off Time large format beverage, for example, serves five to seven people.
All Images: © The Vanguard