Meet The Harold, a secret Hardee’s menu item from the heart of Illinois

Illustration for article titled Meet The Harold, a secret Hardee’s menu item from the heart of Illinois
Photo: Nicholas Eckhart (Fair Use)
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Jim Behymer, an expert on all things sandwiches and author of the Sandwich Tribunal blog (and a friend of mine), regaled readers this week with the story of a mysterious Hardee’s breakfast menu item called The Harold, which originated at the location in Macomb, Illinois. Legend has it that Harold, a local farmer, would visit that Hardee’s and order a customized off-menu item that included biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and Hardee’s Hash Rounds, a bite-sized version of hash browns shaped like coins. Taken together, this sounds pretty good.

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According to Behymer, other Hardee’s locations in the region started serving The Harold, including the one in Behymer’s hometown of Quincy, Illinois. But, like all fast food items of mysterious origin, there’s an alternate version of the story that Behymer located on Daily Kos, and it implies that the dish was not the request of a customer, but rather the inspired creation of an employee named Harold at a different local Hardee’s:

Harold went off script. He’d take a tray that the [biscuits] came in. Line the bottom with hashrounds. Topped with a [biscuit], scrambled eggs, and a ton of [sausage gravy] and cheese. At some point the other workers were like Harold [make] us one of those. They were like this is darn good.

Behymer eventually went to a Hardee’s location in South Holland, Illinois (the closest one he could find to his home), and asked if they too knew about The Harold. Unfortunately, they hadn’t heart of it, but Behymer walked them through the process and the employees faithfully recreated it. His conclusion? “It was quite good–Hardee’s biscuits are the among the cream of the crop when it comes to fast food biscuits, and the hash rounds are also good–simple, well-fried, crisp and potatoey. The scrambled eggs are fine, and Hardee’s sausage gravy is pretty light on the sausage but otherwise OK.”

And of course, Behymer eventually turned The Harold into a sandwich he could make at home. To hear how it turned out, you’ll have to read the whole piece at his blog. There’s a lot more to the story of The Harold, including visits to various Hardee’s to see their unique takes on the dish and how those stood up. Give it a read today—it’s fascinating stuff.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

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Jonathan Surratt’s and Jenny Pfafflin’s twitter feeds tipped me off to this. It’s a great article, and Jim’s posts are wonderful, but... in the end, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Harold is just a breakfast that you can get at virtually every breakfast place, right? The only difference is that it’s stacked up, but then that doesn’t really differ from the notion of a breakfast “skillet,” which is super common across the region.

Anyway, to try to turn my raining-on-the-parade to a celebration of kindness, as a parent of a special-needs son, I hope the second origin story is true, because it’s always good to see folks like my son accepted and befriended by folks around him.