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Cheers to 45 Years!

Cheers to 45 Years!

Harry's Continental Kitchens 45 Years

By Kendra Gemma

What started as takeout dinners back in 1979 has evolved into a two-block radius of what is known as “A Longboat Key Landmark” – Harry’s Continental Kitchens – Restaurant, Gourmet Deli and Bakery, Catering, and your local Corner Store. 

Back in February 1979, Harry and Lynn Christensen leased a building to house their Continental Kitchen at 5440 Gulf of Mexico Drive. The hard-working couple made their delicious takeout dinners as well as scrumptious sandwiches for lunch.

“I wanted to make these dinners the same as you would get in a fine restaurant,” Harry recollects, “but it’s takeout. My customers could savor a gourmet dinner without leaving the comfort of their homes.”

By 1982, the Christensens had proof that their gourmet takeout was an idea whose time had come. Growing pains pushed them to the current location a few blocks north on St. Judes Drive. By now, the Christensens were realizing they had a talent for catering as well as takeout.

One would think all of this would be enough work for anyone, but something was missing. “Harry always longed for his own restaurant,” says Lynn, “a dining room where he could see people enjoy his food. We decided to make his dream come true.”

In 1985, the Christensens added the wonderful restaurant we all know and love… Harry’s. In 1998, Harry and Lynn added a full bar to the restaurant.

“Every year, we kept investing in ourselves,” Lynn explains. “We kept on going without looking back,” Harry adds.

Today, Harry’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in their garden-style dining room and on the tropical outside patio.

Harry’s has been a family-run business from the beginning. In fact, both of the Christensens’ sons grew up in the restaurant. Now, eldest son, Hal, and Harry are certified sommeliers creating an exceptional wine selection that complements the diversified menu. Hal’s wine programs include wine tastings, wine dinners, and tremendous value on retail wines in the deli.

“We have seen generations of families come through Harry’s. We’ve catered their christenings, weddings, reunions, and now our next generation of Christensens gets to experience the same for generations to come,” says Harry. 

Harry and the business have won many restaurant and wine awards over the past 45 years. His cooking has earned him a spot among Florida Trend’s top 500 restaurants, and, thanks to his knowledge of wine, he’s received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 1979, amongst others.  

Harry also has a passion for giving back. He has mentored many young chefs and sent them on their way to further their own careers. Harry believes his early training with European chefs gave him a solid background in classical cooking, which is part of every new and creative dish he and his staff create.

His love of Longboat Key, where he has lived for 50 years, has prompted him to be involved in many community services, from sponsoring and coaching Little League and other children’s sports to serving on board and committees, including Longboat Key Mediation Committee, Commercial Zoning Committee, Longboat Key Communication Committee, Longboat Key Community Center Board, Longboat Key Historical Society Board, and Public Interest Committee Board.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but it’s been a good roller coaster,” Harry says of their 45 years in business.

Come join them all year long as and check out their website and follow them on Facebook as they have many things planned to celebrate this milestone, including a four-course, prix-fixe menu for $45! Longer-term, watch for an expansion and renovations of the restaurant. You can also continue to count on their high-quality service and cuisine, and fresh menu items.

So, let’s all raise a glass and wish Harry’s Continental Kitchens Happy 45th anniversary and here’s to another 45 years of delicious meals, fine wine, and warm hospitality!

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