“Thank you.” “Everything was excellent.” “Delicious.” These are the parting words of guests as they finish their meals and head for home, happily satisfied from Harmony Mediterranean Grill in Franklin Lakes. This restaurant has it right—they are filling tables with customers on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the late summer (when this article was written) when other eateries are clamoring for clientele. The cozy atmosphere, comfortable seating, and attentive staff ensure an experience as warm as the Mediterranean sun.
Owner Yilmaz Sert has been making sure his customers have been happy for years, beginning in his native homeland, Turkey.
“I’ve worked in the restaurant business since 1989,” says Yilmaz. “I’ve been a busboy, baker, and butcher, and I’ve worked in kitchens as well. When I came to the U.S. in 2000, I stayed with my uncle and began working as a bus boy at an Italian restaurant where he was employed as a chef. I had a great experience working both the front and the back of the house.”
Yilmaz went on to work in numerous restaurants throughout New York City and eventually opened the original Harmony Mediterranean Grill in Manhattan.
During Covid, he moved his operation to Franklin Lakes and opened in February of 2022. “I became familiar with Franklin Lakes because I had some friends who had worked at the High Mountain Golf Club,” he says. “It’s such a nice town. It’s quiet and the people are friendly.”
It was the perfect spot for Yilmaz to relocate his restaurant since authentic Mediterranean cuisine is rare in this area. Whether or not you are familiar with traditional Turkish or Mediterranean cuisine, you will find a wide array of delicious dishes to enjoy. The homemade Turkish flatbread (served warm) with an order of hummus or baba ghanoush is a great way to begin, followed by an entree of chicken shish kebab, which is moist and flavorful with crisp cole slaw and tender rice on the side. There are also plenty of lamb, fish, and beef dishes, as well as fresh salads. “The chicken dishes are very popular, along with our seafood—especially the branzino,” says Yilmaz.
If you love sampling small plates, try their hot or cold appetizer combos and choose your own selection of five appetizers. Traditional hummus is made from mashed chickpeas seasoned with tahini, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and lemon dressing; baba ghanoush is a popular eggplant dip with tahini olive oil, lemon, garlic, and salt. Lebni (strained yogurt spread with olive oil, garlic, and dill) is popular, along with stuffed grape leaves, calamari, falafel (ground chickpeas with fresh onions and parsley), and manti (Turkish dumpling with yogurt sauce and seasoning). Harmony also offers combo dinners for 2 or 4 people and weekday lunch specials which include homemade soup, fresh salad, a cold appetizer, and a selected lunch entrée for $19.99. Feel free to bring a bottle of wine along to enjoy with your meal.
The healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet are one of the reasons why the establishment enjoys such popularity, and there are plenty of options for vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free dining. The big smiles and friendly service are spirit-lifting, too.
“The best part of owning a restaurant is seeing everyone living life and enjoying food,” says Yilmaz. “It makes me so happy to see everyone smiling and having fun.”