Hank’s Place is more than just any diner; it is a community hub where relationships grow and food is served with passion. Since 1991, Peter and Voula Skiadas have owned the local joint. Now, after almost 30 years, the Skiadas’ have handed the keys over to Anthony Young and his wife Katie, who are long-time regulars of Hank’s Place. Indian Post interviewed Mr. Anthony Young to learn about the restaurant and his plans for its future.
Indian Post: What prompted you to buy Hank’s Place?
Anthony Young: That’s not a simple answer, but I guess the best answer is that I’ve been a chef in the area pretty much all my life. On my days off, I liked to go out for lunch or breakfast, and many a moon ago, Hank’s became the spot, and I became quite the regular here. For quite some time before they got to know my name, they called me “Turkey Club guy” because that’s all I ever ordered. I just kept coming and coming all the time and then I started bringing my wife along. The two of us became regulars here and we just fell in love with the place, fell in love with the people who worked here, and loved the food.
I am a chef but for the most part I like to eat fairly simply and healthy; that’s easy for me to do here. The people who worked here started to know me by name and I became very friendly with the previous owners. They always came out and said hello to me, shook my hand, and they really took great care of me as a patron.
Several years ago, I started bugging them, and I said, “If you ever want to retire, make sure you look me up first,” and eventually they sold it to me on the fact that I wanted to continue the legacy of all the hard work that they’ve done over the years and to keep it the neighborhood restaurant.
IP: Do you have any special memories at Hank’s Place?
AY: One of my favorite memories at Hank’s is that I used to come in and sit at the counter, and it was perfect—I could come and eat here by myself and not feel weird. You could have a conversation with people, and one day I introduced myself to a gentleman next to me and we got to talk and he introduced himself back, “My name’s Andy.” I said, “Oh, great to meet you Andy,” and I would come in and sit next to him whenever he was there if there wasn’t anyone else by him because he was a pleasant gentleman to have a conversation with. I didn’t get to know him much just because it was idle chit-chat over lunch or breakfast.
One day, my wife came in with me and I sat down next to him and said, “Hey Andy, how you doing?” and then my wife, who has been into the arts for a very long time, knew immediately who he was without me saying anything, and she tapped me on the shoulder and said “That’s Andrew Wyeth,” and I said “Oh, wow okay, I had no idea.” But I never changed the way I spoke with him, and he continued to be Andy.
IP: Could you tell us about the history of Hank’s Place?
AY: It started operating in the early 1950s, and then in 1991, Peter and Voula Skiadas purchased the restaurant. It was still a small place then and over the years, they kind of grew it and expanded it. In 2008, they put the addition on the side of the building that basically doubled the size of the dining room.
One of the things that it’s definitely famous for is that many of the local artists congregated here over the years, not just the Wyeths, but a lot of other local artists used to come and hang out here, so the arts have played a big part in the restaurant.
IP: How is Hank’s Place different from your average diner?
AY: I think a lot of it has to do with the atmosphere. When I think of your average diner, I think of your old school, 1950s-style diners; they have a cool look to them but there’s not too many of them around anymore. The second you drive by Hank’s, you see all the flowers.
One of the other differences [between Hank’s Place and other diners] is that there’s an actual chef working in the back, someone who’s very talented, skilled, and puts a lot of love into the food that he makes. I attribute Freddy, the chef here, to a lot of what makes this different from a lot of places. Although Freddy’s a chef, he does come out on a regular basis, says hello to people, and makes people feel very welcome.
Also, the fact that some of the servers here really get to know the customers by name, I’ve been amazed in the two weeks I’ve been here at how many people I’ve been introduced to and how much that the servers really know these people and they’re kind of like family. The fact that it’s such a family-oriented restaurant really sets it apart.
IP: Do you focus on locally sourced products?
AY: Over the weekend, we just planted a garden behind the restaurant—herbs, basil, lots of peppers, eggplant—stuff that we use a lot of here.
IP: What is the average day like at Hank’s Place?
AY: It starts very early. I have people coming in at five o’clock, setting the place up, start cooking the potatoes and breakfast meats. The doors open up at 6 AM. In the morning, a lot of regulars come in on a consistent basis on their way to work or in between jobs. The counter is quite popular in the mornings and we have a lot of business people coming in, and during the weekends, it’s very normal to see lines waiting to get a seat at a table or the counter.
IP: Can you describe Hank’s Place in three words?
AY: Home-cooking with a smile. That’s more than three words though.
IP: What is your vision for Hank’s Place in the future?
AY: Basically keep it the way it is, keep up with the flowers, the tradition of always having really nice flowers there—both my wife and I are very passionate about gardening and flowers. As far as the menu’s concerned, I’m not planning on changing the menu anytime soon, and when I do, it’s only going to be small little tweaks but overall, I’m not planning on changing anything.
IP: What do you think makes Hank’s Place so special to the community?
AY: The people.
IP: How can the community better support Hank’s place and other local restaurants in the future?
AY: I think if more people dine the way I dined over the years. I’ve always gone to restaurants where I’ve known the people whether it be the chef, the owner, or people who work there. I’ve always visited restaurants that are locally owned and operated, like your smaller, mom-and-pop restaurants with local people and local ingredients.