Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hank's


Located on the northbound side of Route 1 in Chadds Ford, PA, just about 100 yards down from the little gem of a museum, Brandywine River Museum, sits Hank's Place. It's a place beloved by locals and appreciated/ogled at by tourists. Preferential treatment is non-existent. No reservations; if you get there at the wrong time, expect to be waiting 10-30 minutes.

Is the food worth the wait? Well, IMHO, the best breakfasts I've had, not counting the food mounds provided by my aunts in Croatia, in the last few years have been here. Scrambled eggs, on the wet side. Pancakes that resemble and taste more like crepes. Continually filled coffee cups. And, the best hash brown potatoes that your mother hasn't made. My only complaint with Pamela's is that their coffee is on the weak side; as Mr. Waits says, no chance for the coffee to beat up the spoon, as it can barely get its caffeine up.

Hank's food? As far as breakfast is concerned, the eggs are on the dry side, the hash browns, though made from scratch (Big Points here!), taste a tad undercooked. Not enough of that greasy brown crust that my favorite hash browns have. For me at least, great hash browns should stand on their own. A breakfast of simply hash browns and some crusty buttered bread should be enough for putting the appetite beast down and keeping the taste buds happy. But, this place is more about atmosphere than about breakfast. Now for some good eating, come in for lunch or for dinner. Located just down the road from the Mushroom Capital of the World, you'll find much of the menu using what's available from the fungi world. Hank's stuffed peppers and all of their desserts are highly recommended as well.
What's the atmosphere about? On my last trip back from Pittsburgh, a stop for lunch at Hank's made it seem like a convention of deer-hunters. It was hard finding an empty table or stool with all of the camouflaged men, seeking shelter from the rain and from the deer-less woods. Like fisherman's tales, stories of 25 point deer were abundant at each table along with the concomitant woes at how Nature got in the way of a proper shot. As I swiveled in my seat to dive into a mushroom lasagne, a waitress passed a large card to me.
"Here, sign this. It's a birthday card for one of our regulars. He'll be 80 today." She sized me up and then glanced over at the stool next to me.
"He's still working and he's pretty hungry when he gets here. He usually sits right there," indicating the stool next to me, "Be sure to give him some eating room. He tends to get busy with his utensils quickly."
I signed the card and lingered over my meal, hoping to meet this fellow. After about 30 minutes, I opted to leave.
"He's usually punctual. Right on the nose of noon," the waitress said as I was paying to go.
"Hope he'll live through his meal today. He is, after all, 80," she continued, with a bit of a worry tone.
"But, he's still working. So, I'm sure he'll be hungry."

I pushed through the twin doors, smacking my lips in the universal sign of appreciative grub. I'd lucked out on timing; a line was squeezing itself out of the rain and onto the handicapped ramp that led into Hank's. If the 80 yr. old regular was there, I hoped that someone would break the rule and let the guy in early.
It was, after all, his birthday and he was a working guy.

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