Pop-up dinners at Hank’s Place

Not too long ago there was a car commercial with the tag line, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.” A pair of Chadds Ford restaurateurs could borrow from that line and say, “It’s not your father’s Hank’s Place anymore,” at least not four times per year.

Owners Anthony and Katie Young, who bought Hank’s Place a little more than two years ago, are trying something new — theme-based pop-up dinners. They’ve held three so far this year and hope to have another in the fall, then make them quarterly.

The special dinners are held at 7:30 p.m., after regular hours. Katie Young said they consist of five courses, with each course reflecting the theme. The first pop-up dinner had a mushroom theme, the second was centered around the spring harvest.

The most recent was a seafood-based meal on Thursday, Aug. 22. The menu included Maine lobster bisque, seared diver sea scallop — with a sweet corn risotto, tomato confit and chive emulsion. Course number three was gravlax, a house-cured salmon over potato latkes with a dill crème fraiche and caper-tomato relish.

Then came the lobster Thermador with shallot-herb roasted fingerling potatoes, crispy bacon, haricots verts and charred lemon. Dessert was Spanish flan with sea salt and fresh berries.

There was also a modest décor change, with candles, flowers, star fish and seashells as centerpieces, even on the counter.

Something different at Hank's Place.

Seating is limited for the pop-up dinners and is by reservation only. Pricing is based on what’s served, but the 35 people at Thursday night’s meal said it was well worth the $75 price tag.

“Amazing,” was one comment. “I don’t like it, I love it,” said another person.

Dave Anderson, from Kennett Township, said, “If they do this again, I’m bringing friends. And I made some new friends here tonight.”

One of those new friends was Jean Uptmor, of New London, who was celebrating a birthday.

“Fantastic,” Uptmor said as she pointed to a box of leftovers. “I didn’t have room for it all. This is tomorrow’s lunch. And not only was the meal great, we also made new friends.”

For Gail Marker of West Bradford, the meal was a “phenomenal surprise… a feast to behold.”

According to Katie Young, the idea came about after realizing that many people still don’t know the restaurant serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday. It also brings awareness of the magic that can be created in the kitchen.

“It showcases our culinary team,” she said, “and shows how Hank’s can transform into something different than what most people think.”

Heading up that culinary team is Anthony Young.

“It’s a chance to have some fun,” he said. “I was a fine dining chef before and, with this, I can let some of my old ideas fly.”

In the two-and-a-half years that the Youngs have owned the restaurant, they and it have had to adapt. Anthony Young said Hank’s Place had to adapt to fresher ingredients and more homemade bases. Margarine and bouillon are things of the past and now all stocks are made in house from bones. But he, too, had to adapt and adjust.

“I wanted to keep the tradition of Hank’s, it’s homestyle food and the culture of a restaurant with a family feel to it. And I had to keep up the landscaping.”

Pop-up dinners are also BYOB but with no corkage fee.

Katie Young said they do little advertising for the pop-ups. They place an insert in the regular menu about two weeks in advance and put it on the restaurant’s Facebook page and on the new website, hanksplacechaddsford.com.

While they’re considering a fourth pop-up, Katie Young said they haven’t yet decided on a theme. From their comments, Thursday night’s diners are eager to learn what it will be and when.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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