Good Taste: Casual is key at Lucky Hank’s on Martha’s Vineyard

Good Taste: Casual is key at Lucky Hank’s on Martha’s Vineyard

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Lucky Hank's opened recently and will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner year round. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Doug Smith has worked every position imaginable in the restaurant industry. From dishwasher to sous chef and server to manager, Mr. Smith has done it all. And just over two weeks ago, when Lucky Hank’s opened its doors at 218 (upper) Main Street in Edgartown, he added the role of owner to his resume.

Mr. Smith grew up in Princeton, N.J. During college, a friend invited him to spend a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. He spent his first few seasons, in the mid-90s, working at Seasons in Oak Bluffs. Then, he went on to run a (no-longer-there) raw bar at Nancy’s, also in Oak Bluffs. There he shucked the shellfish and manned the 100-gallon steamer. After a stint in Boston, Mr. Smith returned to the Island and to Nancy’s to help with the opening of the upstairs fine dining room. Then he continued on to New York and to Puerto Rico before coming back on the Vineyard six years ago, to live full-time.

“When I was younger I loved living here because it was seasonal and fun, but I came back for totally different reasons: because it’s serene and for the community feeling and being able to walk my dog on an empty beach.”

Mr. Smith loves the restaurant industry. “Not just working in them, but going to them too.” He started seriously scouting for possible restaurant locales on the Island three years ago. He’s been picking up ideas (and votive candles) here and there ever since. When a friend brought the space on Main Street to his attention, he saw the potential immediately, “It was homey and warm.”

Mr. Smith bought 218 Main Street in May and started the project of turning a run-down home into a cozy restaurant in July with the help of builder Tom Burke. In just under four months, Lucky Hank’s was open for business.

Lucky Hank is a character from Mr. Smith’s favorite book, “Straight Man” by Richard Russo. You’ll find a copy of it on the copper shelf perched above the banquette.

The vision was simple: roast chicken, meatloaf, lobster pot pie, and the likes. Mr. Smith didn’t want to step on any toes by competing with established Edgartown fine dining spots like Alchemy, Atria, and Détente. “Let’s do it simple, but let’s do it really good,” is the unofficial motto of Lucky Hank’s and its owner.

Mr. Smith had his chef in place long before Lucky Hank’s was a reality. He worked with chef Danny Finger at the Harbor View several years ago. “I noticed that when Danny was in the kitchen at the Harbor View, whenever I went to check on customers, they were thrilled with their food, so I made a note-to-self: keep in touch with Danny.”

Chef Finger has had his share of restaurant experience, working in 15 steakhouses before heading to Switzerland to study hotel management. When a chef in Sarasota suggested he come to the Vineyard to cook at the Harbor View, Mr. Finger jumped at the chance. For the last two years he worked as the sous chef at Chesca’s while awaiting Mr. Smith’s big move from restaurant worker to restaurateur.

So far, the collaboration is going well. “He’s doing an amazing job,” says Mr. Smith of the chef.

Lucky Hank’s serves three meals a day. Breakfast ranges from the classic: two eggs, home fries, choice of bacon or homemade sausage and toast; to the artisanal: Vineyard Benedict with poached eggs made with Hollandaise and a generous portion of local lobster meat on an English muffin served with home fries. A fellow diner tipped me off that the cod cakes were the best he’d ever had and I have to agree that they are excellent. They’re served with two eggs any style (soft poached for me), home fries, and toast.

And a quick word on home fries. There are so many ways fried, diced potatoes can go wrong: over salted or under salted; mushy or burnt. But these were none of the above. They were the perfectly bite-sized, crisp on the outside and the right kind of mushy (more like silky) inside. They were seasoned perfectly (Tabasco never does hurt though, right?) with just the right amount of salt, pepper, and herbs. A home run as far as home fries are concerned.

Breakfast is washed down with water from over-sized Mason jars or a steaming cup of the Island’s own Chilmark Coffee.

At lunch, Lucky Hank’s continues to keep it simple with soup, salads, and sandwiches like the chicken salad, turkey club, roasted veggie, and a Vineyard lobster roll. Sandwiches are served on multi-grain bread (gluten free is available), with a choice of potato, pasta, or green salad.

Chef Finger flexes his culinary muscles at dinner. Those aforementioned cod cakes are available here as well but served on fresh greens with a homemade lobster tartar sauce. Entrées include a roasted half chicken with herbs de Provence, Vidalia onions, and a choice of side (Boston baked beans, succotash, etc.); a classic meatloaf; and diver scallops with parsnip purée and parsnip chips, turmeric cauliflower, and leek beurre blanc.

Both Mr. Smith and Chef Finger are excited about the Farm Share, Lucky Hank’s vegetarian option. In the morning, the chef goes to Morning Glory Farm to check out what’s available, then uses whatever that might be to pull together a colorful, hearty, vegetarian entrée. One recent November evening that included warm pickled beets, crispy kale, and beet, turnip, potato hash.

Lucky Hank’s will be open year-round, serving breakfast ($7 to $16), lunch ($7 to $18) and dinner ($12 to $28) Tuesdays through Sundays. Lucky Hank’s does not take reservations.

“You can’t make reservations at a place that serves meatloaf,” Mr. Smith says. “We like to keep it casual.”

For more information, call 508-939-4082, email luckyhanksmv@gmail.com, or search Lucky Hank’s on Facebook.

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