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Downtown Cary’s new modern dive serves up casual food and drinks with contemporary flair.
When most people think of a dive, they usually picture a not-so-glam, well-worn, shabby establishment offering up cheap food and drinks. At Hank’s Downtown Dive, the vibe is exactly the opposite.
Downtown Cary’s newest “dive” oozes class and charm—without being stuffy—balanced with a bright, relaxed atmosphere that gives the space a homey, neighborhood bar and restaurant feel—think brightly painted walls, floral wallpaper, cozy booths, an impressive recessed patio and a “sunroom” that shines with so much natural light that it essentially feels like you’re sitting outside (come spring, sliding doors will open up onto the patio as well, allowing for even more of an outside feel).
Hank’s is the brainchild of Cary’s SideBar owner Matthew Bettinger; his wife, Catherine; and their business partner, Jeff Kinard, who together came up with the concept just before COVID hit—and named the spot after Bettinger’s dog, Henry.
Bettinger describes the restaurant as “bohemian” and maintains that there’s more to dives than just the name. “A dive is an homage to a place where you feel most comfortable,” he says. And thanks to the interior design and decorating by Catherine (including locally made furniture), Hank’s will most certainly be cozy—and serve as a place in which you might find yourself multiple times a day.
Bettinger tapped Cary native and friend Evan Cordes—the pair worked together at the former South restaurant in North Hills—to create the menu. Coming from Atlanta’s saturated market, Cordes felt that Cary’s supportive and excited attitude was refreshing. Plus, a lot had changed since he moved from the area 15 years ago. “It’s nice to be back,” he says.
Throughout construction—the pair took over three former businesses on East Chatham Street and all but demolished the spaces completely to renovate Hank’s with the contemporary yet welcoming flair Bettinger envisioned—almost every day at least one curious passerby popped their head in to see what was going on.
“I feel like my job is to offer hospitality, and, in a really interesting way, Cary’s community offered it back to us and really made us feel like we were a part of it,” reflects Bettinger.
He says it was the Cary community that helped shape Hank’s into what it will ultimately open as. Last year’s pop-ups gave Bettinger and Cordes a better understanding of what people wanted and, during the pandemic, their ideas pivoted.
Cordes says his food menu (encompassing both lunch and dinner) evolved into “casual but not overly simplistic” dishes that place a large focus on quality of ingredients, including sandwiches, hearty salads, and a variety of tempting bar bites and appetizers he hopes will be shared among tables post-pandemic—plus special features at dinnertime highlighting seasonal produce. Vegetarians, vegans and those with other dietary restrictions will delight in the composed and transparent dishes on offer.
Bettinger’s signature complex (and oh-so-delicious) cocktails found at SideBar will take a backseat at Hank’s—replaced instead with draft cocktails and kegged beers that only add to the spot’s casual vibe.
Although Hank’s is located right across the street from The Cary Theater, Bettinger hopes that the establishment will serve as a respite for Cary and surrounding Triangle residents—to grab a beer after work or enjoy a nice dinner and a couple cocktails before catching a flick. And whether you consider Hank’s a quintessential “dive” or not, it’s most certainly worth the visit. I mean, kegged cocktails?! C’mon!
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