By Robin Garr
Last summer, 110 years after Hauck’s Handy Store opened as a neighborhood grocery on a Schnitzelburg street corner – and three years after it closed following the death at 100 of owner and patriarch George Hauck – this local landmark returned as a restaurant and bar.
In 1912 you could buy a baloney sandwich on white bread at Hauck’s and get change from a dime. Today, a century and $1 million in renovations later, you can still get something like that, but they spell it “bologna” now, and it will cost you $14.95 for a thick-cut, smoked slice perched on a brioche bun with stone-ground mustard, pimento cheese, pickles, and an over-easy egg.
Hauck’s Handy Store may be best known to the wider community for its annual dainty contest in July, a game rooted in Schnitzelburg in which mostly older guys compete at batting a small stick with a larger stick. Hauck’s Corner had its soft opening in July in order to host the dainty fun.
There was nothing particularly dainty about our food, though, and I say that in a good way. The fare at Hauck’s Corner mirrors the tradition of a Schnitzelburg corner grocery, but gently melds it with the more gentrified vibe that lights up the 21st century neighborhood.
What’s more, the restaurant’s kitchen is actually a food truck backed into the patio with a single chef working within (at least at lunchtime), so expect hearty and casual fare but not elevated cuisine.
The bones of the old two-story house and store remain very much in view, including that landmark red sign that towers over the street corner. New structure surrounds the Texas Avenue side of the building, making space for additional dining rooms within.
There’s a large patio at the back, now partially enclosed and heated for winter. The old building has been made wheelchair-accessible thanks to attractively sloped sidewalks connecting several entrances. (Take care, though, when you step from the dining area into the patio to pick up your meal at the food-truck window: There’s a long step down, and no sign on the door to warn you.)
The menu starts with a dozen shareable appetizers, ranging in price from $2.50 (for a deviled egg) to $14.95 (for Hauck’s nachos). Seven sandwiches are priced from $10.95 (for a bratwurst with grilled onions and sauerkraut) to $14.95 (for most of the items, including that not-so-traditional bologna). A couple of salads, a host of wings and chicken tender dishes, and a four-item taco bar round out the bill of fare, which also includes three dishes for the youngsters, a selection of 17 extra sauces ($1 each), and a single dessert option, Oreo churros ($8).
The full bar offers a range of libations, as one would expect of a Schnitzelburg watering hole. In homage to the community’s Germanic roots, there’s a good range of craft beer selections, from Weihenstephaner Dunkelweiss and Reisdorf Kölsch (both $7) to Hauck’s American Pislner ($6), made by neighboring Monnik Beer Co.
We ate our fill and then some.
Hauck’s chili ($6.95) was a thick bean and ground-beef mix that was fiery in both temperature and spicy heat. It seemed complex and smoky in flavor, but its five-alarm heat made it difficult to be certain. It contained at least three kinds of beans along with chunks of burger meat, canned tomatoes, and chopped onions. Shredded yellow cheese and pickled jalape?os came alongside.
Deviled eggs ($2.50 each) are basic but tasty, and may be improved to your liking with pickled red onion, mustard seed, chili crunch, or bacon jam as garnish. My choice, Chinese spicy chili crisp, elevated the simple eggs to a new level.
Who ever heard of a taco built with soyrizo vegan chorizo and potatoes ($11.95)? Not me! I had to try this strange fusion, though, and I wasn’t sorry. The chewy crinkle-cut fries were a bit odd, but the fiery crumbled meatless chorizo was excellent, and garnishes of avocado cream, chipotle aioli, and pickled red onions kicked it up another notch. Two tacos were wrapped in doubled corn tortillas that had been fried to a crisp, chewy texture.
A smash burger ($13.95), pictured at the top of the page, turned out to be something like breakfast and lunch in one. Two Angus beef burgers, each thin, very crisply fried and irregular in shape – you get that when you smash a burger – were cooked well-done, placed on a large grilled brioche bun and stacked with two large, thin strips of hickory-scented bacon, a square of yellow American cheese, a dab of innouous Hauck’s sauce, and a medium-hard fried egg.
Crinkle fries on the side were sadly lackluster, apparently straight from the vendor’s bag and served, chewy, at room temperature. Optional sides of sweet potato fries or coleslaw might have been a better choice.
Lunch for two, with appetizers and entrees, came to $40.12 plus a $10 tip.
Noise Level: We had no difficulty chatting even with a large party nearby and ’80s tunes on the sound system. Average sound level was around 65dB, the range of normal conversation.
Accessibility: They’ve done a good job of arranging alternative routes for wheelchair users to avoid steps and bumps. Watch out, though, for that high step down from the dining room into the patio.