Cary, NC — The creators of SideBar, Downtown Cary’s vintage and upscale cocktail lounge, have started up a new neighborhood spot just up the street called Hank’s Downtown Dive. Located at 111 E. Chatham Street, this new restaurant on the block offers a full menu, a lineup of cocktails and a unique atmosphere.
Both businesses are owned in partnership by Matthew Bettinger, his wife Catherine and Jeff Kinard, all who come with extensive hospitality experience and a love of dive bars. Though, this is not your typical dive.
“Dive is more of a reference to the style and comfort level. It’s more of an homage as opposed to a definition,” said Matthew. “It’s an homage to the good times we have had in dive bars, though aesthetically it takes a bit of a detour from that to more of a bohemian look.
As for the name, “Hank” is a reference to Matthew and Catherine’s dog named Henry — a mighty cool cockapoo who has some artwork dedicated to him above the bar.
The Road to Opening Day
After a rough year and having to close down SideBar for much of 2020, the team was more than ready to open their doors to their regulars and get Hank’s up and running, too.
“After the great reception we got from Cary, the town and the people that live around here, we knew that we wanted to do more in Cary,” said Matthew.
When the opportunity for this new space came up, Matthew said the planning centered around bringing a concept that offers food, is open 7 days a week with a reliable menu and a space that is eclectic and, ultimately, fun. Catherine got to work on the design, creating an atmosphere out of unique decor with bohemian flair and the color green as a commonality throughout.
Looking back on the process of getting the restaurant renovated in 2020, Matthew said, “All things considered, construction during a pandemic has not been as difficult as some projects I’ve worked on have been.”
The patio was the last detail that had to be squared away before opening and once the concrete was poured and the liquor license was secured, Hank’s Downtown Dive opened up in late April.
Texas-Inspired Foods & Signature Cocktails
There are a few big differentiators between Hank’s Downtown Dive and SideBar, the first being that Hank’s offers a full menu of small bites, entrees and desserts a la carte. Additionally, Matthew says they made a point of creating a different approach to their crafted cocktails.
“At Side Bar, you walk in and you’re presented with a wall of liquor and bartenders and it’s somewhat of an interactive cocktail experience, with each made one by one. Here we’re really focusing on giving the beverage to you in a quicker fashion, incorporating draft cocktails and less of a focus on the bartender and shifting that focus to you and letting you enjoy your company in this space,” said Matthew.
From gluten-free fried chicken to stuffed poblanos and brisket tacos, the menu at Hank’s Downtown Dive is surely eclectic and offers a slight kick, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. They even sell their own house-made hot sauce.
The goal of the menu is carried out by the head chef, Evan Cordes, who brings 23 years of experience to provide elevated neighborhood fare.
“I think the goal with the menu is to present the neighborhood with really great, familiar food that’s executed extremely consistently and really well done. There’s definitely a little bit of Texas going on in the flavor profiles, that’s a nod to our co-owner, Jeff, who is from Texas,” said Matthew.
Grab a Drink, a Bite & A Good Time
While having a nice bar was a must for these guys, another big priority was the patio. It seats several outdoor tables and faces out toward Chatham Street. Two walls of windows on the sides of a sunroom-like dining area open up to create some nice fresh airflow onto the patio area, that is, on the days the weather is behaving.
Indoors and outdoors, there’s space for about 80-85 people and as Matthew puts it, their job is to throw a party 7 nights a week and you just hope people show up to enjoy it. Now, about a month into their journey, there is no shortage of folks stopping in for a margarita, a work lunch or a dinner spent reconnecting with friends.
All that’s left to make the spot truly complete is the integration of the sidewalk improvements on Chatham which will make the place. even more pedestrian-friendly.
“We’re excited to have opened up our second business in Cary and offer something else for the community here. It’s really exciting to see the direction that Downtown Cary is going, it seems very intentional and enjoyable,” said Matthew.
Story and photos by Ashley Kairis.
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