I’m not sure what it is about small town, mom-and-pop diners I find so alluring. Could it be that when I eat at these places I discover special treats I wouldn’t normally find at a restaurant chain? Or, being steeped in tradition, are these places imbued with a certain sense of a community’s history that I just want to be a part of it? Or, like the Cheers theme song, is it just that I wanna go where everybody knows everybody’s name? Well, at Handy’s Lunch, I experienced all three. What’s more, Handy’s Lunch isn’t actually in a small town. It is plopped right smack in the middle of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington…where it’s been for nearly 70 years.
First, let me begin by thanking Miro Weinberger, the Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, who took time out of his busy schedule to support Handy’s during my visit. It’s obvious to me why you were voted Mayor and if you run for re-election you’ve got my vote! I’d also like to thank Elaine Young, a marketing professor at Champlain College, who schooled me in all things social media. I hope to improve my social media skills moving forward. Thank you for all the great information!
Started in 1945 by Earl Handy’s grandparents, Earl and Flora, the diner was originally a combination of a corner store and diner. And, with just five seats at the time, they only served coffee and doughnuts while tending to the store’s customers. All that changed in 1958, when Earl’s father felt the family business would be better served if it became a full-fledged diner. So, while Earl’s grandparents were on vacation, Earl’s father remodeled the space and it’s remained that way ever since. In fact, the horseshoe shaped counter is still the original.
Earl took ownership of Handy’s Lunch in 1996 after graduating from college which wasn’t really in the cards for him. “Growing up, everything I did was preparing me to leave Burlington,” quips Earl. “But, today, it feels pretty good to be here [having been voted Vermont’s FAVORITE breakfast spot].”
And, you can see just how proud this Burlingtonian is day in and day out at Handy’s Lunch. Yes, Earl is the main man behind the horseshoe every day of the week at Handy’s, which is probably why so many of Handy’s customers come back.
I checked out Yelp! before my visit and was amazed to see all the glowing reviews – one of the main threads throughout each of their posts – Earl’s friendly smile and warm welcome. I couldn’t agree more. After bantering back and forth with him on Twitter, I finally met Earl. When I saw him, I felt like I was meeting up with a longtime friend not a perfect stranger. In my opinion, this is how every small business owner should interact with their customers…like they’re family.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Earl’s astute tweeting abilities…because he IS the Twitter King in my book. With thousands of followers and more than 11,000 tweets under his belt, Earl Handy has learned how to embrace social media to keep the doors of his quaint diner wide open! In fact, Earl’s story was featured on foxbusiness.com on how to use social media for small business. Way to go, Earl!
Located on Maple Street and tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Church Street (love, love, love Church Street), Handy’s friendly and relaxed atmosphere makes you feel right at home. Every guest who walks in the door is welcomed with a smile. It’s wood paneled walls are lined with an eclectic mixture of license plates and hockey photos, family pictures and well-deserved awards…and a money tree.
What began with a euro from a friend, has become an extensive collection of currency from different places like Jamaica and Israel and a fun focal point of the restaurant.
Another focal point? The food. It’s not exotic nor is it difficult to prepare…it’s just plain good.
The first of the two dishes? The Super G. Not sure what the G stands for…my guess: “GOOD” because boy was it ever. The Super G takes a typical egg sandwich and beefs it up…literally. You don’t have one type of meat, you have three: ham, sausage and bacon. You don’t have one slice of creamy cheese, you have three. Instead of one egg, you have two. And, move over English muffin, for a sandwich this BIG you need a nice buttery Italian roll. So, to recap, here we go from the bottom up: roll, sausage patty, cheese, egg, cheese, bacon, cheese, egg, ham, roll. Yes, I’ve just described the ultimate egg sandwich. And, all the meats and cheese are high quality Boar’s Head products. 8y7uhijkml, (sorry, just cleaned off the saliva from my keyboard). 🙂
As if this wasn’t enough, Earl then introduced me to the King Richard – named after Handy’s chef, Jeremy Richard. And, he’s certainly a king in my book!
At first glance, the King Richard appears somewhat intimidating. But, for any self-respecting foodie, it’s a challenge one should take. So, I gladly took it.
I find it fitting that it’s named King Richard since the copious amount of real Vermont maple syrup creates a moat between the dish’s pancakes and the edge of the plate.
So, now let me introduce you to the King Richard. From the bottom…two perfectly cooked buttermilk pancakes drenched in real Vermont maple syrup. On top of the pancakes is their simple-yet-devine corned beef hash (Boar’s Head corned beef, onions, potatoes)…then, two eggs over easy.
For those of you who don’t like to mix sweet and salty flavors…get over it. Well, at least for this dish. The combination of flavors works really well. The savory, salty, chewy consistency of the hash pairs perfectly with the buttery, fluffy pancakes. And there isn’t anything better than real Vermont maple syrup. Add the rich, creamy flavor of an over easy egg and voilà, you have breakfast fit for a King.
After breakfast I snapped some shots of the diner and said my goodbyes. I walked down to beautiful Lake Champlain and back up to Church Street only to get lost in more mom-and-pop places. I hope I get lost again there some day very soon.
Handy’s Lunch is located at 74 Maple Street in Burlington, Vermont (for you Twitterers it’s #BTV). You can contact them at 802-864-5963 or visit them on the Web at facebook.com (Handy’s Lunch Fan Club) or on Twitter: @handyslunch. If you go, please tell them that Little Lee sent you!