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Still Tasty After All These Years

The Imperial Chinese Restaurant

Longtime Independent Restaurants Share Recipes for Lasting Success

By Jane Schmidt and photos by Turner Photography Studio

Eating out is a popular pastime, whether socializing and celebrating with family and friends, meeting with business associates over lunch or dinner, or exploring and nurturing personal relationships.

Washington County has a veritable cornucopia of independently owned and operated restaurants featuring all types of food styles and choices.

Independent restaurant owners in Washington County  as well as all over the country, continue to face the daunting challenge of retaining and expanding their customer base to sustain and grow successful, thriving businesses.

Washington County hosts a number of independent restaurants that serve delicious food while withstanding changing national and local economic climates, over-coming challenges, and in several instances, successfully managing ownership and operational transitions to celebrate impressive achievement and staying power through the years.

30-Plus Years Commemorating Hagerstown’s German Heritage

Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant | Bavarian cuisine

Owner/Executive Chef: Dieter Blosel

58 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown | 301.797.3354 | http://schmankerlstube.com

Situated in the heart of Hagerstown’s historic Arts and Entertainment district, Schmankerl Stube has been a steadily flourishing cornerstone of the downtown restaurant scene since it was envisioned and founded by Charles Sekula in 1988.

“The Stube,” as it’s affectionately known to loyal customers, celebrates Hagerstown’s Bavarian ties through its vast lunch, dinner, and dessert menus and impressive beer and wine options. Its Old World Bavarian atmosphere includes servers in Bavarian dirndls, tranquil outdoor al fresco dining area and its unparalleled authentic Bavarian cuisine that has charmed locals and visitors alike for three decades.

Dieter Blosel, originally from Bavaria, became executive chef during Sekula’s ownership in 1999 and transitioned to becoming owner/operator in 2008.

Dieter attributes “The Stube’s” 30-plus-year success to several key factors. “We strive for consistency and quality in all areas of our operation, always keeping our customers in mind,” he shares. “Times are always changing. Owning a business means you have to always be conscious of what you are doing. You can’t take anything for granted,” he emphasizes.

His successful culinary background is an important proponent to maintaining “The Stube’s” carefully-planned menu.  “When I first came onboard, we made several subtle enhancements across our entire menu. I constantly monitor what we offer and identify and make changes when needed. Our goal is to provide quality, unique and great-tasting dining experiences. Everything is prepared in-house, and while the process is not complex, we strive to create unique, flavorful experiences for each customer.”

Another critical component to “The Stube’s” lasting success is its friendly, knowledgeable, and professional staff. “Our staff is a very positive and impor-tant aspect of our success, and is a vital connection to our customers’ dining experiences,” explains Dieter.

As an ethnic-specialty restaurant, Dieter acknowledges the importance of meeting customer expectations. “We offer a wide representation of traditional Bavarian dishes – bratwurst, sauerkraut, pork, spaetzle, and red cabbage, among others. While we have a very solid, balanced menu, we constantly analyze it and our customers’ responses to help us turn new visitors into repeat customers while providing signature consistency and the quality our returning customers expect,” Dieter concludes.

Nick’s Airport Inn Soars into Its 58th Year

Nick’s Airport Inn | American and seafood cuisine

Owner: Tina Giannaris

General Manager: Tess Tiches

14548 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown | 301.733.8560 | www.nicksairportinn.com

The steadfast legacy of Nick’s Airport Inn began in 1961, when the late Nick Giannaris and wife Tina purchased a small restaurant next to Hagerstown Airport. “We lived above the restaurant until I was 12,” shares daughter Tess, who took over as general manager a few years ago. “My parents always treated customers to their warm, genuine hospitality as if they were entertaining them personally. We continue to emphasize that same welcoming feeling with our customers today.”

Tess shares how her dad incorporated innovative strategies from the beginning to establish Nick’s Airport Inn as a popular, noteworthy part of Hagerstown and Washington County history.

“Before it was even in style, Dad was serving farm-to-table produce on his menu, grown on his own farm. Most of our food is locally sourced and everything we serve is house made – our main menu, desserts, sides, sauces, and dressings are our family’s original recipes. We feature the highest-quality meats that are hand-cut on the premises and obtain fresh seafood from Baltimore,” states Tess.

The Giannaris’ traditions of consistency and quality continue the restaurant’s success. “We are coming in to our 58-year anniversary. Throughout those years, we’ve maintained strict adherence to the principles my Dad and Mom established,” she explains. Her mother Tina is still involved in the business and loves to greet customers as she did over 50 years ago!

Nick’s boasts 10 elegant dining rooms, a 100-guest banquet hall, outdoor patio, atrium-enclosed piano bar, off-site catering, and large, award-winning wine selection. It holds yearly Seafood and Greek Week celebrations and incorporates seasonal and weekly menu specials each year.

Its casual elegance and expansive menu make it ideal for special occasions, business meetings and informal gatherings with friends. The warm and welcoming atmosphere is perfect for dinner, appetizers and drinks, or a mid-day lunch and is suitable for customers encompassing all ages. “Our customer family includes multiple generations,” shares Tess.

The staff maintains Nick’s signature warmth and hospitality. “We have a loyal, professional staff, many with us for 20 to 30 years,” Tess explains.

Tess concludes by saying that her Dad would be ecstatic at seeing Nick’s Airport Inn today. “Everyone here takes pride in this business. We strive to continue my Dad and Mom’s legacy. Our goal is to continue my parents’ traditions for years to come.”

Celebrating 25-Plus Years of Authentic Italian Fare 

Tony’s NY Pizza & Restaurant | Authentic Italian & Tex-Mex food

Owner & Cook: Juan Resendiz

Restaurant Manager: Alex David

Cook: Efren Resendiz

14224 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown | 301.739.8669 or 301.797.8073 | www.pizzahagerstown.com (orders)

Begun over a quarter century ago by Tony Natale, Tony’s NY Pizza & Restaurant con-tinues its tradition of affordable, generously portioned, and high-quality Italian food in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Owner and cook Juan Resendiz purchased the popular eatery in January 2007 after working with Natale since the mid-1990s. Juan and his cousin Efren, also previously employed by Natale, create all the offerings on their extensive menu. Every delicious item that comes to the table, from appetizers and salads, to steak, seafood, and traditional Italian and Mexican entrees, are a product of these two very talented cousins. And yes, they also create those tantalizing desserts, including Juan’s famous tiramisu!

“All the food on our menu is freshly made from scratch,” shares Juan. “We make all our own sauces, doughs, pastas, breads and desserts. We have added paninis and many Tex-Mex options, including fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos.”

Tony’s offers several bottle and on-tap beers by glass or pitcher, wines via glass or carafe, and ciders to accompany their vast food offerings.

The restaurant offers a private front banquet room and extension, featuring a large room with customizable partitioning for private celebrations and business meetings. “We host many parties,” shares Restaurant Manager Alex David. “We can accommodate most any gathering.”

If patrons can’t dine in, Tony’s offers free delivery on orders of $10 or more and take-out options including its entire food menu.

The Resendiz cousins’ dedication to creating quality, flavorful fare attracts regulars and new customers from around the Tri-State. “Many customers have been coming here for more than 25 years,” shares Alex. “A Mercersberg, PA couple joins us every Saturday. We have come to know many of our regulars and greatly enjoy their friendship.”

Popular favorites include lasagna, chicken marsala, fresh steamed mussels, alfredo dishes, and jumbo-sized Buffalo wings featuring Tony’s signature sauce.

Specials feature a pasta and pizza weekday lunch buffet, salad bar, and “buy one, get one half-price” dinners. “Our goal is to provide families an affordable, quality meal,” Alex shares.

Tony’s servers are warm, genuine and professional. “Our servers develop steadfast relationships with our patrons and oftentimes remember favorites from previous visits,” explains Alex. “We’re a family business. We work together to provide consistently great dining experiences for our customers.”

Continuing the Imperial Chinese Restaurant’s 35-Year Legacy  

The Imperial Chinese Restaurant | Szechuan, Hunan & Cantonese cuisine

Owners: Xiao and Shi Yu 

Manager: Wendy Yu 

13112 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown | 301.797.3388 | www.facebook.com/pg/imperialhagerstown

Xiao and Shi Yu are passionate about Chinese food. The couple, originally from China, has extensive culinary experience creating Szechuan, Hunan and Cantonese-style cuisine. Xiao and Shi realized their dream of becoming restaurant owners back in July 2018 when their good friend Steve Cheng, former Imperial Restaurant owner, retired and sold the highly popular Chinese restaurant business to them.

“My father has a passion for making Chinese food and has 30 years of experience as a cook,” shares the couple’s daughter, Wendy, who is restaurant manager. “Plus, my mother has considerable experience as a waitress specific to Chinese restaurant settings. My father wanted to relocate to this area because he previously lived here and loved it so much. They are both very excited with the opportunity to continue doing what they love to do while including their personal touch in the management and running of their own restaurant,” she explains.

The Imperial has a great following within the Tri-State community for its variety of Szechuan, Hunan, and Cantonese offerings, including its weekday lunch specials, appetizers, soups, entrees and dinners. “We are continuing the restaurant’s legacy of offering generous servings of quality food at fair prices. My family worked extensively with Steve prior to taking over to learn the established food items and preparation processes required to create the entire menu already in place. Our customers can expect the same consistent high-quality, fresh menu they’ve always enjoyed since the restaurant opened 35 years ago,” Wendy elaborates.

Wendy shares her parents are beginning to gradually add their own unique enhancements to the restaurant, taking customer input and feedback into account. After listening to their customers’ comments and preferences, the Yu family responded by making menu changes and adding holiday hours. “We added vegetarian options, including vegetable egg rolls. We were open this past Christmas and were quite busy,” Wendy explains.

The entire food menu is available for takeout, and Wendy adds that her parents are considering the addition of delivery service and eventually, catering options in the restaurant’s future.

The Imperial offers a great selection of beer, wine and specialty cocktails from its well-stocked bar for patrons opting to dine in.

In addition to Wendy, Xiao and Shi have regular assistance from the couple’s daughter Lena and son Zhen, as well as several previous Imperial staff. “We’re a family-run business. Our goal is to focus on our customers’ satisfaction,” she concludes.