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The Tradition Continues
by Olivia Sielaff & photos by Turner Photography Studio
Nick’s Airport Inn continues a 40-year commitment to treating their family of customers fresh, time-tested recipes in a welcoming environment.
What’s the recipe for a successful restaurant? Start with a generous serving of fresh, homemade dishes, add a dash of exceptional service, and a hearty pinch of passion for food, and fold it all together with a close-knit Greek family. For the past 40 years, Nick’s Airport Inn has proven that recipe is worth following.
In 1961 the late Nick Giannaris and his wife Tina — both from immigrant Greek families — bought a one-room restaurant adjacent to the Hagerstown Airport, aptly called The Airport Inn. After adding his name to the restaurant’s handle, Nick and his entire family dedicated the next four decades to creating a beloved staple in Hagerstown. Even from its modest beginnings with a single waitress, the restaurant hosted weekly big band dance nights and served quality meals featuring a variety of American and seafood cuisine.
Today, the fine dining experience continues. From the greeter at the entrance to the wait staff at your table, guests are treated with exceptional service and attention to every detail. Now, Nick’s daughter Tess Tiches and Tina are the current owners. The secret to their long-lived success comes from continuing the traditions Nick established while always keeping an eye on the horizon.
A Commitment To Quality
Before it was even “in style,” Tess says her father was serving farm-to-table produce on the menu from his own farm. And today still, all of the food is sourced locally, including fresh vegetables and fruits from local growers, and seafood from Baltimore, like the perfectly baked Atlantic salmon “Oscar style” with sides of jumbo lump crabmeat, asparagus, and hollandaise sauce. The highest quality meats are also a must, and can be enjoyed in the form of wagyu beef in their “millionaire burger,” or a 14 oz. certified USDA Prime Angus N.Y. strip steak.
Tess and her mother Tina always made home-cooked meals for their families, so they knew that they couldn’t serve anything less to their patrons at Nick’s. “Everything we make, we make it ourselves,” says Tess. And she means everything. From the mashed potatoes, salad dressings, and chicken stock, all the way down to the tartar sauce for their award-winning crab cakes, everything is made from scratch using original recipes. Nothing is processed or pre-made. They even slice their own meats and hand cut their french fries.
Specials change daily and are more seasonal and contemporary, like the roasted red beets with hazelnut dressing over a bed of arugula and local goat cheese. Also, many of the specials are often determined by what Tess can find at the local farmers markets. For one special in late summer she found perfectly ripened peaches for a delicious cobbler.
Consistency Is Key
With so much to offer, the Giannaris family pride themselves on having provided consistently good food and service from the beginning. “I think the key to that is the recipes are the same, it’s the same owners, and it’s also the same employees. The same person making those crab cakes has been here 30 years,” Tess discloses.
In fact, many of the staff have been with Nick’s for 20 to 30 years. The chefs, kitchen staff, and even maintenance crew have a loyalty to Nick’s that has given the restaurant a noted credibility — especially on this year’s Hagerstown magazine HotList for “outstanding service.”
Tess remarks that because they’ve had the same staff for years they know their clientele, and often patrons will request specific servers. “They have a relationship with the servers and a rapport.”
All In The Family
Family is another key to Nick’s longevity. Tess points to the fact that the restaurant has been a family-run business from the start. “It’s a lot of work, but we’re here six days a week. We’re hands on,” she says. It’s not uncommon to find Tina, who is retired but still in the restaurant daily, giving her input for the meals, creating recipes, and even instructing the chefs on how to properly make a dish.
Not only has this benefitted Nick’s consistency, but it also makes guests feel like part of the family. Tess and Tina often visit patrons at their tables, offer wine suggestions, and come to check on their meals. “Everyone knows us, so they feel like it’s a family, more than they feel like they’re going to a generic chain restaurant,” Tess shares.
For Tess, the restaurant has always been a part of her family. “We were raised in this restaurant,” she says about growing up, “so I feel like it is my home.” And it was her family’s home for a time too, as she remembers living on the second floor of the establishment and working with her siblings in the restaurant since her teenage years. “I was everything except a server and dishwasher,” she says with a laugh.
A Space For Everyone, And Every Occasion
Throughout the years, Nick’s has expanded its small space to now boast 10 dining rooms, a banquet hall for up to 100 guests, a seasonal outdoor patio, and an atrium-enclosed piano lounge and bar. They also provide offsite catering for up to 600 people.
The modestly elegant décor and table settings give the perfect backdrop for a prom date or anniversary dinner, while the congenial service and unpretentious environment makes guests feel comfortable — even if stopping by for an informal luncheon or appetizers at the bar. And the melodic tunes of the piano in the atrium Thursday through Saturday evenings complements perfectly a romantic dinner paired with an exclusive wine from Nick’s extensive selection. And customers don’t have to worry about a hefty tab at the end of their meal. Lunches range in price from $6 to $15 and dinner specials are under $20.
When Tess took ownership of Nick’s six months ago, she brought her professional background in marketing and event coordination to the table to offer new experiences and specials throughout the year. “We do really fun stuff because I’m very social and I like to attend those type of events,” she says.
The third Tuesday of every month, Nick’s offers $10 wine tastings with a winery rep that makes for an enjoyable outing. They also host wine and beer dinners. Annual events include their long-running seafood festival in June with live lobsters from Maine, and Greek week for two weeks in late summer featuring a special menu of Greek recipes and wines from the Giannaris’ homeland. In addition, Nick’s is proud to host numerous fundraisers, especially their successful and most recent event for the construction of Brooke’s House in Hagerstown.
Even with the new additions, the Giannaris family hopes to stay true to the Nick’s everyone loves, always providing a fine dining experience for loyal customers while attracting the younger generation. But most especially, they hope to continue their father’s traditions for years to come.
Start A Tradition Of Your Own
Nick’s Airport Inn 14548 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown
301.733.8560 | NicksAirportInn.com
Mon.–Fri.: Lunch: 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Light Fare: 2:30–5 p.m. Dinner: 5 p.m.–Close Sat.: Dinner: 4:30–Close Sun.: Closed