While Stewart’s may be the newest incarnation of Ridge mainstay Hinsch’s, the eatery – which took on the new name just a few weeks back — harks back to the venerable shop’s early days as an ice cream parlor.
And, the good news for loyal customers is that, while the transformation to Stewart’s meant the addition of new items on the menu, the old favorites – including the homemade ice cream and Hinsch’s famous chocolate — are still available.
A recent visit to the shop provided a diner’s eye view of everything that Stewart’s has to offer.
To that end, I sampled some of its specialties, savoring the classic soda shop dishes that were served to me, as well as a gorgeous, pillowy spinach pie, a specialty that owners Lee and Mike Moudatsos included on the menu when the restaurant became Mike’s Hinsch’s in 2013.
That Spinach Pie ($7.95), while listed under appetizers, would be enough for dinner with a salad or bowl of soup on the side. Made with fresh spinach, it’s substantial, savory fare that plays off the contrast between the dense, feta-cheese inflected filling and the crispy filo dough which encases it.
Also from the appetizer menu, I enjoyed the Fried Dill Pickles ($7.95), a generous portion of addictive pickle chips deep-fried in crispy breading and served with two dips – ranch and chipotle.
The Philly Cheesesteak with peppers and onions ($8.50) featured meltingly tender thin slices of beef piled on a hero roll, and topped with sautéed veggies and gooey cheddar for a classic sandwich that fulfilled all expectations.
The French fries ($3.95) are served with a selection of seasonings created especially for them. I sampled five of the shake-on flavor enhancers, and really enjoyed the low-calorie flavor boost, especially the Wild Buffalo, the Garlic Parmesan and the Salt and Vinegar. This is fun – not just for kids, but for adults — because you can easily change the flavor of the fries with a quick shake.
Also fun was the Funnel Cake ($8.95 with strawberries and cream), which is on the menu as both an appetizer and a dessert. It was crispy, delicious, and the fresh strawberries and mound of whipped cream were the perfect accompaniment, providing a contrast in texture and flavor that was delightful.
And, speaking of fun, the restaurant bills itself as “Home of the World’s Famous Root Beer Float,” ($5) and for good reason. The signature Stewart’s mug came filled with a sassy combination of root beer and soft-serve vanilla ice cream. It was refreshing and palate-teasing at once, with the haunting flavor of the root beer mellowed out by the ice cream.
The transition to Stewart’s, said Lee Moudatsos, simply ups the options that the eatery can deliver. Stewart’s, he stressed, has been in business since 1924, when the root beer debuted in Mansfield, Ohio. With the addition of easy favorites like burgers, hot dogs and fries, it quickly became a shore resort standby, and its old-fashioned appeal reverberates with young and not-so-young alike.
“We thought it was a great opportunity,” noted Moudatsos – who is at the restaurant every day — of opening Brooklyn’s very first Stewart’s. “Stewarts is an old soda shop, what Hinsch’s originally was.”
And, he added, customers have been enthusiastic. “We are keeping the old customers and we’re now getting a lot of younger ones. It’s an old brand with a young following.
“A lot of people think we are just another franchise,” Moudatsos went on. “We are not just another franchise. We are the mom-and-pop of franchises, not a big corporation. We’re here for the community and we do really care about our customers.”
8518 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
347-497-4357 or 855-446-7257
Sunday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-midnight
Friday-Saturday, 24 hours
Free delivery in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights with $15 order from 8 a.m.-midnight on weekdays, and till 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. No minimum on deliveries within walking distance.