Hinsch’s is about to get some Greek flavor.
Staten Island Hellenic diner mogul Mike Moudatsos is taking over the iconic Ridge eatery from neighborhood pals Roger Desmond, Gerard Bell, and Bill Gardell — and though there will be some new Mediterranean tastes on the menu, the new owner promises the essentials at 65-year-old greasy spoon will stay the same.
Moudatsos said the name of the Fifth Avenue staple will remain, only with “Mike’s” attached to it, as will the candy, egg creams, and ice cream that Ridgites have eaten for generations.
Moudatsos’s radical redesign of a classic A&W car-hop on Staten Island in 2009 may make Hinsch’s fans worry about the fate of the Ridge institution, but the souvlaki savant pledged to honor the ice cream parlor’s legacy.
“We’re going to try to keep the place like it is, we’re not going to go crazy,” said Moudatsos. “The place has been here 60-plus years, and people like the place, the neighborhood wants it to stay the way it is.”
But the menu will now include the souvlaki and spanakopita Moudatsos has made popular at his five locations on the other side of the Narrows, plus classic Greek diner items like cheesecake and hot open sandwiches. Moudatsos also plans to replace broken-down booths and tables, repair the cracked counter and floor, and put in Japanese lanterns. The old-school neon signs outside will stay — though Moudatsos will raise the word “Mike’s” atop the “Hinsch’s” over the door.
“Everybody we asked about it, loved it,” said Moudatsos’s son Lee, who will run the new Hinsch’s. “We just want to freshen it up a bit.”
The buyout came as a relief to Desmond and his partners — who bought the failing Hinsch’s in 2011, and were lately considering desperate schemes like letting nighttime customers bring their own alcohol to keep the ice cream parlor afloat.
“After you spend a year and a half breaking your a-- trying to make something work, and it isn’t profitable, you get tired of it. So when I found out he was interested, I said, ‘be my guest,’ ” Desmond said.
But Lee Moudatsos said he was confident his family, with their 40 years of business experience, could keep the soda fountain flowing even with $9,000 rent on the space between 85th and 86th streets and competition from nearby fast food joints.
“We’ve been running diners all my life. If we can’t do it, I don’t know who can,” Moudatsos said.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma