River View Observer Restaurant Views:
Hendrickson’s Restaurant features Old World Charm in the 21st Century
by Sally Deering
A step inside Hendrickson’s in Bayonne is like a step back in time with its dark-wood, low-lighting and in the back dining room wooden booths upholstered in dark green leather and photographs of Bayonne history on the walls. It has the feeling of a Bavarian ale house from back in the day, hearty portions of steak and chops, but Henrickson’s has kept in step with times by offering Italian, Mexican and All-American family fare. They even have a children’s menu!
Hendrickson’s history goes back to 1884 when Charles Hendrickson decided to bring “A bit of Old Europe” to Bayonne and opened a saloon on Broadway, which was Avenue “D” back then on the corner of Maple Street, which later became 31st Street. According to his daughter, Florence, Hendrickson “bought the building from a man named Wolf. There was a small drug store across the street and a little church on Avenue ‘C’ and the rest was dirt roads and fields.”
It’s more than 100 years since Hendrickson opened his saloon in Bayonne and in 1981, Randy Capriola took over the restaurant, (he had a partner, but later became sole owner,) and after Capriola’s passing 8 years ago, his wife Angela Capriola took over running the business with manager Susan Lapinski of Bayonne, who had been working at the restaurant since 1983. Together, Capriola and Lapinski have maintained the restaurant’s Old World charm while they continue to update the menu.
And what a menu! A sampling of appetizers includes Beef Tips or Shrimp in Garlic Sauce ($9.95,) the Ultimate Nacho Platter ($8.95,) Fried Calamari ($10.95) and Potato Skins ($7.50) with a choice of Chili & Cheese, Cheese, Bacon and Scallions, or The Works for just a few cents more.
There are salads, soups, pastas and specialty sandwiches like the French Dip ($9.25,) Portabella Philly ($8.95) and the Crab Cake Sandwich ($8.95.)
For entrees, diners may want to try Henrickson’s New York Shell Steak (12 oz: $17.95; 16 oz: $21,) the Prime Rib ($21,) Steak Murphy ($19.95) or the house special, Hendrickson’s Famous Sliced Steak Sandwich ($11.95) with onion rings, fries and cole slaw.
Hendrickson’s is also known for its burgers, hand-packed to order ($7.95.)
“Nothing here is pre-made, frozen or micro-waved,” Angela Capriola says. “It takes longer to cook than ‘fast-food’ because the dish is only prepared when the person orders it.”
The menu also offers seafood and chicken dishes and Sizzling Chicken or Steak Fajitas ($12.95, $14.95.) And very few restaurants have Sauerbraten on the menu. That’s right! Hendrickson’s serves Sauerbraten, a tender eye round of beef marinated and slowly roasted, served with German-style Potato Pancakes, Red Cabbage and Apple Sauce ($16.95.)
There are daily specials, a full bar and wine menu. Hendrickson’s also caters holiday parties, receptions, christenings, showers and corporate events upstairs in their banquet hall which can seat up to 100 people. And in the downstairs dining room, Capriola and Lapinski have seen several engagements take place during dinner hour.
“Joanne and Julio got engaged in ‘B-3,'” Lapinski says, referring to a section in the dining room.
As with many neighborhood restaurants, business is about serving the needs of your faithful regulars and bringing in new customers who eventually become regulars. Music always helps and on weekends, Bob Dokus plays the piano and leads sing-alongs with the customers.
“We love our regulars and we’re lucky to be seeing new faces,” Capriola says. “Over the past few years, we’ve made lots of new friends. We truly get to know our customers. If we don’t see them for awhile, we’ll call them up and ask ‘are you okay?'”
“That’s a thing about Bayonne,” Lapinski says. “You can be a little more personal with your regulars.”