Churned up! Ridge ice cream icon Hinsch’s re-brands — again!

Churned up! Ridge ice cream icon Hinsch’s re-brands — again!
Community News Group / Dennis Lynch

They’ve re-signed, but they’re not resigning.

A sign for New Jersey-based restaurant chain Stewart’s All-American now hangs over legendary Fifth Avenue diner Hinsch’s. Owners changed the name to attract new clientele, but the 66-year-old ice-cream-parlor-turned-diner is still Hinsch’s at heart, owners said.

“Old-timers of Bay Ridge know Hinsch’s, but the younger ones, to them it was just another place — they didn’t know what it was really,” said manager Lee Moudatsos, son of owner and Staten Island souvlaki mogul Mike Moudatsos. “So I figured we’d keep our old clientele and hopefully bring in some new people with a more recognizable name. It’s the same cooks, same waitresses, we have all the same things we used to.”

Sign of change: The Bay Ridge favorite Hinsch has been converted into a Stewart’s diner. The owners hope to attract a younger crowd with Stewart’s soda drinks and with an expanded menu.
Community News Group / Dennis Lynch

Patrons won’t mind the re-branding — as long as owners don’t shake up anything else, one long-time customer said.

“If nothing changes, I’ll still be going,” said Dorothy Oldaker, who has been going there 10 years. “They have really good food, give you a lot for your money, and the staff is really nice. It’s a nice place to go.”

With the new name comes new Stewart’s fare, such as hot dogs, soft-serve ice cream, and the Stewart’s line of soft drinks, but the menu still promises the bevy of breakfast items, Greek diner fare, and the requisite egg cream the store’s previous iteration offered.

Retro: Hinsch's original sign promised soda and candy to generations of Ridgites.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

It’s not the first time a new marquee has marked change at the storied greasy spoon — the iconic diner’s history can be told by its signs.

The location is one of three that Bay Ridge ice cream magnate Herman Hinsch opened in the 1940s. Signs bearing his name and promising soda and candy heralded the Fifth Avenue store for decades. Hinsch sold the soda fountain to the Logue family in 1961. John Logue announced the eatery’s closure with a sign posted in the restaurant’s window in 2011. He cited a burdensome rent increase, but this paper revealed that the city’s Health Department shuttered the eatery after inspectors said operators were not storing food property and the site was a magnet for rats. A consortium of local restaurateurs stepped in to save the flagging food emporium but operating the Fifth Avenue store proved too expensive and they sold to the Moudatsos clan in 2013. Moudatsos renamed the place “Mike’s Hinsch’s” and erected a new sign claiming the historic one was in danger of falling.

Hinsch’s is the first Stewart’s in Brooklyn, but that didn’t seem to impress one longtime local who said he was never a fan of the soda fountain standby.

Neo neon: Owner Mike Moudatsos replaced the soda fountain's iconic sign in 2013, claiming the decades-old neon beacon was in danger of falling on passers-by. He also tweaked the diner's name.
Community Newspaper Group Vince DiMiceli

“Stewart’s or Hinsch’s — I don’t really give a s— one way or the other,” said lifelong Ridgite John Christianson, 75. “I don’t really think too much about it to tell you the truth. I was never a favorite of Hinsch’s anyway. It was good for egg salad on toast — that was it. Or an egg cream.”

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.