OLD LYME — The Hangry Goose has only been open a few weeks, but most of the customers seated on the back patio as lunch wound down on Thursday afternoon had been there before.
They stopped owner Teddy Kanaras to remind him of their previous visits and let him know how good the chicken and clam chowder was.
“It’s from a Greek chef who won best chowder at the Big E,” Kanaras said. “That’s why it’s so good.”
Teddy and his wife Genna opened the Hangry Goose in early June. The breakfast and lunch restaurant stands on the bank of the Lieutenant River, on Halls Road, just off Interstate 95, in Old Lyme.
Family hours for a family restaurant
Teddy’s father owned several restaurants in Higganum and other spots in the east, including Montreal. Teddy has been in the food business since he would wash dishes, cut potatoes and make pizza dough in his father’s restaurants when he was a child.
“From when I was in preschool, I would go down, my dad would put the dough on, and he would take me to preschool,” Teddy said.
Teddy decided to stay in the restaurant business, and studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University. He and his brother Nick started their own pizza place in Old Saybrook, TJ’s Restaurant and Pizza, named for Teddy and his father, John.
The two brothers each started families of their own, and the lunch and dinner restaurant was keeping them away from their young children more than they wanted.
“I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old. He has a two-year-old and a three-year-old. With a full-service restaurant we were there from 8 in the morning until 10 at night,” Teddy said. “So we didn’t see the kids when we went in, we didn’t see the kids when we got home.”
When they sold TJ’s, Nick went in a different direction, but Teddy wanted to stay in the restaurant business. A regular customer at TJ’s showed him the building on Halls Road, and Teddy and Genna turned what used to be split into a restaurant and a hair salon into one restaurant.
The Hangry Goose serves breakfast and lunch, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 to 12:30 on Sunday.
He had to get used to the early mornings, but Kanaras said it’s worth it to be home for dinner.
“I’m used to getting off work at 10 at night. Now I leave and it’s still light out,” he said. “Even if you do work seven days a week, you’re home every night for dinner. You can mow your lawn, maybe see some friends.”
Smoked salmon on the water
The Lieutenant River flows behind the restaurant. From the patio, diners can watch the water run steadily between the restaurant’s lawn and the marsh along the other bank.
After the food, Kanaras said the river is probably the biggest draw for customers, and is helping the restaurant’s early success. A cool breeze off the river keeps the patio comfortable even under the early-afternoon July sun.
“We have a dock, so the kayakers come off the river, come and have breakfast, then get back on the kayaks and go,” he said.
Diners can see kayaks float below, and a few geese and other waterfowl fly above. Teddy and Genna named the restaurant after a goose they saw by the river when they were setting the restaurant up. A Stop & Shop truck went down Halls Road, and the side read “Are you hangry?”
“Genna said, ‘The Hangry Goose.’ It’s perfect,” Teddy said.
A sign over the fireplace defines the term. “Hangry: A state of anger caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.” The slogan written on the back of staff t-shirts reads, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hangry.”
“We try to keep it fun,” he said.
The menu is a mix of burgers, salads and sandwiches for lunch. Teddy and head chef Berto Galatria prep the meat and make the sauces in house. Teddy said his favorite is the Rodeo Burger, a blackened burger topped with cheddar, homemade barbecue sauce and onion rings with a side of sweet potato fries.
Breakfast staples are avocado toast and yogurt power bowls with fruit and granola. There’s also french toast made with homemade bread, pancakes, egg sandwiches and wraps, and omelettes.
The restaurant also has daily and weekend specials. Last weekend they served a smoked salmon eggs benedict and lemon-ricotta pancakes. A lunch special on Thursday was a blackened chicken sandwich that was juicy, well-seasoned and topped with lettuce and thick slices of tomato.
Opening under COVID restrictions
In March, about two weeks before Teddy and Genna planned to open the Hangry Goose, the state mandated restrictions to slow the spread of COVID and limit restaurants to carry-out and delivery.
They held off opening and spent time together as a family, he said.
As Gov. Ned Lamont lifted restrictions to allow outdoor dining on May 20, they saw a path to open. The spacious back patio with river views is a draw for diners, and it was crucial to the Hangry Goose as it opened in early June.
“On Father’s Day, we got very busy, so we started taking the patio tables and putting them on the grass, and taking the tables from inside and putting them on the patio,” he said. “In times like this, you have to do whatever you can to keep people happy and safe and wanting to come back.”
Most diners have wanted to sit outside, he said. Only a few have chosen to sit indoors, and only in the past week, Teddy said, and as word has spread about the new restaurant, the takeout business has grown as well.
With the support of TJ’s regulars and new patrons in Old Lyme, Teddy and Genna have been able to get the Hangry Goose up and running despite restrictions and fears of outdoor dining.
Staff wear masks and disinfect the tables and chairs. Teddy said they have a professional company disinfect the restaurant three times a week – anything to make sure customers feel safe and comfortable.
“We’ve been surviving through this, so I think we’ll be here for a long time,” Teddy said.