Open the Hatch

The small sandwich shop on a busy corner in downtown Hickory opened inauspiciously two weeks ago. The lights went on and the door was unlocked, and Hatch Sandwich Bar opened without fanfare ... yet.

For owners Zach Harkins and Colin Makin, Hatch is their first venture as owners of a restaurant, but it’s a dream both have had for years.

Harkins attended UNC-Chapel Hill and Appalachian State University. He graduated from ASU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Makin, originally from Boonsboro, Md., graduated from ASU in 2008 with degrees in philosophy and religion.

The young entrepreneurs met at The Speckled Trout Cafe in Blowing Rock where they both worked — Harkins as a waiter and Makin as a dishwasher.

They decided they liked working in a restaurant and talked about the possibility of that in the future.

“My plans were to hopefully graduate, find a job and then open a restaurant,” Harkins said. “I found this space on a corner and fell in love with it. It’s small — just what we were looking for to do our own thing.

“Colin moved down here to help me open the shop,” he said.

Harkins’ interest in cooking began when he was in high school.

“I cooked for the family, and they liked that,” he said. “Late at night and into the morning I experimented with different recipes.

“I woke my parents up a number of times,” he laughed. “My first recipe from scratch was a Maple Glazed Pork Chop — they loved it.”

Harkins entertained no ideas about becoming a chef then or now — at least not the “formal” four-year degree from a culinary arts school.

“Sure, Colin and I both enjoy cooking, and we’ll cook here (at Hatch), but we want it to be laid back and fun,” Harkins said.

Harkins said he became interested in submarine sandwiches when he was in high school.

“I worked at Firehouse Subs in Hickory and really got into subs,” he said. “Then, I started cooking fish next. I watched the PBS show ‘Great Chefs’ and tried to copy them.”

The cuisine at Hatch is a nice assortment of sandwiches, plates and sides. Though the menu is small, it packs a punch.

Harkins and Makin enjoy Southeast Asian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines, so naturally that’s reflected in the food.

One of the most popular sandwiches so far is the Pulled Pork Banh Mi ... with cilantro, pickled carrot, mayo and hot sauce.

“We roast the pork shoulder in house,” Harkins said.

Another favorite is the Veggie Reuben ... brussel sprouts, Russian dressing, fontina cheese, kraut and peanuts.

How about some balogna? Hatch serves up a Baloney Sub with chipotle mayo, cheddar and barbecue chips.

And the Grilled Cheese, well, it’s not your grandma’s grilled cheese. Hatch’s Grilled Cheese is three ounces of asiago, American and fontina cheeses.

“Most of the recipes are simple, nothing too funny,” Harkins quipped.

No ordinary bread is served at Hatch. Their breads are delivered from Nova’s Bakery in Charlotte.

“The right bread makes a huge difference. Nova’s is the only place that will deliver to us, what we want,” Harkins said. “I saw a sign in Viewmont about a bakery opening. I hope so — we’d like to use their breads.”

Harkins and Makin make their own pickled carrots, complete with rice wine vinegar.

“Not as you get in Vietnam, but I’m from the South, after all,” Harkins grinned.

Harkins hopes to offer a country ham plate soon, as well as soups and salads. The menu changes almost daily, but the most popular items remain.

“Customers love our Mac ‘n Cheese,” Harkins said.

Fresh veggies are used as much as possible. When the Hickory downtown Farmers Market opens, Harkins said they’ll use their produce exclusively.

“We don’t use tomatoes out of season,” he said. “In season, we’ll be tomato-heavy on the menu. We like fresh herbs and feature them heavily.

“Customers enjoy what we’re doing, and every day business picks up,” he said.

Harkins and Makin hope to stay in their present location as long as possible. They want people to think of downtown Hickory as a destination point.

“We also hope to be a popular lunchtime destination,” Makin said.

“There’s a lot of foot traffic in downtown Hickory, and that’s good for all of us.”

Future plans include catering, but Harkins and Makin want to make sure the restaurant is doing well.

What about that name, “Hatch?” Authentic New Mexican Hatch Chiles are a favorite Southwestern chile named after the original growing area in Hatch, N.M.

“One day I was looking at a can of Hatch Chiles, and I decided to use them and the name,” Harkins said. “I like the name.”

Hatch Sandwich Bar is located at 268 First Ave. NW in downtown Hickory.

Hours are 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday, 10:30 a.m-9 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. Call 828-322-1196