Fancy Hanks review: “Everything fresh and well-balanced… Southern food done right”

At the start of September this year, Cut and Chase on Goodramgate shut down for two weeks to transform into Fancy Hanks, a Deep South-style eatery bringing some good-for-the-soul Southern hospitality to the centre of York.

The 19th September opening was announced in eccentric fashion by a brass band, complete with a town crier heralding the restaurant’s arrival. Inside, Fancy Hanks is modern and airy, featuring a smart cocktail bar at the front, Southern-style wall art, and a pleasant open air garden running along the side of the building.

A Blackjack. Straight from the Fancy Hanks brilliant cocktail menu.

The staff are friendly and cheerful, but most importantly, knowledgeable: wait staff described the dishes with enthusiasm, and went as far as explaining in detail the cooking processes. At Fancy Hanks, you get the feeling that people want to be there. The dedicated cocktail menu is a tour of the American south, and the restaurant offers cocktail-making masterclasses: naturally the cocktails are very good, especially the Blackjack.

A good space and tasty cocktails are all very well, but what really matters is the food: the menu is a mixture of small tapas-style plates and larger main dishes. Wes and Joel, the brothers behind the venture, spent time living in America, and the hybrid cultural influences of the American south are clear throughout the menu: there are Cajun, Creole, and Floribbean styles all packed into a relatively broad, catch-all menu. Prices are very reasonable and student-friendly: £5-£7 for small plates, and £9-£11 for larger plates.

Now, as someone who has spent years in Florida, I consider myself something of a Southern food connoisseur, and I can honestly say: Fancy Hanks is Southern food done right. Made in a scratch kitchen, everything is fresh and well-balanced, and like all the best Southern cooking, simple but flavourful. The pork belly, smoked in the garden of one of the chefs, has a subtle rub, and comes with a sweet apple slaw that compliments the gentle smoke on the pork. Potato croquettes are filled with Pimento cheese, pepper and jalapeño, and although rather sharp, were popular with members of my group. Small plates and the American South may not seem like obvious bedfellows, but the idea works: sharing plates create a vibrancy that will perfectly compliment the hospitality inherent to the South. Desserts include the staple New Orleans classic, beignets, which were very good. Other classics on the menu are gumbo, jambalaya, wings, crab cakes, and blackened fish.

One of Fancy Hanks’ croquets

But the real litmus test for a Deep South restaurant is how good the chicken and waffles are. Fancy Hanks do them the right way: crispy fried chicken, soft, warm waffles, salty streaky bacon, and lashings of sweet maple syrup. For those of you not familiar with soul food, these might sound like the ingredients needed to make a heart attack, and you’d be right: it’s called soul food and not body food for a reason. Don’t let that keep you away though, because it will put a smile on your face, if not your waistline. This is good, thoughtful, well-presented, tasty Southern food, served and cooked by people who really seem to care.

And in case you were wondering: there is no Hank. But despite the absence of their own eponym, visiting Fancy Hanks is not a Hankless task. Quite the opposite, in fact: your stomach–and you soul–will Hank you all day long.