Ben's EateryHours are 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call 622-8488.
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By Linwood Outlaw III - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL - Whether they're stopping by first thing in the morning for a hot pancake platter, or have a craving for an Angus burger around dinnertime, Michael Kim wants patrons who dine at his newly opened restaurant, Ben's Eatery, to feel right at home.
Between BBQ Boulevard and Burger Drive -- the names on street signs placed above the kitchen doors -- tables are positioned near pictures of familiar sites in and around Front Royal.
Days before the restaurant at 712 N. Royal Ave. officially opened, someone donated a Warren County High School football jersey for Kim to display on a wall inside the business.
Ben's Eatery, which had its grand opening on Monday, isn't part of some big, fast food restaurant chain the likes of McDonald's or Burger King, and Kim believes that is where his establishment has an advantage. Kim envisions his restaurant offering "five star" service with a down home feel.
"[Food at Ben's Eatery] is all made to order as if you'd make it at home, but in an environment that you can invite your friends to," Kim said. "The point is to have a reason [for customers] to keep coming back. I think sometimes, restaurants get too complacent, and they don't appreciate the fact that people want something different sometimes. They want quality and consistency. We bring the best of both worlds.
"A lot of [our staff] have trained experience, but we also know what it takes to also make it unique. And, in this economy, that's what a lot of folks are doing."
It took about a year to make Ben's Eatery a reality, Kim says. Kim, who developed a fondness for Front Royal because he often visited the area when he was a child, said he went to dining places in other states to generate ideas for how to make food at Ben's Eatery authentic.
The restaurant's menu includes a slew of unique food items, including sunrise cheesesteak breakfast sandwiches, soups, Lone Star brisket, funnel cake fries and Alamo chili made in-house. Even potato chips served at the restaurant will be house cooked, managers at the eatery said.
The menu also features fresh-cut fries made from Idaho potatoes -- or sweet potatoes seasoned with brown sugar. Perhaps Ben's Eatery will earn a reputation for its signature barbecue, sauces and sandwiches such as the Chesapeake Burger, a blue crab smothered in provolone cheese and lightly dusted with Chesapeake seasoning.
Ben's Eatery seems to have a burger for just about every occasion. For breakfast, there's the Sunrise Angus Burger, which is topped with cheese, home fries and fried eggs. Other sandwiches served during lunch and dinner hours include the Texas Burger, which is cooked in the restaurant's Southwest Chipotle seasoning, smothered in pepperjack cheese and garnished with spicy jalapeno peppers.
Cheesesteaks at Ben's Eatery, Kim says, will be made with premium sirloin steak and Amoroso Philly sub rolls, a traditional combination derived straight from South Philadelphia.
The building that is now home to Ben's Eatery was previously a pizza shop. The right side of the restaurant still has a drive-through window. Kim doesn't plan on offering drive-through services as part of his venture, but he and other managers said they are thinking about converting the window into an ice-cream stand.
At the front of the restaurant -- which Kim says is named after his 8-year old son -- there's a suggestion box for patrons to offer up some ideas for improvement, including possible additions to an already brimming and diverse menu. Kim says he wouldn't mind adding some more dishes at the customer's request.
"We want to hear what people want to eat," Kim said. "This is for the people of Front Royal. This isn't some corporate guys [at] Pizza Hut, or McDonald's over in Oak Brook, Illinois, telling Americans what they should eat."
Kim says Front Royal has come a long way over the years, and that he is excited about opening a business in a community he has come to cherish.
"I think Front Royal is like a story waiting to happen," Kim said. "It's like an undiscovered, little gem."