Breaking Frankfurters

The Verdicts N opens in Winchester

By Henry Culvyhouse

WINCHESTER — With a smile, Haven Azarkhish leans back on her stool and says, “This is all I’ve ever done, is own restaurants.”

Azarkhish has owned and operated three restaurants in her lifetime, including the now defunct Cantina D’Italia in Winchester and the Olde Hangar Lounge and Restaurant in Martinsburg, West Virginia. In mid-October, Azarkhish and her mother opened “The Verdicts N” at 211 N. Kent St., the building formerly occupied by Royal Lunch.

The focus of Azarkhish’s newest venture is gourmet hot dogs, lobster rolls and breakfast foods served on a split top bun.

“We thought about sandwiches, like California sandwiches, where you have your avocado, your turkey, your bacon, but then we realized all that stuff you could throw on a hot dog,” Azarkhish said.

Azarkhish said the key to her dishes is the split top bun, which is like a folded piece of Texas toast.

“Everyone around here who serves hotdogs serves them in a regular hot dog bun,” Azarkhish said. “It’s split at the top instead of split on the side like a regular bun.”

The location is the site of the oldest bar in Winchester, taking its namesake from when attorneys used to sit in the bar, have a beer and wait for the judge to return a verdict about a case. Harkening back to the location’s legalistic past, Azarkhish’s menu includes items like “The Misdemeanor,” “The Felony” and “The Burden of Proof.” Each hot dog comes with chips and a homemade side, such as potato salad or baked beans.

Azarkhish said many patrons ask her whether she and her mother come from upstate New York, where lobster rolls and split top buns are a staple.

“Everyone asks me if we’re from somewhere else because the things we are doing are not from around here,” Azarkhish said. “We just want to bring a little bit of everywhere else right here to Winchester.”

According to Azarkhish, opening a restaurant comes with a host of labor and financial challenges.

“That first year is the hardest year and you’re just hoping everything you put into it, you can get out of it,” Azarkhish said. “I hope my whole heart and soul I put into this comes out.”

To open the restaurant, Azarkhish said she and her family had to completely renovate the site.

“We became painters, we became plumbers, became construction workers,” Azarkhish said. “We had to take out three truck loads of grease when we were remodeling. I wish I was kidding.”

Azarkhish said the biggest challenge she faced opening the establishment is juggling the responsibilities of a business owner with that of being a mother of three.

“My biggest challenge is keeping them happy and letting them become involved with what’s happening here,” Azarkhish said. “I wanted them to see that you can take a place from absolutely nothing and turn it into something amazing.”

According to Azarkhish, business has been great, with downtown workers stopping by for lunch and breakfasts and families dining on the weekends. Azarkhish said she considers her restaurant a part of a rejuvenation effort for the Kent Street area of downtown.

“I think we’re part of a bigger effort by other businesses and nonprofits to clean this part of town up,” Azarkhish said. “We hit this area at prime time. This area is up and coming and I feel like we’re a part of building this area up.”

Currently, the restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, that will change once the restaurant gets its liquor license. Azarkhish said the restaurant will serve three beers on tap, including seasonal IPAs, as well as local wines. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the restaurant will stay open until last call, featuring musical entertainment and serving food until close.

“They can wait for their cab over there, slide on over here, grab their dog, then go wait for their cab,” Azarkhish said.

According to Azarkhish, the best part of owning a restaurant is meeting and serving customers.

“I love making customers a part of our family, getting to know them and putting a smile on their face,” Azarkhish said.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com