New Auburn deli/butcher is focusing on the basics

Hank’s serves up a hearty helping of food with soul
By: Laura Albright Journal correspondent
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In a cloud of bacon-scented smoke, Jared Fondren moves from open barbecue to smoker, stopping only to give customers samples of his homemade bacon. As owner and operator of Hank’s, named after his youngest son, he’s one of a three-person staff cooking and serving what de describes as fresh, clean, no-fuss barbecue. Fondren recently opened Hank’s Meat & Potatoes, a butcher and deli shop located off Shale Ridge Road in Auburn. Years of culinary school, including time at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, combined with14 years of chef experience have given Fondren a solid foundation for starting his own restaurant. Fondren said he couples his love of fresh, delicious, food with a mission to bring food with soul to the people of Auburn, He serves up hamburgers, ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and tri-tip with side dishes like garlic mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, fries, baked beans and coleslaw. When starting Hank’s, Fondren’s goal was to acquire his meat and produce from local ranches and farms. He works with Sean Hunter of Del Monte Meat Company out of Sacramento to make it happen. Del Monte Meat Company is an FDA-regulated plant that processes and distributes meat to local grocery stores and restaurants. They then sell grass-fed beef from local ranches, organic pork and chicken, and corn-fed Midwestern beef to Fondren. And since a hamburger just isn’t complete without lettuce and tomato, Fondren gets his produce from Machado Orchards in Auburn, he said. “We supply grocery stores and restaurants, but our main niche is customers like Jared,” Hunter said. Hank’s opened its doors May 24 and is ready to serve customers during normal business hours, or, as the sign reads, “or until we sell out.” “With a cooking and smoking processes that take 12 to 14 hours, you can’t exactly start over right on the spot,” Fondren said. “And it takes time to get it right. I wouldn’t feed my customers anything I wouldn’t feed my family.” A longtime resident of Auburn, Fondren, his wife Dee Dee, their son Paul, 12, daughter Hope, 5, son Luke, 3 and 2-year-old Hank know in this economy how special it is to go out to eat because “$6 should count every time,” he said. So Fondren said he strives to keep prices reasonable. “I promise to do my very best without compromise,” he said. “I hope to see my customers again and again, forming a relationship. And I love it. It’s like having a family barbecue in my backyard every day.” Chuck Phelphs of Grass Valley stopped by and had some lunch recently. On his way out Fondren gave him a sample of bacon. “This was really great and the prices are pretty reasonable, too,” Phelphs said. Scott Chancey of San Leandro also visited the shop after seeing signals from the road. “The smoke from your barbecue is the best billboard in the world,” Chancey said. Along with the prepared barbecue and sides, Hank’s also has fresh hamburger meat, pork and other meats in the deli case to purchase.