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American dream realized at The Villager

KENT — The Villager restaurant on Main Street has been a popular eatery for decades, under the management of a number of different owners. In November 2008, the restaurant came under the ownership of Antonio “Tony” Hernandez and his wife, G.J. Hernandez.The Hernandezes are no strangers to Kent. Tony worked at the Fife ’n Drum for 14 years as chef and bar manager. The couple’s eldest son, Alex, recently graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School and will attend Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., in the fall. Two younger Hernandez children attend Kent Center School.Over the years, Tony Hernandez developed a following of loyal customers, many of whom followed him down the street to The Villager. He said taking over the restaurant was “a real-life version of living the American dream.” Tony and G.J. are from Oaxaca, Mexico; their children were all born in the United States.When asked why he thinks the restaurant has been so successful under his stewardship, Hernandez said, “G.J. and I wanted to restore The Villager to a popular eating place with high-quality food at reasonable prices.” He added that, “We try to offer something different every day. “Many restaurants offer specials that are just regular menu items that aren’t selling very well. They sell them as ‘specials’ to increase sales. We don’t do that. Our specials are genuinely special,” Henandez said.Breakfast meals range in price from $5 to $10, lunches range from $6 to $11, dinners range from $4 to $20.Tuesday dinners feature Mexican food and always include one appetizer special and one entrée special. Recent Tuesday specials included an appetizer of “crispy fried potato and chorizo taquitos with salsa, sour cream and guacamole sauce” and an entrée special that was “a combo plate of one hot chicken tamale and one beef machaca enchilada served with rice and beans.”“My lunch specials are a little different,” Hernandez said. “For example, eggplant parmesan with mushrooms. Sometimes a lunch special might be crispy fried soft shell crab on a ciabatta roll with lettuce, tomato, chipotle chili sauce, served with fresh fruit.”Hernandez does not consider these offerings fancy foods. It’s just high-quality food with a difference, to keep it from being boring. “I could easily offer fancy food, but wanted to keep The Villager for people who want a good, plain breakfast and a place to hang out and relax,” he said. Toward that end, the restaurant always has local and New York City newspapers on hand for patrons to read at their leisure.Under the Hernandezes’ management, The Villager has developed a reputation for constantly offering customers new things to choose from. “We have customers who come here three or four times every week,” Hernandez said. “These regulars seldom look at the standard menu, they just look at the specials.” To accommodate these customers, the restaurant posts specials on its website (www.villagerkent.com) the night before they are offered. That way, customers can decide what they want before they get there. About 10 percent of their business is take-out or delivery. Hernandez said most of the banks in town as well as business offices are regular delivery customers. “Everything sells well. If something new does not sell well, we remove it from the menu very quickly.” Hamburgers, he said, are very popular items but the restaurant doesn’t have any one or two “bestsellers.”“For many of our regular customers, it’s cheaper to have a sandwich here than to go to the market and buy all the ingredients to make it at home. For $7 they can get a good-sized sandwich and soup. Some customers come here just for that.”Soup is a big seller at The Villager. In wintertime they sell gallons of it daily. In warm weather they always offer one hot soup and one cold soup.When asked why they are open for dinner only on Tuesdays, Hernandez replied, “We are very successful being open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week. Being open for dinner would just be too much work. Plus there are other good restaurants in town and we don’t want to take business from them.” He added that the Tuesday dinner patrons are not just locals. They draw from Cornwall, New Milford, Sherman and other Northwest Corner towns.In order to be different and stand out, on weekends Hernandez makes a hollandaise sauce from scratch for eggs Benedict, which is popular with customers. During the week, The Villager mostly draws area residents, but Saturday and Sunday always sees an influx of weekenders.“On Saturdays and Sundays we always have brunch-type specials because people like to linger. One of the popular brunch specials is granola-crusted brioche. Another is the brunch burrito.” The Villager is located at 28 North Main St. (Route 7). The telephone is 860-927-1555. It is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. On Tuesdays, dinner is served from 5 to 9 p.m.

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