By Sheryl Oswalt
St. Patrick’s Day 2016 marked both a silver and green celebration at one eating establishment in Vicksburg. In 1991, Greg Hart decided to take a chance on a 40×40-foot square box building up for tax auction at 2070 E VW Avenue. Twenty-five years later, his college nickname still follows him as the name of his popular eating place; Yogi’s Restaurant.
Greg and his staff were all decked out to celebrate when I went to interview him on the 17th. Like many of the food establishment owners I have interviewed, Greg worked his way up in the restaurant business. After managing, he went on to purchase his first restaurant, Ann’s Breakfast Room and later Hart’s Place. It’s now the home of La Finca that I visited recently for a newspaper review.
It was in 2001 when they bulldozed the original structure–with the exception of one wall so they could call it remodeling–and built what we see today, a 3,500-square-foot area with seating for over 100 people. Along with the regular meal crowd, they have enough seating to host local Red Hat meetings, nursing home visits and other small group events. The current décor is a collage of sorts; a combination of Greg’s favorite things. Something for the Harley rider, golfer, and having had children attending both U of M and MSU; equal wall space for the maize and blue and the green and white!
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking of Yogi’s as a breakfast restaurant. The menu is full of mouth-watering breakfast entrees. While that has been his draw for many years, they are seeing increased traffic for lunch and also for their $5.99 dinner specials served from 4-8 p.m. He and the staff are on a first name basis with many of their customers and many have been coming to Yogi’s for a number of years.
Their soups, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, biscuits and gravy are just a few of the items they serve that are made fresh on-site. Desserts are also home-made. He serves 100 percent certified Angus beef and will not sacrifice quality for price. The menu is full of family favorites and they are named as such. I’ve heard it’s also a great place to go for old-fashion milk shakes.
Ben’s Ultimate Challenge is a 10-egg omelet that comes with everything but the kitchen sink and a heaping serving of potatoes and pancakes as well. So far only 6 people have successfully managed to eat the entire thing within the half hour time limit to make the wall of fame and win a t-shirt. For those not up to the challenge, it sounds like a great family order to share.
Giving back is something I have found to be a strong point in this community and Greg is no exception. Something you don’t see everywhere you go is the camaraderie among the staff. Kristy Winn has been working at Yogi’s for 21 years and co-worker Rachel Simmonds has been there for 15 years. The core group of workers is like family; they stick together whether it’s fund-raising for someone in need or just getting together for a holiday party. He shared his theory for finding the right people. You can make someone a good waiter or waitress but you can’t make them a good person. He’s only looking to hire good people. He loves seeing his staff grow up and return with their families to reminisce.
Not only has Vicksburg been good for business, he found it a great place to raise his family. Owning his own business gave him a chance to see his children grow up; first as teething infants sleeping in the backroom to cutting their teeth in the working world. Son Johnathan is currently the only one working at Yogi’s but they all had their time there. Some of the kids worked elsewhere and came back realizing that maybe dad wasn’t the worst boss ever. Greg is pleased to have had the opportunity to spend the time with them and their friends as they grew and entered the working world. He credits his staff and the community for his continued success and wishes to express his thanks. Best wishes for 25 more years!
Greg Hart, the owner of Yogi’s Restaurant, invites his customers and friends to a 25th anniversary celebration all day on Wednesday, April 13. He plans to roll back prices to another time (not 25 years however) with 99 cent coffee and other items. They will post daily specials throughout the month.