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Young’s Restaurant celebrates 100 years

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of serving lazy lunches to the town of Durham, Young’s Restaurant is rolling back their prices to where it all began.

From Sept. 12-18, Young’s will feature different daily specials celebrating it’s centennial; Monday features two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for $1.50. 

“We’re having a celebration – and it’s not about the money – but to celebrate the commitment of the two families for the 100 years of sustaining this restaurant and supporting the local community,” Young’s owner, Ken Young said.

Young’s restaurant was originally opened as Grant’s Restaurant in 1916 and operated from the current location of Red Carpet Florist, though it was not until 1924 that Grant’s built the restaurant we’ve come to recognize as an iconic feature of Durham’s downtown charm.

As part of the celebration, Young’s is offering throwback specials.

The Young family bought the business in 1968 once the industrialization of the dairy industry hindered their ability to sustain themselves. Their small, family operated farm boded poorly against corporate competition. Since then, the Young family has been cooking up breakfast in their comfy, casual, New England diner, bringing their own spin to corner store classics. 

“We’re charging people the same prices as when we opened the place,” Young said, referencing the celebration next week.

The restaurant is popular with students as well as local community members; 100 years worth of free coffee refills has transformed a corner store counter into the cozy hub of downtown Durham. 

“Western Omelet with veggies in the hash browns. Wheat toast. No questions asked – I love Young’s because it’s cozy and consistent,” business major Katie Curnan said about her favorite dish.

“My hangovers are cured by an egg white omelet and a green giant smoothie,” UNH graduate Britton Beal said.

In its youth, the restaurant did not feature the Oyster River Room nor Young’s locally sourced and organic garden. When the Young family bought the restaurant, they sold tobacco and magazines alongside their coffee and hollandaise. 

“UNH is a challenge because you have to change, rapidly. I try to keep up while keeping it simple,” Young said.

The menu served at Young’s has changed dramatically over the years as Young began to develop his take on a “super-foods” menu, most of which is sourced from his homegrown garden. 

“We serve good food – good food means I know where it comes from and it came to us organically,” Young said.

The garden yields onions, beets, carrots, salad greens, kale, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, raspberries and blueberries, as well as sage, thyme and rosemary. These are featured seasonally throughout the specials and staple dishes.

“While [Young] was in Peru for a month this summer I tended the garden – sowed seeds, watered, fertilized (organically), sheet mulched and harvested,” UNH student Justin Valentine said.

The garden is 34 by 34 feet. It features a rainwater collection system as well as a series of shelves that have been converted into a multi-layer growing factory.

Young has plans to expand the project, and eventually work with gardening tunnels. The tunnels are filled with fertilizer, seeds and a system of irrigation. They could grow vegetables regardless of the season as they are planted underground.

“Supporting the local economy by growing your own food and buying from local farms adds dollars to our local economy which is more important and has a larger impact compared to supporting the big agriculture corporations,” Valentine said, bringing up an issue which the Young family had struggled against in the past.

Young’s Restaurant celebrates 100 years off campus and still knows how to party. Sourced by local, organic farms, and operated as a family business, the diner is giving back to the community with temporarily outrageous prices.

“Things change over time, but I hope our personal flavor stays the same. It’s all about the people here, we try to create a comfortable atmosphere.”

As this 100th anniversary comes and goes, Young hopes to make lasting changes to the restaurant while maintaining itself as the homey staple of downtown. 

Young said he feels an obligation to serve quality food to his customers, as they have supported the restaurant for so long.

The least I can do is give them something sustainable, they are the same people who sustain this business,” said Young, in anticipation for his restaurant’s centennial anniversary.

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