By Arielle Sniffin
“It doesn’t matter who you are— you come here, and you have a good time,” Basin Street chef of 27 years, Larry Marco, said as he talked about the hotel’s varying clientele. “Whether it’s students, students who have graduated or locals – here, they all mesh pretty well.”
At Basin Street, friendliness goes a long way, and conversation is in plenty. Rachel Ferguson, one of the hotel’s bartenders, said, “Everyone knows each other here and everyone strikes up a conversation with one another. If you don’t know anyone here, and you make a second of eye contact, a conversation is going to be had.”
A big reason customers are always chatting is because of the large crowd of frequently returning patrons the hotel has. Basin Street takes pride in their loyal customers and a thanks is given to them by mounting a plaque with the customer’s name on it over their favorite seat at the bar.
Ferguson explained how important it is to build relationships with customers. “When a regular customer comes in, I know what they drink. I can have their drink sitting in front of them by the time they sit down, and I think they enjoy that familiarity.”
Marco said, “Returning customers get the same quality and service every time. We’ve had some regular customers coming in here for 40 years.”
The hotel had a handful of names before being coined Basin Street, Larry said. “Before Basin Street, it was called the Tender Trap, like, “love is a tender trap,” now, it’s named after the song, the Basin Street Blues.” Basin Street Blues is a jazz song performed by Louis Armstrong. During the interview, Larry sang a quick riff of the tune.
Local business owner Jeff Slostad, of Global Libations Coffee, and Doug Letterman, owner of Letterman’s Diner, sat at the bar across from me. I purchased some of Jeff’s Blistered Red Skin Peanuts and we got to talk about hotel owner, David (Chino) Huang.
“Chino is awesome. He is one the most benevolent business guys, he really is a great guy,” said Slostad.
Chino began work at the hotel as a KU student, was promoted to manager and become owner of the hotel by 1995. He is described by staff as a family man, a personable person, someone you can always talk to and a go-with-the-flow type of guy who is great to work for.
With the help of his kitchen staff, Chino has put together a menu of tasty modern pub fare with all the works: fried appetizers, sandwiches, wraps and burgers, but flare is added with over 20 different wing flavors, wittily-named menu items, daily dinner specials and southwestern fare.
I ordered steak fajitas, which came out popping, sizzling and incredibly tasty. Marco and Ferguson recommended I tried their homemade ranch, and now I am hooked on the unique, thick, flavorful dressing.
After visiting the Kutztown Tavern, the K’Town Pub and the Basin Street hotel – while all serve great food and drink, I think the differences are clear. People go to the Tavern for the party, the Pub for the food and the Hotel for the people.