Cranky Hanks nationally recognized as ‘best hole-in-the-wall pizza joint’

Published 10:07 am Thursday, March 14, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Small towns are places with secret gems. Parks, restaurants, artists and other varieties of locally grown and hardly known people and establishments exist throughout the Midwest. Sometimes, however, these local individuals and places get the spotlights they deserve, even if they are unaware the spotlight was placed on them.

Such was the case of Danielle and Henry Priebe, the owners of Cranky Hanks, located at 24992 Marcellus Highway, Dowagiac.

The couple opened their convenience store in 2008 and later installed a kitchen in 2013. Since the opening of the kitchen, Cranky Hanks has been a sought-after stop for all varieties of American comfort food. Burgers, wraps, fried chicken, nachos and, notably, pizza are all part of their extensive menu.

Cranky Hanks maintained a low, local profile until late January when the Dowagiac establishment was featured, unbeknownst to the Priebes, in an online MSN article entitled ‘Best Hole-in-the-Wall Pizza Joints Across America,’ by Lacey Muszynski. Even after their one-paragraph snippet ran in the MSN article, the Priebes had not heard about their new notoriety. It was not until Cranky Hanks’ spotlight on MSN was mentioned by Mike McKelly on 107.7 WRKR’s website on March 6 that the Priebes finally heard their pies left an impression outside of Dowagiac.

“We don’t know anything about the spotlight. Most people knew about it before we did,” Danielle said.

Apparently, MSN gave the local business owners no notice of the coming recognition. It was from customers and unexpected congratulations that the Priebes learned they were considered one of the “best hole-in-the-wall pizza joints” in the U.S. Danielle found the applause ironic considering they don’t advertise Cranky Hanks as a pizza restaurant.

“We’re not a pizza joint, we’re a convenience store,” Danielle said.

Even so, Danielle does not mind the praise, and she does not shy away from admitting Cranky Hanks makes good food.

“I would say that we do make very good homemade style food,” she said. “I truly do believe our pizza is a very good item.”

Danielle attributes the good taste of the food, and ultimately the recognition, to the ingredients and the process of making the food. She does her best to use high-quality ingredients like fresh vegetables and makes and prepares much of the food by hand. Food preparation is her favorite part of owning Cranky Hanks.

While they are grateful for the plugs, the Priebes are still mildly perplexed. Who mentioned them? Who came through and thought Cranky Hanks was worth spotlighting? Why pizza and not another food item? Whoever it was and whatever the reason, Danielle is thankful, but mostly to her community, loyal customers and employees.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without our customers and employees,” she said.

Indeed, without their customers, the Priebes may have never known that Cranky Hanks is considered one of the best pizza joints in the country.