Hook & Hoof may sound like a seafood and steak place, but don’t be fooled. Imagine the kind of dishes you grew up with - pork chops, lasagna, short ribs - then envision those dishes elevated to new heights using modern culinary techniques and creative ingredients. Now you have a better idea of the dishes that await you at Hook & Hoof.
Located in historic downtown Willoughby, Hook & Hoof has seen terrific success over the past year since its opening last spring. Chaz Bloom and Hunter Toth knew they had a unique concept for their restaurant, the idea of elevating the familiar, but finding the right niche still entailed some risk. Fortunately for Chaz and Hunter, and especially for the area food scene, the concept has garnered plenty of appreciative diners in Northeast Ohio.
“The first year has met all expectations,” Chaz agreed. “We knew we were taking a risk with a concept that hasn’t been done here, but it was well worth it.” It’s still tough getting a table in the intimate restaurant. We visited on a Monday evening and found it pleasantly busy. The larger dining table in the front was filled with a convivial group, several diners were seated at the sumptuous dark wood bar, and a couple were engaged in deep conversation at the chef’s table - a ledge of seating looking through a large expanse of glass into the kitchen. Our table was adjacent to the chef’s table seating, romantically lit with edison bulbs against the wall of exposed brick running the length of the restaurant.
Mallory, our server, made us feel immediately welcome, indicating the parts of the menu with an extensive bourbon list and the hand crafted cocktails. Chaz explained that they had just launched their spring cocktail menu. “We use seasonal ingredients to the extent that they’re available and at their peak flavors, but we aren’t locked into the notion of using strictly local, seasonal ingredients,” says Chaz.
For instance, the butcher’s cut that night was an extremely popular elk chop from New Zealand. Hunter found that the more locally sourced elk was too gamy, whereas the New Zealand elk has a dry aged beef flavor. Hunter developed the perfect brine recipe used on the elk. “We really take good care of our meat,” he explains. “Three of our entrees, including our most popular, the tomahawk pork chop, are brined so they become ultra-moist and tender, but with really quick cook times.”
The elk chop is on our radar for our next visit. This time we indulged in a bowl of cauliflower turmeric soup made with coconut milk for the perfect density, and a plate of pumpkin lasagna and roasted broccolini for me, lamb’s belly meatballs and short rib stuffed shells for my husband. The meal was heavenly, yet had the recognizable flavors of dishes we’ve grown up with.
Chaz and Hunter have found a successful formula between the delightful drink specialties, the shining menu selections and a truly beautiful space to enjoy them in. With Hook & Hoof’s creative kitchen and five children between them, all under the age of eight, Hunter and Chaz have enough to keep them busy for the foreseeable future.
Visit Hook & Hoof for a memorable evening of dining, but reservations at this hot restaurant are highly recommended.
Hook & Hoof
4125 Erie St, Willoughby
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