Lad & Hooker, err Hook & Ladder

I’d like to get all snark-tastic with the new bar and eatery, Hook & Ladder, but the truth is, it’s pretty good. The beer selection is good, the wine list is good, service = good, food mostly good, interor quirky but good. I’m not roasting the place. It doesn’t deserve that, but it deserves a quick spell on defrost.

First, huzzah to the H&L crew for stocking Rainier beer. It’s a rare treat and worth the price of admission right there. Also, a pat on the back for hiring that Zooey Deschanel doppleganger bartender. I’m sure she’ll keep the age-inappropriate men and suburban hipsters coming through the doors for uncomfortable flirting sessions. Additionally, the wine on tap is a great choice — economical, ecological, ergonomic — and I heartily applaud it.

My problem is with the little stuff. I know this is a professional hazard of the food writing biz, the looking at everything a little too critically, from the napkin rings to the toothpicks (c’mon, who even uses napkin rings anymore?), but something should be said in this case.

Take, for example, the decor. It’s a strange mashup of dilapidated Coney Island chic and brothel moderne. If you don’t look at it too closely, it feels cool, it feels hip, it feels current. Start pulling away the edges and none of it makes sense. Like, why are the cocktail tables made from retro board games? In what possible design asthetic does that fit? How does that blend with the industrial theme? Why are the beer taps installed upsideown causing them to drip constantly? Why is the place called Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company?  Are they stamping out aluminum frames in the kitchen? Is the name of the place a tribute to firemen or the people that make fireman ladders? Or are they being cute for the sake of being cute?

The food, when it suffers, also suffers from this “too-cute” syndrome. The fried chicken sandwich should be a thing of beauty. The bread is po-boy soft, the chicken fried a gorgeous Halle Berry hue. But then it’s topped with sweet barbeque sauce, potato chips, and neon pink vinegar slaw. You know what happens next, the neon slaw stains everything in the sandwich pink, mixes with the overly sweet q sauce, and, before you can say Shanghai Knights, you’ve got yoruself a sweet and sour chicken sandwich. I, for one, do not want to eat a sweet and sour chicken sandwich. I want fried chicken with buttermilk slaw and maybe a little kick of heat. That’s about it. No need to cute it up on my account.

Like I said, picky picky. The place itself feels pretty good while you’re in it. The food tastes good while it’s in your mouth. The drinks do a great job of making life bearable. I kind of like the place. They just need to ask themselves a few times a day “Is this extra layer of cutesyness that we’ve added to the food/drink/decor necessary and does it make our restaurant better?” After answering “no” a few times, they might strip the place down to what it needs to be and kick some butt.

 

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4 Responses to Lad & Hooker, err Hook & Ladder

  1. TheChadd says:

    Makes me think of “Pete’s Brass Rail and Car Wash” in Danville. Or our own “Mulvaney’s Building & Loan”. I don’t get it, personally.

  2. cogmeyer says:

    Come on, get with the program. I just renamed my office cubicle “Coyote & Roadrunner Ironworks” and it instantly became distinctly evocative.

  3. sac-eats says:

    The Sac Rag: News, Gossip, & Smelting

  4. Tipper says:

    I haven’t been to Hooks & Ladder but I wonder if the

    “Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company” name is a a sort of rip off name of Mulvaney Home and Loan.