Hook & Reel has set up shop in a former Logan’s Roadhouse on the west side of town. It’s a restaurant company that started in Lanham, Maryland, but is now based out of Flushing, N.Y. Any restaurant based in a place called Flushing is just asking for it if it doesn’t serve good food.
Luckily, H&R does serve good food – seafood, in case you hadn’t already deduced – in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.
The menu is Louisiana accented. In fact, the sign out front declares “Cajun Seafood & Bar.” The highlight of the menu is a seafood combo that is served in a poofy, clear plastic bag that sort of looks like a transparent Jiffy Pop. I had to order one after seeing several go by my table. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.
My companion and I started with an order of Hush Puppies and something called Crabmeat Fries.
The Crabmeat Fries were just that: A stack of french fries topped with a generous amount of sweet crabmeat. The fries would have been good by themselves. So would the crab. When mixed with the accompanying blue cheese dipping sauce, they both turned into something better.
The Hush Puppies were done just right, densely packed and fried.
My friend chose the Soft Shell Crab dinner, a gutsy move just two weeks after having the same thing at Galatoire’s in New Orleans. Were they the same? No. But these were perfectly fine, and a bargain at $19 for two. Soft shell crabs are not easy to do and frequently come out soggy and disappointing. But Hook & Reel’s had a crispy, well seasoned breading. They were accompanied by meaty cross-cut sweet potato fries.
And then there was the bag o’ seafood. I went for the Pick Your Catch option and selected crawfish and shrimp (you can choose head on or head off with your shrimp; the crawfish come whole). Also inside the bag were new potatoes and a chunk of corn on the cob, plus whatever sauce you choose. I went with the Hook Reel Special Blend, which had a nice bit of spiciness.
So all of this comes to the table in the aforementioned puffed up bag. Then the server shakes it all up so that everything gets coated real good. It’s basically a seafood boil in a bag. And you eat it out of the bag with its sides rolled down instead of dumped out onto a table (although those are covered in brown paper, so you probably could eat it that way if you wanted to).
Thankfully, there are not only bibs provided but plastic gloves, as well, so you can just dig in and get all messy with your food. And there’s a big bucket on the table for your discards. Great fun.
And it was all cooked nicely, too. I especially liked the shrimp, which were tender-firm and tasty.
After all that food I had to eschew the offer of beignets for dessert, but they sounded intriguing with a caramel cream sauce.
The last time I was in the building that houses Hook & Reel it was to check out Logan’s Roadhouse, a new steakhouse chain that had come into town. That would have been 1998. The thing I remember most about it was the bucket of peanuts on every table and the entreaty to just toss the shells onto the floor. A manager of Hook & Reel told me that even though Logan’s left the building three years ago, the place was still littered with peanut shells when H&R took it over.
It’s all cleaned up now and sports a stereotypical early wharfside decor, with netting, portholes and fish models suspended from the ceiling.
I enjoyed the laidback but attentive service and was impressed with our server’s menu knowledge.
In fact, I enjoyed everything about my visit. The people are friendly, the atmosphere relaxed and the food is good. I guess I’ve been reeled in.
Hook & Reel is at 7480 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-801-5223.