One of the signature items at Hook & Reel, the Cajun seafood bar in West Orlando, is the seafood boil that comes to the table in a big poofed-up plastic bag. Inside is a mess – a wonderful mess – of seafood that you selected in a sauce of your choice. To eat it, you roll the sides of the bag down and start digging in with your hands.
I was pretty sure that experience couldn’t be duplicated in a takeout experience, so I was surprised to see the seafood boils as an option on the online ordering form. So I had to give it a try.
Ordering is through the Chownow app and it couldn’t be more intuitive or easy to use. With each selection, you’re able to make adjustments, additions and subtractions or leave detailed notes. And at the end of the process, you can pay for the order, including leaving a tip, for contactless pickup at the restaurant. (Delivery is also available through a third party.)
For my seafood boil – it’s listed as Make Your Own Seafood Combo on the ordering form – I selected shrimp (you can specify head on or off) and scallops (all headless). And for the sauce I selected the original Cajun with a “fire” spice level. The other choices are mild and spicy, so I figured this would be in between. The combo includes boiled potatoes and a short cob of corn, but if you want more of those you can specify on the form.
My companion selected the oyster po’boy with regular fries. And to share, we got an order of hush puppies with cocktail sauce for dipping, and a bowl of gumbo.
When I arrived at the restaurant, I called to say I was in the parking lot. The woman on the phone that because of my method of ordering she was able to bring it out to me. And it was nice that she stayed on the phone the whole time, so I could ask her to put the food in the trunk. Not only did she oblige, she also put the bag inside a small soft-sided cooler I keep there. She said that would not only keep the food hot but would also keep the bag upright. I appreciated that.
The food did indeed arrive hot and I was impressed with how carefully things were packaged, including the use of cardboard to add sturdiness to the package.
Also a nice touch: the foam clamshell that the sandwich came in had holes poked in the top to let steam escape and keep the bread – and breaded oysters – from becoming soggy. It worked, too. The seven or so oysters were neatly nestled in a fresh roll on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. A bit of remoulade sauce was included for dressing.
The hush puppies, packaged in their own little folding cardboard box, were crispy and well seasoned on the outside and soft inside.
The gumbo was dark and moody, just like a good gumbo should be.
And my seafood boil was served in double-bagged plastic just like at the restaurant except without the puffiness. Both the shrimp and scallops were perfectly cooked, and the sauce had a good kick to it but wasn’t too overspiced.
The shrimp were deveined but did require peeling, but getting messy is all part of the fun of a seafood boil. This is a great option for a dinner outside on your patio so you can just hose down your table afterward.
Hose yourself down, too.
Hook & Reel is at 7840 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-801-5223.