(May 24, 2013) Buttermilk battered calamari with a spicy mayo and micro celery; crab dip with gruyere mornay, bacon, leeks and Old Bay chips and grilled marinated tuna with house kimchi and sesame peanut sauce are just a few of the appetizers offered at Hooked restaurant on 80th Street in Ocean City.
The fourth Indian River Seafood Company eatery opened its doors last Thursday.
All four company establishments feature different menus, but have the same concept: farm fresh, local cuisine, said owner Steve Hagen.
The quality of the product is key, as is developing relationships with area farmers and fishermen, he said. Some local farmers grow crops specifically for the company’s restaurants.
“We try to make it delicious and simple,” Hagen said. “We want to take things that are fixtures in the coastal area and put a spin on it.”
Hagen and Kevin Frey founded Indian River Seafood Company in 2010 and the pair opened their first restaurant, Off The Hook, in Bethany Beach, Del. After a successful first year, they expanded to a second location, Just Hooked, in Fenwick Island, Del.
Last summer, Off The Hook Market opened in Bethany Beach, Del., and this summer, Ocean City’s Hooked follows suit.
“Every opportunity was presented to us from our clientele,” Hagen said.
When he looked at the vacant space on 80th Street, formerly home to La Hacienda restaurant, he thought it was gorgeous.
“We fell in love with the location,” Hagen said.
He took over the space in February and began to revamp the restaurant.
With dining areas inside and outside on two floors of the building, Hagen said patrons have “different spaces to enjoy our food and service.”
The colors of National Geographic’s Kevin Fleming’s photographs and award-winning artist Aubré Duncan’s paintings pop against light walls. The Delaware artists’ work can be seen throughout the two-story restaurant.
Matt Cornelius is the managing partner and executive chef of Indian River Seafood Company.
Daniel Jacinto is the chef de cuisine at Hooked, which has a larger menu than the other company establishments and is the largest of the four businesses.
And much thought goes into each menu item.
Sweet corn n’ crab flatbread, herb encrusted tuna, seared scallops, roasted salmon, grilled mahi and filet mignon are featured on Hooked’s menu, with several special dishes offered daily.
A variety of signature cocktails comprise the drink menu. Lemon-rosemary, orange-ginger and peach vodkas are made in-house, as is sangria and heirloom tomato nectar.
Hooked has a larger wine menu than other company restaurants and a number of regional beers, including 16 Mile, Old Dominion and Dog Fish Head, are available.
The biggest asset and the foundation of the company is its staff, Hagen said.
“We have a lot of talented people in the kitchen and front of the house,” he said.
The company’s eateries have developed a large following, and Hagen said he feels fortunate that his restaurants have such a loyal customer base.
Many who dine at the Delaware restaurants and live in Ocean City are happy that Hooked has opened in the resort town, he said.
“I think we compliment the area,” he said.
Hooked opens daily at 11:30 a.m.