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Saturday, Jul 26, 2014
South Shore News

Waterfront dining just got better in Ruskin


Published:

Each time I hear about a new restaurant opening I cross my fingers and pray that it’s not another sports bar. Don’t get me wrong, I love chicken wings and burgers, but I’m afraid I’ve run out of things to say about them.

So when I got wind of a new dining spot at The Resort and Club at Little Harbor in Ruskin I was hoping for more than rows of TVs and sports pennants.

Bingo!

This finest of new spots to access via car or boat to grab a beer and some grub is called Hooks Waterfront Bar & Grill. Located at 611 Destiny Drive, it is the former home to The Captains Quarters, which dated back to the early 1960s.

Due to my pathetically low heat tolerance, I dined inside. The dining room is big enough for about four tables, with seating room at the bar for about eight. Large umbrellas over the outdoor seating — as well as fans — make dining outside quite comfortable.

Before sitting face-to-face with my plate of fried fish, homemade potato chips and a cold beer, I admired the pleasant and tranquil setting.

Crisp and clean, its basic blue-and-white color palette keeps with the casual, nautical ambiance. It has a this-is-why-we-live-here view of the deep-water canal that connects to beautiful Tampa Bay. Paradise!

To appeal to casual diners, Hooks focuses on sandwiches, wraps, salads and burgers, though it does offer several full dinner plates.

And to keep up with their clienteles’ tastes, Hooks co-owner Gordy Moodie told me that within the next few weeks, they’ll be updating the menu to include more upscale dinner items like steak and specialty kebabs.

Opened since mid July, Hooks already has a customer favorite in the Ocean Side Summer Salad — fresh mixed greens tossed with apples, blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, smoked bacon and candied pecans served with a blue cheese apple cider vinaigrette.

As its name indicates, Hooks specializes in fish — as in you catch, they’ll cook. Working with several Hooks fishing charters you can bring your catch back to the restaurant and they will clean and prepare it for you.

Service? Darn good for a brand-new restaurant. My server enthusiastically answered questions about the menu, and then searched for a bottle of malt vinegar for my fish.

Every now and then, we need reminders of why we live here. So, step away from your work computer and treat yourself to fish and chips for lunch. For an hour or so, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

BATTERED FISH

2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 cup extra for dusting fish

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 fluid ounces seltzer water

5 fluid ounces beer

4 filets of cod or other white fish

Preheat fryer to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, pinch of salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine seltzer and beer. Start with 1 cup liquid and whisk into dry ingredients. Batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. Add more beer-seltzer mixture until you get the right consistency and keep batter chilled until use. Put 1 cup flour in a shallow bowl or plate and coat your fish completely in flour, then dip fish in batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Fry fish in the fryer until done. Serve with malt vinegar.

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