A New Restaurant For Ho-Ho-Kus

The restaurant scene in my neck of the woods can’t even be described as bad; it’s more like a wasteland, reminiscent of The Road Warrior. We aren’t served dog food from a can when we go out to eat, but most local restaurants’ output is just semantically different than steam table food. So every time I hear about the possibility of a new restaurant that isn’t a cookie-cutter sushi joint or pasta and veal emporium I get a little excited — until reality smacks me in the face.

But this place may be different! It will be run by a husband and wife team from the now-closed Citrus Grille in nearby Airmont, NY. The Christiansons are old hands at running a restaurant; they opened Citrus Grille in the mid 1990s. I never ate there, so I can’t comment on their skill in the kitchen, but the menu looked interesting. I stopped in to the old joint to see if I could pick up some interesting kitchen equipment during their closing sale. Unfortunately it was mostly glassware and plates, but I did snag a nice, heavy, but thoroughly carbon encrusted saute pan (any ideas for cleaning the outside?). I chatted with them about their plans for the yet unnamed new place, and it seems to be developing as an “upscale casual” restaurant specializing in small plates, crudo, and gourmet pizza from their wood-fired oven*. They are planning some outdoor seating as well, which if done well will be delightful — there is nothing like eating outside on a clear spring or summer night.

Because of the silliness, expense and complexity of New Jersey liquor license laws, they will not be serving booze, but the thought of sitting on a comfortable patio with a few small plates, a nice pizza, and a bottle of wine from my cellar is pleasant indeed. As you can see, the construction has barely begun, but they are planning a fall opening.

I put in a not-terribly-subtle request for a great burger, but for some reason they seem to think that their professional training and years of experience trump my amateurish suggestions for their business. Seriously, the format seems interesting, and if the restaurant is also physically appealing, we may have a realistic alternative to driving into New York, or at least down to Bistro 55.

* That’s what I remembered from the conversation. But I checked, and they do not have firm plans.

18 Replies to “A New Restaurant For Ho-Ho-Kus”

  1. “Ho-ho-kus”? Good god.

    If they don’t have a liquor license, does that mean there is no corkage fee? Is there any such thing as an atrocious pizza from a wood-fired oven? Theoretically, I supppose there is…but I have yet to be served one.

  2. That is exactly what it means, which makes the dearth of good restaurants in this area all the more painful. Because liquor licenses are obscenely overpriced, most restaurants are BYO, which would be wonderful if any of them were worth eating in! As for the wood-fired pizza? I guess it could be bad, but I haven’t had one. That is not to say that they are all ethereal, but a wood oven is a good start for most food.

  3. an oven is only as good as its pizza maker.

    there are plenty of “brick ovens” around here, just about all of which are burning natural gas, running at about 500 degrees. no different than your local pizza joint.

    if they’ll actually be doing wood, that’s a good start. but i am of the opinion that the wood isn’t going to add anything, unless they stoke the fire to a high enough temp, which would then suggest they are serious about making pizza.

    we see.

  4. Interestging. What style of pizza? Flatbread is all the rage, and there are great examples and it would fit in with East Coast – but that’s coming from a Left Coaster. Good crust, high heat, top quality cheese and no more than 3 toppings allowed… and you have a great pizza.

  5. I have to agree with Gastro Hound with two small exceptions. Slightly charred on the bottom and a sour based dough for complexity. Gosh I wish there were good eats here. You would think in a land where byo is the norm emphasis would be placed on creative, flavorful and memorable meals. I guess most diners are seen as shmucks. Last night I made a perfect brisket, ok to me it was perfect. It made me happy. My wife thought it was too fatty. Perfect I say. Absolutely love the blog. Just happened by it today and glad I did.

  6. I agree about the charring, but classic Neapolitan dough isn’t sour, and it sure works well. That is not to say that I would reject a good sourdough, but it’s not a deal breaker.

    And there is no such thing as brisket that is too fatty.

  7. I have been going to the new Ho Ho Kus Inn. The bar area, both sections, are pretty casual and very gastropub-like.

    They even have an exceptional charcuterie plate!

    Be sure to ask for the bar/pub menu!

  8. There was a rumor when I worked at the Waldorf Astoria many moons ago that the demi glace had remouillage roots from the time of its opening. If I think about the early pizzas made by the true magicians of the craft I wonder if their doughs were made from bambinos passed down from generations. Yeast wasn’t bought in the local store but rather developed over time with love and respect. I cheat a little by using a sour.

  9. Bosp, could you describe the charcuterie plate? are the meats house-cured? what is offered? do they serve bread with it? if so is it homemade, or, from one of the great bakeries in the area?

    the HHI didn’t meet my expectations on my one visit. I have to admit, I was hoping it would be great, but, everything fell short of even acceptable. The food, and the service, specifically. There’s no denying it’s an attractive restaurant though.

  10. They call it the Charcuterie Plate…it is on what they call the Tavern Menu. http://hohokusinn.com/dimages/file_14.pdf

    Mine had some slices of prosciutto di parma, two types of pate (generous slices), two portions of rillete served on a crispy bread/cracker which tasted like it was made in-house, two types of mustard (one very spicy), the cornichons and pickled vegetables.

    We served a bread basket which consisted of whole grain rolls, sourdough rolls, and crispy pamresan flatbreads. Unfortunately, I didn’t inquire about whether the breads were baked on premises or not.

    I wasn’t a fan of the HHI until the changes in December 2009. The former rendition was quite dated.

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