Hook + Line Brings Modern New England Seafood and an Independent Spirit to the Seaport
The new sibling restaurant to West End staple Alcove also has a fish market for on-the-go fried clams, beer and wine, fresh seafood, and more.
It’s a common refrain about Boston’s Seaport District: It’s full of chains, and it’s full of steakhouses. Fortunately that’s becoming less true—see recent non-chain, non-steakhouse arrivals like the stunning supper club and music venue Grace by Nia, for example—but it still feels like a novelty when an exciting independent spot arrives. The latest? The seafood-filled Hook + Line—and its sibling-neighbor fishmonger, H + L Market—from restaurateur Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli.
Now open on Fan Pier Boulevard, the pair of businesses mark the sequel to Schlesinger-Guidelli’s first endeavor as owner, Alcove in Boston’s West End, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Beyond his five years in restaurant ownership—which, frankly, probably feels like an eternity given 2020, etc.—Schlesinger-Guidelli is an industry vet with deep roots in Greater Boston. He grew up in his uncle Chris Schlesinger’s restaurants, including East Coast Grill in Cambridge and Back Eddy in Westport; in his 20s, he ran the bar program at Craigie on Main before becoming general manager at Island Creek Oyster Bar. So he knows a thing or two about seafood, cocktails, and hospitality, the sort of well-rounded skillset you’d hope to find in a restaurant owner.
With Hook + Line, he’s created a modern New England seafood restaurant with waterfront views and a penchant for wood-fire-grilled local fish and refreshing Rickeys. “I want this to be a fun restaurant,” says Schlesinger-Guidelli. It’s a beautiful, large space, the kind you’d envision hosting romantic dinner dates, power lunches, friend-group brunches, and private events alike. (Lunch service will start later this year and brunch service sometime after that.) But leaning into the fun, it’s playful, too, offering up classic clam-shack-style treats like stuffies, fish and chips, and fried clams alongside the more elegant entrees like wood-grilled Atlantic tuna steak with fish bordelaise and wood-grilled Scottish salmon with chimichurri.
While Schlesinger-Guidelli is hoping to bring something a little different to the neighborhood, he’s taking one lesson from the ubiquitous steakhouse: the utility of a la carte proteins. “I think the volume of steakhouses [in the Seaport] is representative of a menu format style that people like and feel comfortable with,” he says. “I view that as an opportunity for us; that’s why all of the fish is a la carte. This is a really simple way to eat—but let me tell you, it’s not a simple way to cook.”
This style of menu—as opposed to composed dishes of proteins and sides—yields plenty of mix-and-match magic. A table might share wood-grilled Atlantic swordfish steak with sesame citrus sauce, for instance, or the oven-roasted whole branzino with Calabrian chili crisp (an early showstopper), and choose from sides like melted leeks with uni butter and Pernod crumbs or wood-grilled carrots with burnt honey, pistachio, and date jam. Don’t forget the starters—kingfish crudo, perhaps, or za’atar-crusted tuna loin—and save room for dessert. One option, a hazelnut ice cream sundae with apples and smoked caramel, is a good example of the less obvious ways in which the team makes use of the wood-fired grill: The cream for the caramel is infused with coals from the grill. (You’ll also spot the grill in play for some garnishes on non-grilled dishes and even drinks.)
At Hook + Line, the flavors are big, and the influences are widespread, but this is New England seafood at its core—you might even spot executive chef Mark Cina, who grew up on the Cape, biking over to Fish Pier to pick up the freshest catch. “All of a sudden we’re over at the market slicing crudo with fish that just came out of the water,” says Cina. “I don’t think you get to do that in a lot of places, and it’s pretty cool to have the opportunity.” Cina is also particularly eager to show off the classic fried clams, which are available on the restaurant menu as well as at the market. “Honestly, that’s one of my favorites,” he says. “I think we really dialed in the breading for them, and we spent a lot of time trying to get our tartar sauce right where we wanted it to be.”
Meanwhile, the deep wine list at Hook + Line shows off Schlesinger-Guidelli’s beverage expertise—it’s a big collection of seafood-friendly options from around the world (more white than red, but plenty of red if that’s what you prefer), with France particularly well represented. About a dozen wines are available by the half bottle, convenient for tasting a little bit of a lot of things. But perhaps the most attention-grabbing bit of the beverage list is a focus on Rickeys, with the opening menu including a trio of options, from a classic gin Rickey with grilled lime (there’s that grill again) to the ultra-savory Slick Rick with celery, tarragon, and capers.
“I felt like we needed to create a cocktail identity for the restaurant,” says Schlesinger-Guidelli, “and I think so often you see people choose Negronis or Manhattans as a [menu] section that they make. I wanted to find something that I felt was particularly seafaring, and the Rickey is a style of drink that feels like you should be listening to yacht rock while you’re drinking it.” As an added bonus, the cocktail has Massachusetts roots. “It’s a really good format for looking out over the ocean, and it’s able to be moved through seasonality, which is really critical.” So: Stay tuned for the Rickey options to change up now and then.
The restaurant space plays on the seaside theme—not in a kitschy nautical way, but with shades of blues and greens, mesh ceiling accents that suggest lobster traps, and reclaimed New England wood livened up with bits of mirror. (Take a peek and you’ll see a reflection of the waterfront.) A few design elements weren’t in place yet when we took the photos for this story, so you’ll have to go in person to see colorful wall coverings, banquettes, and pillows that bring everything together with a bit of extra coziness. If it feels like you’re in someone’s home, that’s intentional; Schlesinger-Guidelli worked with local architectural design firm Ruhl | Jahnes, which primarily does residential projects. (The team also worked on Alcove.)
It’s a seamless transition from the restaurant into the market, which caters to on-the-go needs. There, you’ll find lobster rolls, fried clams, and the like alongside fresh fish butchered right behind the counter, a creative selection of wine and beer, soups and salads (including chowder, of course), Iggy’s breads, condiments, and more—anything you’d need for a waterfront picnic or nice dinner at home.
Whether you’re popping into the market from upstairs to grab some provisions or literally flying in for dinner from New York on a seaplane that touches down minutes away, Hook + Line and H + L Market seem poised to fill several niches for the ever-expanding Seaport. And how could we ever say no to another lobster roll option?
10 Fan Pier Blvd., Seaport District, Boston, 617-860-6003, hookandlinebos.com.