Hunter Toth, owner and chef at Hook & Hoof New American Kitchen and Cocktail, grew up working in his family’s grocery store, where he learned the ins and outs of food and food care.
As a young adult, he shifted his focus and moved to Florida for art school, but after spending time with friends on the beach and enjoying the various cuisines they introduced to him, it all clicked. From there, he worked in Cleveland and Florida restaurants, being everything from a barback to dishwasher to the person who cuts the fries and breads the fish.
“It’s like art, where you don’t realize how in-depth you get, and you find yourself learning and you don’t even realize it,” Toth says.
The rest is history. In 2016, Toth and his partner, Chaz Bloom, joined forces to open Hook & Hoof in Willoughby.
“The city was thrilled we were putting in a progressive dining establishment. We had a lot of support, so it was just up to us to not mess it up,” Toth says.
The restaurant’s food is a homage to childhood, with contemporary twists inspired by the owners’ travels. The amber lighting and brick setting allow diners to get lost in both the food and atmosphere.
While Toth and Bloom frequently change up the menu, there are several staple dishes:
1. 24-Hour Brined Pork Chop. The star of the show, this brined, double bone-in pork chop is grilled and basted in pork butter, resulting in a tender and juicy cut.
2. Smoked Clams & Mussels. This dish is rendered with chorizo in a pan with shallots and garlic and deglazed with negro Modelo. The clams are then added, along with coconut milk and the mussels, creating a broth that features a South American flair. It’s so delicious that diners often ask for the broth in a to-go container.
3. The Classic Burger. The half-pound patty is topped with imported gruyere Swiss cheese, tomato, thick-cut bacon and a special sauce. Don’t let the simplicity fool you — the burger packs a flavorful punch, so much so that the restaurant sometimes limits how many it can offer.
4125 Erie St., Willoughby, 440-571-5312, hookandhoofdtw.com