54 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • FEBRUARY 2021
HOOK & REEL
CAJUN SEAFOOD HOOKS LI
BY ALAN KRAWITZ
Amid a flurry of new restaurants
opening across Long Island in the past
couple of years, Cajun seafood is an
increasingly popular cuisine among
diners seeking not just a meal, but a
savory and fun dining experience.
Hook & Reel Cajun Seafood & Bar in
Hicksville, which opened in July 2019,
is part of a growing Cajun seafood
trend on LI and across the country. The
127-seat restaurant is located inside
inside Broadway Mall.
"We like to think we're responsible for
the current Cajun seafood trend," says
Ed O'Grady, regional director of operations.
Nationwide, there are 47 franchise
locations from New York to California.
The company, founded in Maryland
eight years ago, also has a location in
Valley Stream and one coming soon in
O'Grady refers to the meal service as "a
communal experience, where people
come together and it's fun to eat."
Indeed, when one of Hook's popular
Cajun seafood dishes filled with snow
crab legs, crawfish, clams, mussels, and
shrimp hits your table, it makes quite
"When the seafood boil comes out, it's
like a big bag of deliciousness, with
all the intriguing aromas and flavors
as the bag is tossed and the seafood is
coated in the varied mild, medium or
hot sauces," O'Grady explains. "It's a
very sensory experience."
Cajun cooking originated in the
swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana
by French settlers who migrated
there from Canada, and used unique
blends of spices including bell, black
and cayenne peppers to season seafood
O’Grady thinks some of the cuisine’s
allure is due to “unique flavors and the
fact that it’s highly shareable.”
He adds that food comes very quickly
out of the kitchen, which is organized
using a manager who schedules and
maintains standards among the line
cooks who man a fry side and a boil side.
Pamela Raskin, Hook & Reel’s director
of marketing & brand, agrees that the
Fat Tuesday revelers will be seeking out Cajun food this February.
trend of Cajun seafood is growing “out
She says that competition on LI is helping
to further popularize the cuisine.
“Normally, more competition is bad,
but not in this case.”
Tina Zhang, a franchise partner at
Hook & Reel in Hicksville, says she
and her partners had wanted to open
a restaurant, but weren't sure how to
“So, we started looking into different
franchise options. Friends of ours had
a Hook & Reel and they talked about
how smooth the opening process was,
and that they've received support ever
since,” Zhang recalled. “It made our
decision super easy — plus it doesn't
hurt that we're seafood lovers too!"
Diners can select from a varied seafood
menu including custom-made boils
with crab, mussels, lobster, and shrimp
or opt for specialties like flounder or
chicken po’boys, New England clam
chowder, catfish sliders, crab bites, or
Extras include corn on the cob, potatoes,
and andouille sausage, all served
with Hook’s made-from-scratch Cajun
But, says O’Grady, as with all restaurants,
the pandemic has had a big
"We've all gotten a big wake-up call,"
he says, adding that the Hicksville
location was closed from mid-March
until May 11.
"We took a massive hit in sales, right
out of the gate," O'Grady recalls.
Hook & Reel uses enhanced safety
protocols such as socially distanced
indoor dining, temperature checks for
employees, and regular disinfecting
across all its locations.
Raskin explains that one of the biggest
challenges of the pandemic was having
to rapidly build third-party delivery
partnerships with platforms such as
DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub,
just to survive.
She says that many Hook & Reel locations
had to shut down since no reliable
delivery platform was in place. “Before
Covid hit, the company was on track to
open 100 locations by 2020.”
But O’Grady says things are looking
much better now with many new locations
opening soon, including more
in the tri-state area such as the Bronx,
Brooklyn, and Yonkers. “Our business
is now consistent and steady.”
On a recent Sunday, business was brisk
with a steady flow of dine-in customers,
including one woman, Marita, who was
dining at a nearby table and sampling
a crab bite.
Asked about the food, she admitted it
was her first time at a Hook & Reel.
"I really like the experience,” she said.
“I will definitely be back."
Hook & Reel Cajun Seafood & Bar is
located at 363 Broadway Mall in Hicksville.
It can be reached at 516-719-0388
"We like to think we're responsible for the current
Cajun seafood trend," says Ed O'Grady.