Words & Deeds

‘Messy’ seafood chain opens in Boise area. Reviews so far? Some great, a few crabby.

Craving crawfish? You’ll find plenty at Hook & Reel, a new Meridian restaurant.
Craving crawfish? You’ll find plenty at Hook & Reel, a new Meridian restaurant. Hookandreel.com

Ready to put on a bib, splatter spicy sauce and pretend you’re devouring crawfish in, like, the French Quarter?

New Cajun restaurant Hook & Reel wants to mess with you — or at least help you make one.

Founded in Maryland in 2013, the East Coast seafood chain offers a hands-on dining approach: “Yup, it’s OK to lick. ... the sauce off the table,” the new Meridian location quipped on Facebook recently, along with the hashtag #getdirty.

Expanding aggressively, Hook & Reel has pushed as far west as Idaho. The Treasure Valley store opened in late July at 1510 N. Eagle Road in the former Whitewater Pizza & Pasta building.

The Hook & Reel menu is packed with shrimp, crab, mussels, lobster and crawfish, along with po’ boy sandwiches and fried goodness such as catfish and hush puppies. (And, uh, wings and chicken tenders.)

It’s a gleefully lowbrow, rules-free dining experience — but with the potential for a fine-dining price tag, depending on your taste. For example, you’ll drop $12 for three pieces of flounder with fries in a basket, or $35 for a pound of king crab legs with a chunk of corn and potatoes.

Naturally, the bar mixes signature cocktails featuring party-hearty liquors: coconut rum, honey bourbon — you know the drill. Order something neon-ocean blue in a large glass. (When in Rome, right?)

Ready to eat? “Pick your catch,” then choose from sauces ranging from Cajun and garlic butter to lemon pepper and the house Special Blend. Add on extras such as corn on the cob, potatoes or fries.

You can “make your own seafood combo,” combining shrimp (heads on or off), crab legs, lobster tail, calamari and other delicacies, also with corn and potatoes — all brought seasoned and served in a clear plastic bag. Pour out the feast for sharing if you’d like.

Although it’s been open only for the lifespan of a bait worm, Hook & Reel in Meridian already has generated dozens of Yelp reviews.

So far, so (pretty) good: Four out of five stars.

“I spent most of my life in and near Orange County where this type of Cajun seafood ‘dump on the table’ is very popular,” one reviewer wrote. “I have to say, Hook & Reel has really nailed it.”

“Great experience,” wrote another. “ Albeit messy. Lots of fun!”

Unsurprisingly, a handful of one-star wonders gripe about the service; new restaurants usually need time to work out kinks.

Hook & Reel embraces its philosophy as a wet-wipe mecca. The waitstaff probably wouldn’t blink if you walked in wearing a rain poncho. Still, a few Idaho residents don’t seem to comprehend that crackin’ crab and obliterating crawfish might send juices squirting across their neighbors’ shirts.

“Not a fan!” one Yelp reviewer wrote. “Apparently I’m not into eating with my hands and getting messy.”

The grub “came in a weird plastic bag,” observed another.

In Boise, fellow kitschy seafood chain Joe’s Crab Shack has operated for more than 15 years along the Greenbelt. So Hook & Reel probably has solid odds of longtime survival in Meridian.

But if you’re one of those folks who prefers that plastic gloves not be part of your dining experience? Be patient. Another new seafood restaurant is on the way. Northwest chain Anthony’s Restaurants plans to open in Downtown Boise next spring.

In the meantime, you have the option of getting “hooked” in Meridian. And don’t forget: There’s a Baird’s Dry Cleaners just 2 miles away.

Hook & Reel is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Happy hour is 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Online: hookandreel.com.

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and columnist at the Idaho Statesman, where he also has been a sportswriter, entertainment editor and features editor. Deeds co-hosts “The Other Studio,” a one-hour music show, at 8 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.