Locally-sourced is often overused when talking about restaurants. At HoQ, they mean it.
When we first sat down for lunch at the new East Village restaurant our server arrived to report some changes to the menu. Because the restaurant’s dishes are mostly sourced from Iowa, she said, spinach would replace arugula in one of the salads, and the soup was potato leek instead of butternut squash.
The proof of a farm-to- table focus also is in the menu at HoQ, which opened in mid-November. Patrons may recognize Table Top Farms produce or Hickory Hills meats.
After perusing the front page of the menu, which included hearty soups and salads, I decided on the personal pizza with bechamel, sweet potatoes, local kale and organic cheese for $8. I had my work cut out for me — I’m pescatarian, and there were many vegetarian dishes on the menu. My carnivorous dining partner opted for the grass-fed burger, with caramelized onions, organic pea shoots and white cheddar on a homemade bun with root fries for $11.
My pizza came out at just the right size — if I had been exceptionally hungry, I would have regretted not getting a soup or salad. The sauce enhanced the flavor of the cheese, and the bits of sweet potato and kale added good taste and texture. As a non-crust eater, I was pleasantly surprised by the delicious crust. Usually I view it as a delivery method for cheese and toppings, but I ate every bit of this slightly sweet crust.
My dining partner enjoyed his burger, which he said had a flavorful, thick patty. He remarked the bun was a bit dense, but it did help soak up some of the juice from the patty. Some juice still escaped onto the plate. The root fries ended up being sweet potato fries — our server said they change with what local produce is in. My companion isn’t a sweet potato guy, but even he enjoyed these fries. I stole a few as well.
HoQ is in the former location of Baby Boomers, but the interior has been transformed to a modern rustic aesthetic. The cement floors and walls remain, but the ambience has been warmed with dark wood and black leather seats and stools. Burlap has been draped above the bar and dining area. Ball jars hold dried wildflowers and gourds.
The atmosphere and the structure of a timely and affordable lunch and higher-end dinner is similar to successful East Village restaurants Lucca and Alba. We left lunch within an hour, paying just over $25 with tip, but the dinner menu’s entrees run $18-$28. We peeked at the dinner, cocktail and dessert menu. The East Coast sea scallops appealed to me (pan-seared with local potatoes and butternut squash risotto, organic kale and white butter sauce, $26) and my dining partner said the Hickory Hills Farm free-range chicken looked like a good bet (airline chicken breast with fig balsamic, organic tri-color quinoa, Brussels sprouts, Farmer Jordan’s kale and a poultry reduction, $23).
The local focus is maintained with the two beers on tap: Millstream and Peace Tree. The dessert menu alone is enough to bring me back: I was drooling over the description of the pumpkin bread pudding ($7) with candied pumpkin seeds and caramel sauce.
Find it: 303 E. Fifth St.
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday
Info: 244-1213, HoQtable.com