As part of a new act in his restaurant career, chef Jose Garces plans to open a Chicago-style pizzeria with a nautical vibe called Hook & Master this summer at Second and Master Streets in Kensington.
Hook & Master, taking over the former Liquid Room across from Que Chula Es Puebla, will feature a small ground-floor bar-lounge and takeout window beside an outdoor setting dubbed Octopus’ Garden, while the second floor will be a 45-seat lounge with a bar serving tiki-inspired drinks and craft beers. The target opening is July.
“It’s not going to be a huge, sprawling restaurant — mostly outdoors and the window initially,” said Garces, mindful of current restrictions on indoor dining.
Garces is working with chef Steve Seibel on a seafood-based small-plates and antipasto menu that will be anchored by three different pizzas.
One is a round Brooklyn style, while two others give nods to Garces’ Chicago childhood: a cracker-thin tavern pizza, typically square-cut, as well as a cheese-crusted pan pizza resembling focaccia with mozzarella layered halfway up the sides.
The tavern-style pizza will also be available in a take-and-bake format; uncooked dough will be topped and packaged in ovenproof cardboard trays for home baking. “You just walk in and throw it in the oven,” Garces said.
Side note: That slice of south Kensington — west of Fishtown, east of Ludlow, and north of Northern Liberties — has been exploding of late with residential development, so there are now and will be thousands of ovens to throw those pizzas into.
“We want to give options,” said Garces, explaining the decision to offer three varieties. Garces said he looked homeward to Vito’s & Nick’s and Pat’s for inspiration on the tavern style, and Pequod’s for the pan pizza — which he says will differ from deep dish. Seibel has the Brooklyn style down from his pizza pop-ups under the name Seibel Pies.
Bridget McMullin is designing the first floor with dark, moody elements, Chicago-theme memorabilia, a tin ceiling, and a to-be-determined rendition of an octopus.
Garces, 48, is rebounding after a bankruptcy sale in 2018 that left him with a smaller ownership stake in his popular restaurants, such as Amada, Village Whiskey, and Tinto. He acts primarily as a brand ambassador and kitchen coach under the Louisiana-based operator Ballard Brands.
Independently, Garces recently opened two delivery-only restaurants, Livy’s Plant Based Foods and Rustika Chicken. “I feel very fortunate after 20 years in the business and 28 total [years in the business] that I have the ability to practice my craft from a creative standpoint,” he said.
Garces’ wife, Jill, introduced him to Seibel, 34, who had left his last long-term gig as culinary director at Broad Street Ministries.
“She said, ‘Jose would like to talk to you,’” Seibel said. “I’m like, ‘Of course, obviously. I’m making pizza out of my brownstone in South Philly and I’ve got plenty of time.”
They met by Zoom, and then the Garceses visited Seibel and his wife, Devin, for dinner.
“It was just organic the way we got along,” Seibel said. “This is a dream scenario for me. I’m super grateful for the opportunity and I’m really excited to bring something different to the area.”