by Anne Jones
If I could be a restaurant when I grow up, I’d wanna be HobNob. It’s kind of perfect. Or rather, it’s the real-life version of perfect: it’s just right. Classy, not pretentious; innovative, not trendy; cozy, not cramped; casual but not too. It’s just the right amount of everything. Kristin and Tracey Thoroman made sure of that when they bought and re-did the old Hermitage Grill on Lakeside Avenue and opened this Northside treasure in November 2017.
First impressions matter and mine were a predictor of the greatness to follow. The look and feel of the room made me want to live in the place – white beadboard with dark accents, interesting art, wood floors: everything is clean lines and refreshing. It’s instantly comfortable and inviting, many notches above homey, and certainly not the over-used Pottery Barn décor so prevalent in new places. Also absent is the forced-quirky clutter found in so many neighborhood spots. HobNob is true to itself through and through, which makes it unique. Even the sound system is done just right, according to my musician friend and dining companion. The music is at the perfect volume and projection to be heard clearly and enjoyed, but never comes close to encroaching on the conversation. That alone is an achievement.
But HobNob’s most impressive achievement is its exquisite food, and consistently so. In four visits in two months there was not one disappointment. Not a one. Chef Tracey has designed a menu that’s, in his words, approachable. Again, it’s just the right amount – of options, prices, tastes. From Southwestern chicken soup ($4) and a NC bbq sandwich ($9) to Penne Bolognese -braised short rib, brisket,tomato sauce, penne and shaved parmesan ($17), the fare is varied and affordable. On my most recent visit I tried the crab cakes, at the recommendation of Craige, our perfect server (she was just the right amount of attentive professional and funny/friendly). The crab cakes were a heavenly mound of pure crab meat and a little filler, in perfect proportions. I know my crab cakes, and am reluctant to order them out because I’m so picky. These tasted scrumptious, especially dipped in the delicately zesty creole remoulade. The accompanying cole slaw tasted fresh and crunchy with a nice flavor – more like a salad than your standard gloppy slaw. M’s fish and chips managed to be both fried and light, with just the right amount of spice. M’s usual order is the beer-brined grilled pork chop with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. Never prone to hyperbole, M. claims they are the very best he has ever eaten, due to their tenderness and savory flavor. Every time.
I may be prone to occasional semi-hyperbole myself, but trust me on this one. The mocha torte on my latest visit was in my top three desserts of all time. Described as mascarpone mocha mousse/thin chocloate layer/chocolate chip cookies, the flavor was indescribable, the texture perfect, and again – rich and creamy without being too heavy. Just the right everything.
HobNob lives up to its name. It’s the perfect local spot to mix it up with friends and neighbors, the perfect combination of casual vibes and elegant tastes.
Tues-Fri 11-11; Sat 5-11; Sun, 9-3
6010 Hermitage Road