As a born and raised Fredericktonian, I am always sad to see long time businesses close its doors; but when new owners take over and bring an awesome new concept to our town, I am ecstatic!
Sherif Salem & Cherie Nearman are the owners of the newly opened Hootch & Banter Restaurant (previous Canal Bar & Grill) on Market Street, in Downtown Frederick. I couldn’t wait to hear about their vision/future ideas for the restaurant and of course to eat some great grub! I was blown away by the transformation of the place, feeling as if I was in an upscale bar in DC or New York- this was going to be fun!
My first question was- how did you come up with the clever name- Hootch and Banter? Sherif explained that he always jokes to his wife that she is constantly “bantering” which means “the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remark.” Hootch- refers to illegal liquor. (as it was often called during prohibition) Two things the owners want people to experience while at H&B- a good drink & great times with their friends. Sherif is the Hootch & Cherie is the Banter. I just love it!
Sherif & Cherie are keeping things in the family with Cherie’s sister Julie as the Restaurant Manager. Sherif’s brother Mohamed & Cherie’s Cousin Robbie (our waiter) are also in on the fun. The team did a wonderful job re-vamping the space into a modern day, upscale, speakeasy; with exposed brick (after removing about 6 layers of wall!), dark lighting and a vibrant chic bar. While renovating, the team found some old photos of the building which I was so excited to see. One old photo shows the building back in the 50’s when it was apart Kidd’s Cafe-later Canal Bar and Grill still owned by the Kidd Family. (notice how the one section of Kidd’s Cafe is now an alleyway guys!?!) The Owners, wanting to pay tribute & keep the history of the building alive, are planing on enlarging the photo (or having a mural!) to be hung on the walls. Not only that but some of their menu items, such as the Kidd burger, are named after the previous long time owners. History is such a big part of Downtown Frederick and I loved to see Cherie & Sherif embracing it!
Future steps for H&B are looking exciting. Shortly, the restaurant will be open for Happy Hour and late night small bites. Think sophisticated late night food such as fresh oysters. A full on lunch & brunch menu plans to make its debut shortly after Thanksgiving! Ladies… they have PROSECCO on tap- hello bottomless mimosas! The owners also own the upstairs which previously served as an office space and will be transformed into a brand new semi separate concept that will start in 2016… which is top secret. 🙂
Now onto the food! H&B makes everything from scratch and when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING- even the ketchup. The menu is changed daily and is created by the amazing Chef Colin Suser. The menu has everything from fresh seafood & steaks, to items with French and Spanish influences (to name a few). Vegetarian & Gluten Free options are also throughout the menu. Everything looked delicious! I couldn’t wait to eat!
Not only does H&B’s specialty cocktail menu looked spectacular, rail liquor is not allowed in the restaurant! I decided to go with Poke the Bear- Tito’s vodka, muddled blackberries, fresh lime & citrus soda; Wade- the Salute our Troops cocktail- Jim Beam, Fresh Ginger, Fresh Lemon & Cherries. Both which were made by one of our favorite bartenders- Jeff! Currently you will even find three, yes three separate bottles of the elite Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys!
For an appetizer, we decided to go for something we have never ordered before- the Smoked Chicken Empanadas! (black beans, roasted sweet corn, cotija cheese, avocado lime dipping sauce w/ house made salad.) I loved these things and that avocado lime sauce was perfection.
Our eyes immediately went to the Maryland Crab Cake entree. (Maryland Crab Cake with house made hush puppies, haricot vert, pepper slaw and remoulade sauce) Wade promised to let me have a bite(s) if I ordered something different (which wasn’t hard since everything looked good!) I went with the Filet Tips Bourguignon: wild mushrooms, red wine demi glaze & upland cress in french pastry boat; accompanied by haricot vert & tourne potatoes. The Filet Bourguignon is exactly what you need after shopping on a chilly evening in Downtown Frederick.
Marylanders take their crabs seriously, and many restaurants produce crab cakes that are more breading than crab. The crab cake at Hootch & Banter literally fell apart when we poked it with the fork- it was delicious.huge.mouthwatering hunks of crab meat.
For dessert we went with the creme brulee and a sour Hootch (Bullet Rye, fresh citrus, egg whites & bitters) yum!
It was so wonderful to meet the owners and the rest of the team at Hootch & Banter. I definitely recommend giving H&B a try. Thank you for a great time with delicious food and I cannot wait to witness all the success that comes!
*this post was written in collaboration with Hootch & Banter. As always opinions are my own.