There is a new star in the making in south St. Pete. Hookin’ Ain’t Easy, located at 3660 22nd Avenue South, just celebrated the grand opening of its café and tiki bar, and we were blown away on our first visit to the new hot spot for fresh catch dishes and delicious smoked meats.
The outdoor restaurant, an extension of Hookin’ Ain’t Easy’s indoor seafood market, is a little slice of paradise, offering up great food, cold drinks, and a relaxing atmosphere. Currently, the café is open Wednesday-Saturday 11 am – 7 pm, and Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm, with live music Friday-Sunday. Owners say they hope to soon extend hours to be open later.
Hookin’ Ain’t Easy was first opened as a fresh seafood shop by a local and lifelong commercial fisherman after – he jokes – his wife got tired of him selling fish out of the house. After a couple years running the shop on the corner of the property, he took over the outdoor space (formerly a nursery) next to the shop and created an idyllic outdoor restaurant and bar. Complete with sand, seashells and picnic tables, the space is an oasis for great food and relaxing afternoons with live music, cornhole, and beer on tap.
That food, however, is the real star. The dishes are prepared incredibly well, seasoned to perfection and cooked just right, coming in massive portions that are sure to sate even the largest appetites.
Dine on fresh catch, smoked wings and much more
And of course, being run by a fisherman, the dishes at Hookin’ Ain’t Easy aren’t just tasty – they’re incredibly fresh. While eating a blackened grouper sandwich on our visit, we were informed by the matriarch of the establishment that just yesterday the fish had still been in the water. As a result of their fresh-first approach (most of the fish is caught by the owners themselves), the menu rotates based on what’s in season.
Right now, for instance, diners can snag smoked mullet, blackened flounder, grouper, and crab of the Snow, Blue and Dungeness varieties.
However, while the seafood certainly takes centerstage, the smoker behind the kitchen is quietly wafting some of St. Pete’s most tantalizing scents into the air. Here, Hookin’ Ain’t Easy is smoking pounds and pounds of pork butts and chicken wings, and while we didn’t get try any of the pulled pork, we can vouch for the smoked wings as being some of the best in town.
On a visit to Hookin’ Ain’t Easy, simply stroll up to the mobile kitchen on the far end of the lot, make some picks (we highly recommend the fried okra to start), and snag a table to wait. Looking for a beer or a spot to watch football? Grab a stool at the bar and settle in. The food will be brought out to you either way.
In addition to the fish, wings, pork, and crab, the kitchen pumps out plenty more platters of goodness. Grab a burger or quesadilla if the mood strikes, or snack on cheese sticks, fried pickles, onion rings and the like. One of our favorites from the appetizer menu was the plate of fried biscuits with maple syrup. Think of them as St. Pete-style beignets.
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